Keeping up with Jones

During a phone call from his hotel room in Milwaukee, Atlanta Hawks forward Solomon Jones revealed his thoughts on everything from USF hiring new coach Stan Heath to watching himself on SportsCenter.

Although his NBA minutes have been scarce, Jones has received a significant increase in playing time over the last two weeks. The Hawks are a young team and their inexperience has shown as the team struggled to a record of 29-52.

Before the Hawks 102-96 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Jones spoke to the Oracle for the first time since entering the NBA.Oracle: What are your thoughts on the hiring of Stan Heath?

Solomon Jones: I think it is good news. I know the guys are going to miss coach (Robert) McCullum, but they have to go with the flow. But Heath seems like a pretty good guy, he took (Arkansas) to the (NCAA) Tournament last year. I’m pretty sure he has some good things in mind and he’s going to have great success with the guys at South Florida.

O: Have you spoken with anyone on the team since Heath was hired?

SJ: I’ve talked to a couple of guys. They’re looking forward to getting going with a new coach, build a relationship with him and turn everything around. They’re trying to get everything going and make it happen.

O: Do you plan on visiting with the team once your season ends?

SJ: Definitely. Why wouldn’t I? I’m looking forward to coming down there and speak with coach Heath, and I’m looking forward to meet with him and talk to him about some of the guys on the team. I want him to know that he has a good group of guys that will work hard for him and hopefully will have great success.

O: Over the past five games, you’ve seen more time on the court. What’s it like to receive significant minutes in the NBA?SJ: I’ve just been working really hard in practice. Being a rookie, it’s all about opportunity. My opportunity came now and I just gave it all I got. Coach (Mike Woodson) just gave me a little more playing time and I’m building on that. Now I’m just trying to finish out the season.

O: Friday against the Washington Wizards, your block on Andray Blatche was on SportsCenter. What was it like watching yourself on ESPN?

SJ: When I was in college, I was always watching SportsCenter. When you see yourself on SportsCenter, it’s something I’ve always dreamed about. I think that was really cool to make one of those highlights.

O: On, that was the Block of the Night.

SJ: I didn’t know that. I mean, that’s great, to see yourself online like that. Hopefully I can make more.

O: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your first year in the league?SJ: The biggest thing is the transition game. The NBA is a whole lot faster and physical. I’ve learned a lot, but I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned how to build relationships – especially with the veteran players and learn what I can from them about the game.

O: Atlanta is a young team and has struggled this year. How is it an advantage to grow up as a team together?

SJ: Our chemistry. We’re young, but we’re trying to do the same thing. We have fun and play hard. We can learn a lot from each other. I really like that about us. I’m always excited to go out and play, and the other guys are, too. We have a really athletic team and we’ve had some highlights this season.

O: How was the adjustment going from being the top player at USF to the new guy on the Atlanta Hawks and having to prove yourself all over again?

SJ: It’s about knowing your role. I’ve been in that position before – in high school and then again at USF. With the Hawks, my role is to just try and block shots, rebounds, all that. I haven’t worried about scoring too much because we have guys who can score like Joe (Johnson) and Josh (Smith). If the opportunity presents itself to score, then I would. Our team doesn’t have problems scoring, so I haven’t worried about that.

O: What are you going to focus on during the off-season?

SJ: Strength, strength and strength. That is definitely the biggest key for me. (Jones is 6’10, 230 pounds.) I didn’t do so much last year as I wanted to because I was getting ready for the Draft. When that was over, I was getting ready for summer league and training camp. This summer, I’ll take a couple of weeks off and then get back in the game. This is going to be one of my biggest summers. I’m going to have to come in and show a lot of improvement. I just want to continue to improve and show Atlanta I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get the Hawks into the playoffs.