Trey McKinney Jones is still grinding. He’ll be 27 next month, so he’s not a wishful kid anymore. The beard is real. So are the bills, and so is the responsibility that comes with having a daughter who will be turning 2 in October. Summer League might be his last shot at the dream job. Or in his case, last shots.
“I’m giving the NBA one more shot, while I’m still young, I guess you could say,” McKinney Jones said.
Most players in summer league spend their time with one franchise. McKinney Jones is among a handful of players lucky enough to hook up with two teams for summer games this season. He’s been with Indiana for the Orlando Pro Summer League that ends on Thursday, then flies to Las Vegas to connect with San Antonio’s entry in the NBA Summer League that starts on Friday.
The way he sees it, doubling up this summer doubles his chance of a training-camp invite this fall the next step, he hopes, toward reaching the NBA for real.
‘Experience is very important,” the 6-foot-5 McKinney Jones said. “I feel like my first summer was such a blur. It’s hard to even remember a lot of the games. Now things have slowed down. Everything kind of comes to you slower, you can control the game better, you have more control over yourself. I think some guys are different but for me, that first summer everything was moving 1,000 mph.”
Plenty of guys are playing in two summer leagues, heading to Las Vegas this week after participating in either Orlando or Salt Lake City. But most of those will stay with one team that whole time. McKinney Jones is among the few who will play for two teams, as will Dylan Ennis who signed with Oklahoma City for Orlando, then will meet up with Golden State for Las Vegas.
“Being around both organizations, it’s great for me,” Ennis said. “OKC, they’ve shown me a great time already. They’ve taught me a lot of things already that I can take going forward. And I’m sure Golden State will do the same.”
Naz Mitrou-Long is another player planning to double-up this summer: He’s been with Indiana this week, and will play for Sacramento in Las Vegas.
“I know it’s a big opportunity,” said Mitrou-Long, a 6-4 guard undrafted out of Iowa State last month. “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the Pacers. I worked out for them before the draft and I think they liked how I did.”
There will be others on the two-team list by the time play gets done in Las Vegas; inevitably one team will pluck someone from another, like how Willie Reed started playing for Miami in 2015 and then got signed to a $650,000, one-year NBA contract by Brooklyn. Reed then played with the Heat last season and is a free agent again this summer.
And every team is studying every other team during the summer anyway, looking for that hidden gem who has been overlooked and might be a potential training-camp invite or a possibility to fill an NBA G League roster where he could earn about $30,000.
But McKinney Jones knows these are critical auditions with the teams whose jerseys he will wear.
“You want to show them you can make the right plays, take the open shot, really grind on defense,” McKinney Jones said. “You try to make a statement on that front, make the right play, make the right reads and you’ve got to make the little plays. I think that’s what teams are really looking for in this summer situation.”
McKinney Jones has been around the block a few times in his basketball life.
He was barely recruited out of high school and started his college career at Missouri-Kansas City before transferring to Miami where he helped the Hurricanes win an Atlantic Coast Conference title. He appeared in two NBA preseason games with his hometown Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, spent the summer of 2014 with Miami and San Antonio, returned to summer league with Atlanta in 2015 and is back this year with the Pacers and Spurs.
He’s won titles in what was then called the NBA Development League and in the Hungarian League. He moved to Israel and played for a while, moved to France and played there for a while. If no camp invite or chance to even be on one of the league’s new two-way contracts comes this time, he’ll likely go back overseas and play there instead of trying to get by on a meager G League salary.
“I feel like I get my foot in the door, I’m the kind of player where if I do all the little stuff well enough I can stick,” McKinney Jones said. “So that’s what I’m looking for now, just a chance to stick my foot in the door. That’s what I want out of this summer. I’ve got a family now to worry about. It’s time.”