Popeye Jones is the latest unsung hero this season for the Nuggets

Jan 3, 2022, 6:00 AM
Popeye Jones...
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ronald “Popeye” Jones owns a very interesting NBA record. It is probably a record few are aware of, but also fairly impressive. On March 10, 1994, the current Nuggets assistant coach, while playing for the Dallas Mavericks, had 12 offensive rebounds and no defensive boards in a game. The 12 offensive rebounds, without any on the defensive end, still stands as an NBA record!

Now, Jones has another pretty impressive accomplishment. He owns, as an interim head coach of the Nuggets, one of the best Nuggets wins this season. Maybe the very best!

On Saturday night, on the road at Houston, the Nuggets seemed to have everything working against them. Michael Malone, a day earlier, was forced to enter the NBA’s COVID 19 Isolation Protocol, after testing positive. That meant first assistant David Aderlman was going to take the head coaching reins against the Hawks. But on the morning of the game, Adelman also tested positive and went into the protocol. Next up on the coaching depth chart was Popeye Jones, a former Nuggets player and first year Nuggets assistant.

Then, along with coaches, players started dropping off the roster because of COVID. Unavailable that night were Bones Hyland, Jeff Green, Zeke Nnaji and Monte Morris. Placed on the roster, through the new emergency roster expansion, were guys like Petr Cornelie, Carlik Jones, Davon Reed and Rayjon Tucker. I know – I hadn’t heard of those guys either!

So that’s what Popeye Jones was facing. Four players and three assistant coaches out for the game. On top of that, the Nuggets were on the road against Houston. At least it was a team with a full roster and all of its coaches.

An interesting thing happened on Saturday night. Facundo Compazzo took advantage of the decimated roster and extra minutes, scoring a career-high 22 points to go with perhaps an even more impressive 12 assists, and leading the underdogs to a 124-111 win. Apparently, in the locker room afterwards, the players treated Jones like a coach who had just won an NBA championship. There was a pretty good celebration.

Well, He didn’t win an NBA title on Saturday night, but Popeye Jones did win a big game. And considering the circumstances, it might have been the biggest of the season.


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