Lucky Jones is a 24 year old 198cm guard from Newark, New Jersey that is playing his third professional season and first with PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1). Last season he played with Hyeres-Toulon Var Basket (France-ProA) playing 11 games averaging 5.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 48.5%, 3FGP: 25.7%, left in Jan.’17, later that month moved to ASP Promitheas Patras (Greece-A1) playing 14 games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.4spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 27.1%, FT: 73.8%. As a rookie he played with betFIRST Liege Basket (Belgium-Scooore League) playing 31 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.5apg, Steals-1(2.5spg), FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 77.4%. He started his basketball career at St. Anthony’s High School and ten had an illustrious career at Robert Morris (NCAA) from 2011-2015 playing a total of 131 games and as a senior played 31 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 45.5%, 3PT: 33.1%, FT: 78.9%. He spoke toGerman Hoops before the opening Basketball Champions League game against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Ludwigsburg Germany.
Lucky thanks for talking to German Hoops. Welcome back to Germany. You were here some weeks ago playing in a exhibition tournament in Bayreuth. Was that your first time in Germany or had you been here as a rookie when you played in Belgium?
That was my second time in Germany and now it´s my third. When I was playing in Belgium as a rookie we played against a German second division team, but I don´t remember the name of the team.
Some of the Americans felt the cooler weather refreshing coming off the plane in Germany weeks ago. Do you still appreciate that cooler weather or has the Greek weather already become something that your getting addicted to?
Not really. I am from New Jersey where it´s cooler and live in Maryland where the weather is about the same. I don´t really have any issues with the weather. When we came to Germany in September to play in that tournament in Bayreuth, we had just come from Thessaloniki where it had been really hot.
You have a very special first name Lucky. How did you experience having a name like this growing up and what has been the coolist and worst comments you have heard concerning your name?
The coolist comments I get is people saying they love the way I play or they are lucky to have me. The worst ones are when people say that was a lucky shot or move. At the end of the day all it is is words and I don´t let it bother me. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions.
Your playing your third professional season and first with PAOK Thessaloniki (Greece-A1). After a strong rookie season, last season you suffered some growing pains before finishing strong in Greece with ASP Promitheas Patras (Greece-A1). Besides winning what is your goal this season as a player?
My biggest goal is to keep getting better each season, perform at the highest level and help my team get to the best position to win games. I want to become not only the best defender in Greece, but in all of Europe. Playing against the best will bring out the best in me and I will always give my best for my team on the floor.
You have some very talented Americans like Kevin Dillard and Brandon Triche as well as Greek players. What type of role do you have and do you see yourself being an impact player in the Greek and Champions leagues?
My role is to always bring a lot of energy and have to defend the other team´s best player being able to hold my own in crunch time and not let him get the best of me. I think that I will always have some kind of impact on the game as long I am focused, attacking, defending and having confidence in my abilities than all will be fine.
Talk a little about the guard tandem of Dillard and Triche? How special are they to your team and what have you appreciated most about their games so far?
I appreciate playing with all my guards. But these two guys can score the ball and relive pressure off of everyone else. I think that I am a threat as well on the offensive end and that I am sure to compliment them as well as they compliment me.
Let´s talk a little about your game? You’re a forward that can score and rebound and a very tenacious defender. To what NBA player would you describe your game and does your defense often spark your offense?
Lebron is my favorite player that can do so much. I love his work ethic. It is too bad that so many don´t appreciate his game, but in my opinon they don´t know basketball. I would compare my game to a Kawhi Leonard or a Scottie Pippen from back in the day. I like how Pippen brought that defensive intensity and didn´t care how people felt about his game and on offense being able to step up and do anything. He seemed to always be in the right place at the right time and be efficient.
