Forward Perry Jones sat at his locker with his head lowered Monday before the Celtics’ 111-105 win over the Nets at TD Garden and quietly wondered if he has done enough to make the team.
Jones acknowledged that for much of the past two weeks, he has not been at his best.
“I just wasn’t doing too well in practice, overthinking in practice and just not playing basketball,” he said. “Just being too afraid to make mistakes, and that caused me to make more mistakes and things like that in practice. But my effort was always there. It’s just that my performance wasn’t what I wanted it to be.”
The Celtics have 16 players under guaranteed contracts and will need to reduce that number by one before the regular season starts Oct. 28. Though the team has given no hints on how it will proceed, it appears Jones has the most to prove as he attempts to make the final roster.
He faced a steep challenge at the start of camp. Then while the team was in Europe this month, he received word that a close cousin had died. Celtics coach Brad Stevens encouraged Jones to go home to be with his family, so Jones missed Boston’s game against Real Madrid.
Jones said it was important to go home, but acknowledged it was initially hard to focus on basketball afterward. And then as he sputtered, his struggles began to compound. He said he has thought about whether he might make the team, but he knows there is no use dwelling on it.
“That’s always in the back of a player’s mind,” he said. “But all you can do is work hard and control what you can control. If you’re on the team or not, it’s not really my decision. All I can do is do what I know how to do.”
Jones played just seven minutes in Monday’s game and made his only field goal attempt, a 3-pointer. Stevens said he would play the team’s backups extensively this week, and he said there is still time for a player to make an impression.
Jones said he had perhaps his best practice of training camp Sunday, and he is hopeful that it is not too late to build on that progress.
“I just want to prove that because of circumstances, I haven’t been myself,” he said. “I’m a much better player than I’ve shown.”
Rookie Terry Rozier led the Celtics with 16 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, and he electrified the small crowd with several athletic drives to the basket. Rozier had missed the previous two games with a bruised knee.
“My knee didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “[The training staff] did a great job of getting me prepared and sitting me out and just taking care of my body.”
“I thought Terry could have gone another 20 minutes, probably,” Stevens said. “He just kind of had that look about him.”
Amir Johnson scored 15 points and Kelly Olynyk added 14. Marcus Smart, who missed the last two games because he had strep throat, had 9 points in 26 minutes. The Celtics shot 51.2 percent from the field overall.
Both teams were undermanned. Celtics forward David Lee remained sidelined with an illness. Forward Jae Crowder sat out with a mild thumb sprain, and guard Isaiah Thomas missed the game because of a bruised shin.
The injuries are not considered serious, though. Stevens said that if this had been a regular-season game, Lee is probably the only player who would have been held out. Crowder practiced Sunday despite his thumb injury. Thomas was kicked in the shin during the Celtics’ win over the Nets last week.
The Celtics will not practice Tuesday, so all three players will have an extra day to recover.
“Just being cautious and safe here in the latter stages of the preseason,” Stevens said.
For the Nets, regular starters Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, Brook Lopez, and Jarrett Jack did not even make the trip to Boston. The Celtics face the Knicks at TD Garden on Thursday before closing the preseason against the 76ers on Friday.
Not a floor general
Celtics rookie R.J. Hunter had a rare opportunity to play point guard in the Celtics’ loss to the Knicks on Friday. Stevens later quipped it might be 10 years until he gets another opportunity. Hunter, for his part, said he was caught off guard by Stevens’s request to lead the offense.
“I didn’t get a lot of good feedback on that,” Hunter said with a chuckle. “I told somebody, I just didn’t want to get ripped. I was just trying to get the ball up the floor. I haven’t played point guard since I was 12 years old and I was in [Madison Square Garden] doing it. So I was like, ‘Aw, man.’ ”