SACRAMENTO - Warriors center Damian Jones was walking to the Subway adjacent Golden State's downtown hotel when an alert came on his phone with a message: The Warriors had agreed to a deal with big man Willie Cauley Stein, prompting a firm reaction from the four-year big man.
"Just go into attack mode," Jones said following Tuesday's 100-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the California Classic. "I have to attack the whole season."
For nearly three years, the Golden State have both marveled at Jones' physical attributes - while waiting through injuries and development - hoping will reach the promise long expected from the 7-foot, 260 23-year-old. With Caulie Stein's signing indicating a new starting center, Jones is hoping to prove his way back into Golden State's plans.
"Just have a dominant season," Jones said Come out strong and play to my best ability, it's a contract year."
Since he was drafted, Jones has been one of Golden State's biggest conundrums. While his physical attributes marvel, injuries and slow development have undermined a promising young career. Twelve days before he was drafted, Jones tore his right pectoral muscle following a bench pressing workout with the Orlando Magic. With his rookie season all but lost, he toiled in the G-League in his second year, averaging 15 points, and 5.8 rebounds for the Santa Cruz Warriors.
After winning the starting role in training camp 10 months ago, Jones tore his pectoral once more in an early-season loss to the Detroit Pistons. Another rigorous rehab followed, helping Jones return Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against Blazers, even starting Game 3 days later. However - despite the returning earlier than expected - Jones struggled against postseason competition. In five playoff games, he averaged just 0.8 points and in two minutes, prompting another appearance with the Warriors summer league team at his request.
His latest attempt at redemption comes as the Warriors are trying to find a new identity. On Sunday, forward Kevin Durant to leave for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency, triggering a sign-and-trade that sent to D'Angelo Russell to the Bay Area with a max deal - dramatically changing the roster. Two days later, Cauley Stein - who averaged 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds last season - agreed to terms on a minimum deal.
With Cauley Stein and Kevon Looney - who agreed to a three year, $15 million deal Monday - in the fold, Jones finds himself in familiar position entering next season.
"You just got to go out there and compete, Jones said. "The only way you'd be frustrated if you know you're not going to perform. I got confidence in myself. I'm here, you have to go out there and compete."