Last season you split time with Hyeres-Toulon Var Basket (France-ProA) playing 11 games averaging 5.8ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.4spg, 2FGP: 48.5%, 3FGP: 25.7%, left in Jan.’17, later that month moved to ASP Promitheas Patras (Greece-A1) playing 14 games averaging 10.7ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.4spg, FGP: 47.8%, 3PT: 27.1%, FT: 73.8%. How difficult were the first 5 months in France. What do you feel did you learn from this experience?
I did everything that was asked of me. It wasn´t like the coach or I was bad, but it just didn´t work out. We were winning when I left, but I felt that I had to be in a situation where I was really being appreciated and where I wouldn´t be asked to do things that I wasn´t supposed to do. Patras welcomed me with open arms in mid season and appreciated me and I was really thankful for that.
You then moved to to ASP Promitheas Patras (Greece-A1) where everything worked out better. What do you feel was key here for helping you make the next step and rebound from your disappointing months in France?
I came to Patras knowing right away what I had to do. I knew that I was in a better situation than in France. The Patras Organization loved me as a human and as a player. They wanted to bring me back, but I wanted to take the next step and with PAOK I had the chance to play Champions League. I appreciated the chance I got with Patras and am happy to be with PAOK now. I think that in order to get to the top, you need to experience mishaps along the way.
You played against top Euroleague teams Panathinaikos losing by only three points and 72-53 against Olympiacos scoring 13 and 8 points. Were these games sort of your screen test giving you the satisfaction that you can play with these top teams?
I always believe that I can play with the top teams, but it is up to an organization to give me that chance. At the end of the day I feel that I can compete at the highest level. I continue to show that I can. Last summer I played in Atlanta with NBA players That is the confirmation to me that I can play at the highest level. The atmosphere playing against those two top European teams and players was amazing. That was just another opportunity to show that I can play at the highest level.
You played against top Euroleague players and Greek legends Vassillis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis and Ioannis Bourousis. Which player will forever stand out most in your mind with what they displayed on the court? You will play two of the three again this season as only Bourousis left for the big bucks in China.
I caught those guys on down years. Spanoulis is a Greek legend. He is an older point guard, but still so smart and knows how to run a team. Those three guys have put in so much work to get to where they are and I want to do the same so I can be there one day.
The toughest guy that I had to guard was Mike James who is with the Phoenix Suns now. For me Panathinaikos was like the Golden State of the NBA while Olympiacos was like the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA being so balanced and not having to rely on athleticism, but rely on basketball principles
You played with one of my favorite guys Miro Todic who I covered 10 years ago in Germany. How will you always remember this Serbian big man?
Todic was a good big. He was a smart big body that would make you pay if you didn´t watch out. What I have learned in Europe is that the bigs here are so smart and make you work for everything. The foot work in Europe is the best I have ever seen. In USA there is a lot of athleticism and all the cross overs, but I give credit to the amazing footwork in Europe
As a rookie you played with betFIRST Liege Basket (Belgium-Scooore League) playing 31 games averaging 14.3ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.5apg, Steals-1(2.5spg), FGP: 45.3%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 77.4%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from New Jersey?
The time difference really ate me up in the first weeks. It was very difficult getting used to the time difference. It took me some months to finally get to bed at 12 and not at 4 or 5am. But our schedule forced me to get to bed earlier. I learned very quickly with the veterans on the team that it was important to take care of my body.
You were the youngest of 5 Americans that season with Liege. How valuable was the more experienced Dominique Morrison for you getting a feel for the European life on and off the floor?
He was one of my close friends then and now with Jamie Smith. He showed me the ropes and what was right especially how important it was to get proper treatment before a game. I am considered a hard worker and I got adjusted to the European lifestyle right away. I made sure not only to spend time with my fellow Americans, but also my Belgium teammates. I didn´t want to be one sided.
You played at Robert Morris(NCAA) from 2011-2015. You were a two time NEC tournament finalist. Which loss was the most bitter?
