MINNEAPOLIS — Tyus Jones spent the days leading up to his return home telling his Memphis teammates about how great Minnesota was. Then he looked at the forecast: Snow.
“It only made sense,” Jones joked. “We land and everyone is like ‘This is where you’re from?’ ”
It is indeed, and while it’s difficult to explain what’s special about it, maybe his teammates were able to see it on Sunday.
Jones received a couple loud ovations from the Target Center faithful during the Grizzlies’ 115-107 win over the Timberwolves.
The first came during pregame introductions. The second was immediately following a tribute video the Wolves played during a timeout for the point guard who spent his first four professional seasons playing in front of his home state.
Jones, who finished with 12 points, seven assists and four rebounds, tried to stay locked into the game Sunday, but admitted those special moments were “awesome.”
“I appreciate the organization for making that happen. They didn’t have to do it, so that’s a nice gesture for them to acknowledge me, so I appreciate that,” the Apple Valley native said. “I appreciate the warm welcome that the fans gave me. I’ve always appreciated the support I’ve received from everyone in Minnesota … it’s been nothing but love from the fans, and we always support ours, and that’s something that makes Minnesota special. It was special again tonight for me to continue to see that love.”
There were probably some who’d hoped no such homecoming would ever be required — you can potentially count Jones among them. Jones is the first to acknowledge that the NBA is a business, but yeah, there was always a thought in the back of his mind that maybe he’d live out the dream of playing his entire pro career in a Timberwolves uniform.
“There are guys who play their whole careers or 95 percent of it (in one spot), so you always think what if? And why not?” Jones said. “But at the same time, I know it’s a business and I know things can happen, so it was never any hard feelings or disappointment or anything like that, just because the whole time I knew there’s a possibility I might not stay here my whole career. Definitely crossed my mind, just because how crazy it was that I even came here in the first place, so it’s definitely crossed my mind before — I’ve thought about it. But, at the same time, I wasn’t losing sleep over it that I wouldn’t be able to stay here my whole career.”
His acclimation to his new home is going well. He appreciates how welcoming the city of Memphis, the Grizzlies and their fans have all been to him. Yes, it’s an adjustment, but it’s one he’s enjoying.
The Grizzlies are struggling to start the season, but that’s to be expected. They’re young. Still, Jones likes the pieces they have and what he feels they’re building.
Still, he’ll always savor his chances to come home. This trip was particularly special, because it was his first, and because he had some personal business to attend to. While back in Minnesota, Jones and his fiance, Carrie, held their gender reveal for their first child, who’s due to come this summer. All in attendance bit into cake pops at the same time to find the baby on the way is a boy.
“A lot of anticipation and excitement. It was fun,” Jones said. “Just blessed and fortunate to be able to experience those things with my family. So I was excited to be able to make that work in the schedule and the weather cooperated just enough to let us get in town. So yeah, those things mean the world to me.”
He had “double-digit” family members in attendance Sunday — including Carrie and his mom, Debbie, who were in the front row — along with close friends and approximately 70 players and their family members from his AAU program.
It was all emotional, Jones said, but in a good way. He said he “loved” his weekend in Minnesota, and is mad this is Memphis’ only trip to the tundra this season, but is also glad that his maiden voyage home as an opposing player is out of the way.
“It was just so many different thoughts and emotions coming to the game, flying here, riding on the bus on the way over, everything is new, it’s different,” Jones said. “But to get it out of the way now, now the next time I come here, it’ll still be different, but it’s not the first time. It was good to get it out of the way, and even better to come out with a W.”