Friday, February 7, 2014
Okay Jazz fans, I want you to scan your memory banks. Look hard. You may need to take a look in the way back machine, but here is the question, when was the last time a Jazz team imposed their will on an opponent? I am not talking about for a game or a stretch, but where a team knows that they are going to be in for a fight. Figure it out yet? Exactly....its been a long time, a really long time. Dare I say back to the Jerry Sloan days? Think about that, if I am being kind, I would say maybe the year that Jazz made a Western Conference Finals run with Deron and Booz. But that is being generous.
The last time the Jazz had a team that imposed their will upon an opponent would be the days of Stockton and Malone. Those teams did what they wanted night in and night out. You knew they were going to run the pick and roll with John and Karl. You knew they were going to run the FLEX with Hornacek coming of a pick to hit that elbow jumper. You knew that if you took the ball to the hoop Malone or Ostertag were going to foul you hard. You were going to earn those points.
For the past 5 years this Jazz team has been imposed upon. 5 years! In a "season of discovery" and an opportunity to discover what assets, if any, the Jazz continue to play to their opponent. We can look at this a number of ways. From match-ups, to offensive and defensive game plans. The Jazz never say this is who we are, or this is what we are going to do, now stop it. Granted the Jazz can beat themselves at this with poor execution, bad personnel match-ups etc. But this team has not said, this is who we are and we are going to battle with this win or lose.
This can also be said of the players. For example, both Gordon and Trey are slumping. Their offense is lackluster and does not exhibit any confidence. Advantage defense. There is all this talk of "getting in the gym" or "getting shots up before and after practice". But I think the fast way out of a so-called slump is to be the aggressor. To IMPOSE YOUR WILL! It would serve both these players well to come into the game and make sure that their first shots are going to the basket, being aggressive and putting the oh-nus on the officials. Yeah its going to get you some bumps and bruises and you are not going to get calls at times, but it says to your opponent, this is what I am going to do STOP ME!
The same can be said about the Jazz lineup decisions and rotations. We have 3 very talented bigs, that need time and development together, not substituting for each other. This is where we need to say, Kanter and Favors, Gobert and Favors, Gobert and Kanter, this is who and what we are going to run, STOP US! This season is unlike any other, where the option to run these kinds of lineups and the ramifications of running them do not hurt the over all numbers. They give the staff opportunities to teach and develop, to make these players the kind of players the front office believes they can be, for the future.
Lastly, its the kind of mentality that needs to be developed on this young team. That they know that the staff believes that they CAN succeed. That they CAN impose their will on their opponent. That the opponent has to game plan for the Utah Jazz, not the Utah Jazz game planing for the rest of the league.
February 6 2013, the Utah Jazz were coming of a win 100-86 versus the Milwaukee Bucks, giving the Jazz a record of 28-22, 6 games above .500. The Jazz started a line up of Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye and Jamal Tinsley. Milsap and Jefferson both had 19 pts a piece. Jefferson had 11 rebs and Milsap had 6. Of the bench, Enes Kanter had 17 pts and 9 rebs, Derrick Favors had 9 pts and 11 rebs.
Here is where is gets interesting, last season there was a lot of clamoring to play the young guys. To let them develop, that they were the better players. People wanted to see Kanter and Favors. I can't deny that I was among those that wanted to see the young guys play more.
Fast forward to February 6, 2014, the Utah Jazz are coming of a 79-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors, giving the Jazz a record of 16-32, 16 games below .500. Now I am not going to say that I am disappointed with this Jazz team. That is far from the truth. Actually I am thrilled with this Jazz team. I have seen development from all the young players at one time or another throughout the season. I also realize with a young team, the most difficulty thing for them is going to be consistency. But I am pleased with the direction of the team.
But the time machine had me thinking, what if we had decided to hold on to Paul and Al? While I can not prognosticate where this team would be with wins and losses, I thought I would be interesting to think about. Changes would have been needed. But what? What personnel moves would have been made? Would there be a philosophy change offensively/defensively?
I think we can safely say that the defensive philosophy would be completely changed. The defense last year was terrible. I would guess that the Jazz would run something similar to what they are this year in regards to the pick and roll. Allowing Al Jefferson to sag back into the lane and attempt to protect the rim.
As for personnel, I don't want to pretend to be Dennis Lindsey, but I think we could expect to see something similar to the way Charlotte has handled Big Al. I would expect the team to attempt to sign more floor spacers, spot up shooters. If I remember right, the Jazz tried to sign current Bobcat and floor spreader Anthony Toliver. There was also the strong rumor of Kyle Korver coming back to Utah. I don't think its much of a coincidence that Milsap signed with Atlanta and Korver chose to resign with the Hawks.
Again there is no way to know how much, if at all, these moves would have improved the Jazz. I also believe that there would have had to be a fundamental change in the offensive philosophy and Ty's reluctance to allow bigs to shoot the 3. Milsap has shown he can be effective from the 3. Think about that, had Paul been given the green light, the kind of space that Big Al would be afforded down low. The double teams, that Al would have seen, giving wide open looks to Korver, Milsap and other spot up shooters. Granted Al was a bit of a "black hole" so those shots may never have come.
