Heat will fill backcourt rotation with Damon Jones

(sun-sentinel.com) - The Heat added what figures to be the final piece of its backcourt as sources say the team signed free-agent point guard Damon Jones on Thursday.

A news conference is planned today to announce the signing of an undisclosed player. A source said that player is Jones, who is coming off a strong season with Milwaukee, and that he likely will supplant former Cardinal Gibbons and Dillard star Keyon Dooling as the backup to Dwyane Wade.

Jones could not be reached Thursday night. The Heat had $2.5 million of its $4.9 million salary-cap exception remaining but can distribute that amount among multiple players.

The Heat needed backcourt help after point guard Rafer Alston signed with the Raptors and with Bimbo Coles considering retirement. The addition of Jones, whom the Heat had pursued before signing Dooling, gives the team five guards. Jones and Dooling join first-round draft pick Dorell Wright in the rotation behind Wade and shooting guard Eddie Jones.

At 6 feet 3, Damon Jones is considered a careful ball-handler who plays a controlled game. That style may not have fit with the Heat's running game last season, but the addition of center Shaquille O'Neal means the team will play at a deliberate pace more often this season.

Jones got increased playing time with Milwaukee when T.J. Ford suffered a bruised spinal cord in February. Though Jones ended up with a career year statistically, the Bucks cooled on Jones after signing Mike James, who was with Detroit last season.

Jones started 26 games and ranked second in the league with 4.64 assists per turnover, fourth with 11.4 assists per 48 minutes, and 14th with 5.8 assists per game. He also averaged 7.0 points per game and made 36 percent (210 of 524) of his 3-point attempts.

Jones, who turns 28 later this month, has averaged 5.6 points, three assists and has shot 36 percent on 3-pointers in 348 career games.

The Heat still is in the market for another big man to play alongside O'Neal.

They had talked to Eric Williams, but Williams' agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the guard-forward has signed with New Jersey.

Karl Malone is contemplating whether to retire, return to play with the Lakers or sign with San Antonio or the Heat. While waiting on Malone to decide, the Spurs recently signed Robert Horry, Sean Marks and Tony Massenburg.

O'Neal is trying to recruit Malone to the Heat, much like he persuaded Malone to join the Lakers last season. But Malone, an 18-year veteran, is recovering from surgery on his right knee and told the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise he hasn't decided what he'll do.

Malone also told the Press-Enterprise that ABC and TNT have called him to see if he's interested in working as a television analyst if he retires.

By Michael Cunningham
Aug 6, 2004
© Copyright 2004-2005 www.miamifootball365.com

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