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Archive for June, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words. Not these ones, though.

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Bill Simmons 2013 NBA Draft

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #2

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #002

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #4

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #5

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #6

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David Stern 2013 NBA Draft Boos

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #7

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Faces of the 2013 NBA Draft #8

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Speaking of which, further evidence Kevin O’Connor and John Beilein are twins who were separated-at-birth.

Enjoying the NBA Draft…

John Beilein vs Kevin O'Connor

With their point guards…

Kevin O'Connor and John Beilein

Fiery Competitors…

Kevin O'Connor and John Beilein #2

And the sure-fire sign they’re related…

John Beilein No Comment

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Trey Burke Michigan Highlights #1

Today’s post will be short and sweet. It appears the Utah Jazz achieved their best-case scenario in last night’s draft by acquiring the draft rights to point guard Trey Burke (9th overall pick) from Minnesota in exchange for the 14th and 21st overall picks. Rather than sit back and take what will likely amount to two average role players at-best, