Rob Foldy/USA TODAY
Friday marks the final preseason game and the clock will officially be nearing midnight for the Magic's training camp invitees without guaranteed contracts.
Romero Osby, Kyle O'Quinn, Solomon Jones, Mickell Gladness, Manny Harris and Kris Joseph have been competing for three spots in reality. Kyle O'Quinn seems to have one of those spots on lock down and it did not ever really seem it was in doubt. He is included here only because his contract is non-guaranteed until the first game of the season.
The Magic's second round pick, Romero Osby, also seems to have an inside track to getting a roster spot. The Magic obviously liked him enough to bring him in to camp and draft him in June. However, Solomon Jones' play has turned heads and he seems determined to make the roster.
Jacque Vaughn made it clear Sunday that nothing was guaranteed to anybody and the training camp invitees — Jones, Gladness, Harris and Joseph — were invited to Orlando to have a true opportunity to make the roster.
"We invite guys to camp, they're invited for a reason: to try to make our team," Vaughn said. "I hope guys understand that when we reach out to the agents and try to get them here, we're trying to get them here for a reason. Solomon has done a good job in practice for us and he'll get an opportunity to start [Sunday] and see what happens."
Jones took advantage of that opportunity Sunday for sure. He scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 26 minutes of play, going head-to-head with Pistons centers Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. He more than held his own.
Then again, that should not be a surprise for an 8-year NBA pro who was drafted in 2006. Jones boldly proclaimed at Media Day that he would make the roster and play for his hometown team. Jones began making good on that promise very early in the preseason. Through seven games, Jones is averaging 4.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in six appearances, including that start Sunday.
Jones did well in limited minutes and the start Sunday turned some heads. It did not surprise Jones obviously. He has always believed in himself.
"It's not my first picnic," Jones said. "I've been around for a few years now. It's basketball. I love to play it. I come out and bring energy. I'm not going to back down from anybody. As long as my energy level is up. I should be all right.
"I'm here in training camp, I'm not guaranteed or what not. I've got to make teh best of every opportunity. I have to play hard and play with energy."
Jones said the Magic asked him to come into camp and provide energy. Jones has always been known as an energetic and lively defender. If anyone could accomplish this goal it is Jones. He has been rewarded with playing time during the preseason.
Jones said he believes if he plays with energy, everything else will take care of itself.
The Magic have shown they are not afraid to sign training camp invitees to their roster or bring in the right veterans to their team.
Last season, Orlando surprisingly cut Quentin Richardson — and his two years remaining guaranteed at $5 million per year — to make room for DeQuan Jones, who had clearly played his way onto the roster with his energy and hustle. Jones is very much trying to do the same thing.
And while the Magic are generally getting younger, they signed 30-year-old free agents Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price this offseason to bring more veteran leadership to the roster. Solomon Jones could be another hard-working veteran who can set an example on the team. Jones would be yet another guy who can show how much hard work it takes to stay in the NBA.
"I try to tell [the young players] to go out there and play hard and don't worry about mistakes," Jones said. "The only thing you can do is play hard. everybody makes mistakes, no matter who you are. You've just got to be able to play through it, keep your head up and move on to the next. That is what I try to instill in them: just play hard no matter what happens out there on the court."
That mantra has certainly helped Jones potentially find another home in the NBA after spending a year in China waiting for a call back to the United States. Jones' heart is set on making this Magic team.
In a few days, he will know if his hard work will have paid off.