Jaime Jaquez Jr. has been playing in the NBA for almost a month now and he’s performed as if he’s always been a professional. In this short time, he’s already made a space for himself in the Heat‘s bench with significant opportunities, as his four years playing at UCLA provided him with a lot of experience.
However, it was only a matter of time before the 22-year-old faced off with one of those special rookie moments which introduce you to the best basketball league in the world.
“Talk about a ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment, I think tonight was one of those nights,” the rising star said after his team’s 102-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at United Center. The game didn’t only kick off a five-match road trip, but also ended Miami’s seven-game victory streak.
DeMar DeRozan clutch jumper over Jaime Jaquez pic.twitter.com/yXqbnL4Muc
— Oh no he didn’t (@ohnohedidnt24) November 19, 2023
The rookie entered the game and was tasked with a nearly impossible feat, to defend DeMar DeRozan for most of the fourth quarter. Not only is the Bulls guard a six-time All-Star, he’s also one of the best scorers in the entire league.
Despite providing strong defense during the match, the Chicago star was still able to drop 3 of 4 shots from the field late in the contest. In other words, DeRozan tallied 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and drew two fouls during the 12 possessions with Jaquez over him.
“Jaime was introduced to a guy that really he’s a professional scorer and a professional foul drawer,” expressed Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “So it is tough to put pressure on him. You have to work on getting him out a step and then not letting him walk you back.”
DeMar seemed inspired in front of the first-year player, almost as if he wanted to hand Jaquez his first-real lesson in the NBA. Unfortunately for the 22-year-old, he learned this one at the wrong time, as the 34-year-old star scored a winner with 21.9 second left in front of his eyes.
“[DeRozan] had a couple other looks in the fourth quarter that were just the same, but he missed them,” Spoelstra added. “That one, it was his comfort spot — 16 feet right into his rhythm pull-up. The defense was good, but his offense was better.”
Despite not being able to defend the game-winning shot, Jaquez feels he played well and will concentrate on improving
The Heat’s winning streak came to an end after a nightmare performance, as they were leading the game by 21 points in the first quarter. However, the Bulls closed the game on a 27-12 run and completed the comeback with DeRozan’s clutch 12 points.
“I thought I contested it well,” the rookie said despite DeMar’s game-winning jumper. “Like Spo said, this guy is a professional scorer. … He’s a guy I looked up to a lot growing up, just watched his game. Really just trying to guard him live is something completely different.”
As the Miami squad is staying in Chicago to prepare for another matchup against the Bulls on Monday, Jaquez Jr. promises to improve from this experience.
“But it’s all a learning experience,” he added. “Just trying to do what I can, make him take a tough shot. He got me a couple times, but I think at the end I made him take a tough one. But that’s who he is, that’s what he does.”