With that said, it would have been interesting to see how Dennis Lindsey and the front office would have gone about shaking up this roster. What changes would have have made in order to improve the team with a goal of being better than .500 and being competitive in the playoffs?
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The last 2 weeks have had their ups and downs for the Utah Jazz. There have been wins, there have been losses. Good games by Enes Kanter, Alec Burks. Struggles for Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke, and injuries to the cornerstone Derrick Favors as well as Jeremy Evans. The vets Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams continue to battle through their own nicks and dings. But one question remains, who are the Utah Jazz?
We are better than half way through the season and I rack my brain game after game, trying to identify what this Jazz team hangs their hat on. General Manager Dennis Lindsey stated at the first of the season and he wanted to see this young team develop, see what pieces he had to build with. He also mentioned the need to build a top caliber defense. At this point, can Dennis Lindsey say that the Jazz have accomplished either of these goals? Only he can answer that question....
As I watch the Jazz, I can't put my finger on one thing that this team is. Are they a post team? A transition team? A 3pt shooting team? A defensive team? Night in and night out the Jazz have been any of these, but they are never consistently one. And there in lies the problem....
This is a young team that needs direction, guidelines and roles. Just saying that we are going to compete every night is great, but young players need something to focus on, a role, something that the are going to focus on and execute.
David Locke, radio voice for the Utah Jazz, made mention on his Tipoff podcast the fact that Alec Burks has an elite skill as an attacker/penatrator and score and the fact that that is a building block for a player and an offense. This has lead me to think about the young core and their skills or things that are valuable or valued on this team. What are they? How can the Jazz build off of them? Lets take a look....
Derrick Favors, in my opinion, his elite skill would be a defender or rim protector. Enes Kanter, would have to be an offensive rebounder. Rudy Gobert, very similar to Favors as a defender and rim protector. Trey Burke, his elite skill would have to be the mid-range game, a lost art in the NBA game. Four players that have elite skills or talents.
Are they being put in a position to use those skills and be successful? I am not so sure. For all the talk of Kanter and Favors can or can't play together (depends on which side of the fence you are on) I believe they can. Both players have elite skills that offset each other. While Kanter struggles on defense and his rotations he is a much better offensive rebounder than Favors. Because the Jazz have change their philosophy on defense and the fact that they want to stop transition, they are missing out on second chance points and thus negating Kanters skill. So why not play Favors and Kanter together? Make Kanters role that of an offensive rebounder and hitting the offensive glass hard. Make Derrick Favors the rim protector and defender. He has the responsibility to get back in transition and protect the basket. The same philosophy could be used with Gobert instead of Favors. Or if you are going to play Favors and Gobert together, have Derrick crash the boards. The options are there and they should be looked at a lot more than they are,
So that leaves us with Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans. What are their elite skills or talents? While Jeremy Evans will never be a starter in the league and likely not a 6th man in the league, he can be a valuable contributor off the bench. If you were to ask me what Jeremy's elite skill COULD be, I would tell you that I believe he could be an elite weak-side/help defender. Jeremy is long and extremely athletic. The prefect combination for a help defender. I hate to say it but I don't think this skill has been developed very well for Jeremy. One other aspect Jeremy's game that is over-looked is his energy/motor. He plays hard all the time. Sports Illustrated Seth Davis wrote a fantastic piece about talent in college basket ball and the need for a new definition for players other than just measurables. If you haven't read it I would strongly suggest it, here is the link http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20140203/hoop-thoughts-talent/?eref=sihp
So what is Gordon Hayward's elite skill? He is a good passer, a good defender, a good shooter, good from 3pt range, an average rebounder. What is Gordon's elite skill? While Gordon is good in a lot of areas and valuable because of this, I am not sure he has an elite skill. He is not a great 3pt shooter. He is good in the pick and roll but his handle tends to be loose from time to time and can be turnover prone. The skill that I would say would be closest to elite would be defense. He has good lateral quickness, sneaky athletic and is long. He has the ability to defend multiple positions as well as being a good help defender. With that being said, is Gordon focusing too much on his offense? Has he been put in a position to enhance that skill?
For the Jazz, the All-star break is just around the corner. I would hope the Jazz get some good rest, come back healthy, refreshed and focused. I hope they have a renewed interest and effort in finding out their elite skills and identity as a team.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Tonight the Utah Jazz taking on the Ailing Sacramento Kings. The Jazz are coming off a big win against The Washington Wizards Saturday Night. The Jazz played with a lot of energy and closed out the game with the young core of Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks had big games for the Jazz. Kanter finished with 24 pts, 5 rebs, 2 asts and only 1 turnover. Alec Finished with 15 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts and no turnovers. These are the kind of games that the Jazz need from these two players. While Alec has been consistant for the last 2 months this was another bounce back game for Kanter.
