LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. needed to be immobilized and stretchered off the court after falling violently to the floor in a collision with Indiana Pacers center Goga Bitadze in the third quarter of both teams’ final seeding game Friday afternoon.
While he was moving his legs, he stayed down for several minutes and made no attempt to get up as he was tended to by Miami’s medical staff. Eventually both teams gathered around Jones while he was being immobilized and moved onto a stretcher, and then clapped for him as he was eventually wheeled off the court. Shortly after Jones left the court, Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo, who was one of several veterans on each team not playing in Friday’s game, jogged off the court after him.
“We thought it was a solid screen,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols between the third and fourth quarters. “We thought he got his neck caught up in Goga’s shoulder. You never want to see something like that. … We hope he’s okay.”
“We want to be competitive, but we’re together, we’re unified as a league. You never want to see someone go down with an injury like that. … In a game like this where you’re trying to get ready for the playoffs, you want to come out of this game without any injuries.”
Jones, 23, entered Friday’s game averaging 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game across 59 games (16 starts) this season, shooting 52.7%. He had 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 16 minutes before leaving Friday’s game.
One of the league’s most athletic players — and perhaps its best leaper — Jones will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.