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December 28, 2011Terrence Jones was in shock.
The Kentucky forward looked at his left hand and saw that four fingers were pointed in one direction - the right direction - but that his pinky refused to fall in line. It pointed another way. It hurt a lot. All Jones wanted was to get his hand back in order.
"I just went straight to the trainer trying to get help," Jones said. "I ain't never seen my finger like that. I wasn't even in the basketball mode. I was worried about my hand."
That was 11 days ago. Jones returned to the court Wednesday night in No. 3 Kentucky's 86-64 win against Lamar at Rupp Arena. It was his first action since the Chattanooga game on Dec. 17 in which he dislocated that pinky finger.
The days in between, Jones said, have been "different and difficult."
Jones' injury came in the first game after his virtual no-show at Indiana on Dec. 10, a game in which the 6-foot-8 sophomore had four points, one rebound and six turnovers and after which he became a lightning rod for criticism.
He played 10 minutes against Chattanooga and sat out the next two games as UK dispatched Samford and Loyola (Md.).
Jones didn't start Wednesday against Lamar, but the left-hander scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench despite obviously - and admittedly - favoring his left hand.
On one first-half drive, Jones went left but finished with his right hand. On a post catch, he turned for a point-blank shot with his left hand and missed, grabbing his finger as he landed.
"Sometimes (the bone) feels like it's moving in my hand," Jones said. "On that shot, it moved."
So Jones favored the finger. He admits it. Coaches are telling him to stop, and that's his top priority, he said, going into Saturday's game against Louisville at Rupp Arena.
"In my opinion, he's handled it well," said teammate Darius Miller, who scored 15 points Wednesday. "His finger is still bothering him obviously. That's a tough thing to play through, especially when it's on your shooting hand. For him to come out the way he did today, I think he did a pretty good job."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led Kentucky with 18 points. Miller, Marquis Teague (15 points), Doron Lamb (12) and Anthony Davis (10 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks) joined him in double-digit scoring.
Jones was close behind. Calipari said Jones' return was "OK," but said he "needs to step on the gas," and that he told Jones to "work like you have accomplished nothing."
In answering a question about Jones, Calipari seemed to indicate that if he wants to play through the injury, he won't be permitted to use it as an excuse for poor play.
"You can't hide here," Calipari said. "This is Kentucky. There isn't a rock big enough, no cracks big enough. You're out there, and you're either going to perform or you're not, and there is no excuses why you're not."
Jones could be forgiven if he wanted a rock to hide under in the days following the Indiana game. Wednesday night was his first opportunity to meet with reporters since UK's loss to the Hoosiers.
He downplayed the significance of sitting on the bench in the final minutes of the IU game - "I don't really even think like that," Jones said - and said that his postgame Twitter messages aimed at his critics weren't targeting UK fans.
"I wasn't talking about anybody from BBN or Kentucky," Jones said. "I was just talking about everybody else from other teams that were tweeting me. They just were happy we lost, and so I just said they could have (that day), but we're still going to have a long season. That's all that meant."
As for the heat he took after the game, Jones said he tuned out all but the criticism from his coaches.
"Nobody that I felt was important questioned my heart," he said.
Mostly, though, Jones expressed his pleasure at being back on the floor with a chance to move on from the IU game.
"I'm just having fun playing," Jones said. "It's better than sitting the whole game in regular clothes. I'm just happy to be out there running up and down, honestly."