Both loses were tough. But the final loss my freshman year, I didn´t know about the big deal and circumstances surrounding everything yet. We had had one of the best seasons in Robert Morris history so it hurt a bit. But reaching the final my junior year hurt the most as I had been through a lot with my teammates like Karvel Anderson over the years. It was a tough loss, but I wouldn´t trade it for anything in the world. In the next game we beat St Johns and then almost beat Belmont. Losing the final was a bad experience, but in the end, it ended all well.
As a senior you played top schools North Carolina with a starting five of future NBA players and Duke with 7 future NBA players and Grayson Allen. When you remember what some of these great talents were capable of doing then and remember where you were as a player, was there really so much difference between them and you? Do you feel that given the chance other guys including you playing for less known schools could have got to the NBA having that kind of talent to play with?
I am playing with a chip on my shoulder. Many don´t give me credit and that has made me the player I am today. I don´t see those ex North Carolina or Duke players playing in the NBA now as elite or special, because once you get to Europe or the NBA you still play against them as those NBA players come over here to play. They compete the same way I do. Those guys were more fortunate than me and very many other players to have been very skilled at a young age to be able to play for a North Carolina or Duke. I do credit their hard work. It doesn´t matter if you play in the NBA or Europe, because sooner or later you will see them somewhere on the court. It doesn´t bother me that they have had that opportunity, but it just fuels me to play harder. I am blessed to be able to call myself a professional, because millions would like to play professionally.
How did head coach Andrew Toole groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career at Robert Morris?
Coach Andrew Toole took his time to teach and mold me. We had our growing pains. We were two New Jersey guys that bumped heads on many occasions. But we understood each other at the end of the day. I would call him at 6am and ask him to work out with me. He put in the time and effort and helped me to become the player that I am today.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Rodney Pryor who played NBA Summer League last season and averaged 18,0ppg as a senior at Georgetown and is starting his professional season with Sakarya Buyuksehir Basketbol (Turkey-TBL)?
To be honest we never played 1-1. We played 2-2 and I won three years in a row. He is a great talent and has a lot of skill. We played against him in pre-season.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you chose?
Lebron James, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson
Lebron James failed to win his fourth NBA title and is still three away from Michael Jordan. Where does Lebron stand right now in your opinion in the never ending debate of who is the best of all-time?
Everyone has their own opinion. Jordan is 6/6 in finals and Lebron has been to the most consecutive finals. I do love what Lebron is doing. I have stopped comparing them. They are the two greatest to ever have played the game.
There has been criticism of Russell Westbrook to be focusing more on rebounding to help inflate his stats and possibilities of getting triple doubles instead of focusing on his defensive assignments. Do you feel that this is a fair assessment to the player Russell Westbrook?
He has great energy in how he attacks the game. No one except Lebron has the work ethic that he has. He had unselfish teammates that let him get those extra rebounds. I feel his stats were earned. Without them, I feel that they wouldn´t have made the playoffs.
How do you summarize the 2017 NBA Draft. What sleepers do you see playing a role in the NBA?
It was an incredible draft with guys like Fultz, Ball, Monk and Fox coming out. It will be interesting to see what they can bring with so many great teams competing this season. This NBA season will be one for the ages.
Where will the journey of the Houston Rockets go this season with Chris Paul and James Harden in the back court. Do they have enough to make a serious run at the title or is something missing?
James Harden is my second favorite player after Lebron. I love his beard, how elusive he is getting to the rim and how he involves his team. I am on their bandwagon. I hope that they get the third seed. Many say it won´t work, but they have great talent. I believe it can work.
How do you rate the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade? Who got the better deal and which team will profit better in the long run?
The Cavs got the better deal short term while the Celtics got the better deal long term. In 2-3 years the Celtics will be scary.
Where will the journey of the Oklahoma Thunder end this season with the trio of Westbrook, George and Anthony?
I think that offensively they could beat Golden State. Those three players are so versatile and key is that they can guard multiple positions. If they gel then they should get to the Western finals. But you can never count out the Spurs. They are always capable of making a splash. They always seem to be able mold together at the right time.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Lucky for the chat.