Jonathan Holmes seeks second chance to fulfill NBA dream

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Jonathan Holmes dribbles the ball against a Butler defender on March 19, 2015. Holmes will play for the Memphis Grizzlies in this year’s NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Jonathan Holmes poked the ball loose from Portland guard Allen Crabbe and dove on the floor after it. It’s a play he’s made countless times. 

But this time, he stayed down on the hardwood. The former Longhorn standout clutched his right shoulder, grimacing in pain.  

An X-ray revealed Holmes tore his right labrum during that preseason game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers last October. Doctors told him he would need six months to recover. The Lakers waived him a few days later. 

“It was crushing for him,” former teammate Connor Lammert said. “I was watching the game and I saw the injury and I thought, ‘That’s Jon Holmes’ kind of play’ … it was a bummer.” 

But a return may be on the horizon. On June 28 Holmes signed a contract with the Memphis Grizzlies to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts on Friday. If he performs well, he may find himself on another training camp roster in September.

Last year, Holmes took a gamble when he found out he wasn’t taken in the NBA Draft’s first round. After consulting with his agent, he told interested second-round teams not to select him. He didn’t want to be bound to teams that would likely send him overseas or to the NBA Development League. 

Instead, Holmes wanted to control his path by choosing his team as an undrafted free agent.

“Draft night, my mindset changed,” Holmes said. “I knew I could go overseas on my own. We just decided to go out to Summer League and show that I can play.” 

And Holmes showed it with the Boston Celtics during last year’s Summer League. He averaged 12.2 points while shooting a blistering 56 percent from the field. The performance landed him a trip to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers.

“[Last summer] was a special thing,” Holmes said. “Being around guys that have been in the league and I have watched play for so long and interacting with them and building relationships with them … it helped me out a lot.” 

But Holmes’ tenure out West was cut short — the shoulder injury came just a minute into his second preseason appearance. He tried to make the best of his unlucky situation by returning to Austin to finish his degree and bond with family. 

“The motivation is definitely there,” Lammert said. “He got a little taste of [the NBA] and he wants to get back just as bad if not more than he did last year.”

Since getting cleared for activity in the spring, Holmes spent four days per week with Lammert working out at Train 4 the Game, an Austin fitness facility. The two focus on functional exercises to tune their bodies for basketball. Holmes also shoots in open gyms to “get back in a rhythm” for his NBA return.

Former teammate Isaiah Taylor expects Holmes to stick in the NBA. He said coaches and teammates will cherish Holmes for his gritty, team-first attitude. 

“He just plays out of his heart every day,” Taylor said. “He doesn’t care about his stats. He’s just going to go out there and give his all.” 

Holmes feels confident that he will prove himself this summer. And this time, he hopes to end up healthy on an NBA regular season roster.

“[Being away from basketball] made me realize how much I like to play,” Holmes said. “It’s a privilege to play and be in the positions that I’ve been in. I just try to take advantage of every [opportunity].”