The best part of this game was the fact that Kanter and Favors got some extended run together. This is exactly what the Front office is needing to see from these to young players. While it is a small sample size, the two seemed to work well together. This morning on David Locke's Tip off podcast, there was the discussion of playing the 2 bigs together. David brought up the point (which I have mentioned in the past as well) that if you are going to play 2 bigs together that one of them needs to be a good passer. Exapmles of which could be, the Spurs, the Griz, the Pacers, the Blazers, all have very good passing bigs. While this is something that still needs to be developed by Kanter and Favors I believe it is possible.
Tonight will be interesting to see if the Jazz attempt to play the two of them together again. The Kings may run two bigs with the likes of Aaron Gray, Jason Thompson, Quincy Acy and Carl Landry. If the Kings deploy one of these front lines, look for the Jazz to give it a shot. This is what we need to find out, for the future, if Kanter and Favors can play together. Looks like the Jazz are on the way to finding out if that is possible. GO JAZZ!
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Yesterday USA basketball announced their pool of players for this summers World Cup of Basketball and 2016 Summer Games. The list has the usual suspects, but there was one name that was left off that I found very interesting, Derrick Favors. The list looks like this...
Taking a look at this list of players leaves me scratching my head a bit. I know certain players like Kyle Korver are chosen for a specific purpose or skill they bring to the table. But I think I have more questions than answers when it comes to the Favors snub. Just looking at it, I would be happy to replace Cousins, Drummond, Faried with Favors. Comparing Favors and Faried, Favs is shooting 52% to Faried 54%. Favs is almost 2 rebounds more a game and a full block more. Bur Faried got the nod. DeMarcus Cousin, simply put is a bad teammate is put on this team. I think if you look at the stats, Cousin are inflated due to the number of possessions the guy uses. Drummond has had a great season, but he sure laid an egg going up against Favs last week. Not sure if playing against a terrible eastern conference is helping his stats as well.
I could sit here and pick a part this list and the player that I think Mr. Favors could and should easily replace, but I would be wasting my time. So I am going to look at this from a glass half full perspective. If the Derrick Favors that we have seen this season, is the guy who we think he is, this will motivate him. He will feel that he has something to prove every time he goes up against another player on this list. I believe it will fuel him to work on his craft and to become a better player. I believe that he will be out to prove to himself and USA Basketball that they made MISTAKE!
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Utah Jazz fell hard again last night, losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-97. This one was hard to watch. I fully expected the Jazz to come out with more intensity. This was not the case. The Jazz started the usual starters minus Derrick Favors who was out with a strained abductor. Enes Kanter was plugged in and was ineffective.
Last nights game showed a couple of things. First the value of Derrick Favors. I think the Jazz should be extremely happy with the contract extension and the development of the young Mr. Favors. He is a game changer in so many ways. On defense, the other team is always conscious of where he is. He may not block every shot in the paint but I guarantee you he effects every shot in the paint. Offensively he demands a double team simply because of his size. If he catches the ball deep in the post there are very few people in the league who are going to deter Favors. Last night really shows how important Derrick is for the future of the Jazz.
To go along with the Derrick Favors and his value to the Jazz, we need to take a close look at the value of a rim protector. Rudy Gobert played 27 mins, went 4-5 from the field scoring 8 points, had 6 rebounds and 3 blocks. The stats may look a little pedestrian but Rudy's effect on the game was not. The Timberwolves were very conscious of where Rudy was at all times on the floor. At one point he made JJ Barea shot a runner earlier than he would like. You could see that it was totally out of rhythm and was a floater a long way from the hoop (unfortunately some how it went in). It was great to see Rudy get some extended run.
Gordon Hayward did return to the lineup and played well. No rust for Gordon. He and Alec were really the only offensive bright spots for the team. Hayward finished 10-17 from the field, 2-5 from 3pt for 27 pts. Alec finished 6-14 from the field, 1-1 from 3pt for 18 pts. The Jazz just did not get much else from anyone else offensively.
One of the most frustrating parts of the game was the inconsistency in the calls by the officials. I try not to bring the officials in to the game or anything that I write, but last night it could not be ignored. So much so that even Coach Corbin made a comment or two about the way the game was officiated. Looking at it, the Timberwolves shot 24 free-throws to the Jazz 12. Its not very often that the home team is doubled up on the free-throw attempts. Ty did mention early on that Minnesota was the aggressor, but I did not feel that it was that big of a discrepancy. The Jazz also lost the rebound battle 42-41 and the turnover battle 9-14. As far as the boards go, the Jazz did a much better job as a team in comparison to the previous game. That was good to see.
With the way this season has developed we can safely say that Trey Burke and Derrick Favors are the Jazz most important/valuable players. This team flounders when missing one of these two players. While I love Gordon and what he brings to the team, those things were filled by the other players on the team for the 2 weeks that Gordon was out. If anything this may help the Jazz with their negotiations with Gordon this summer and will also help the front office decide how important he is to this team.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
So just came across a great piece on ESPN aka The Mothership, that I thought was so good that everyone should check it out. Its an interview done with Kobe Bryant, and while I don't personally like him, I have to give credit to what he does on the court and the type of basketball player he is. Check out the article here....
He makes some great points about the direction of the league, the players today and defense!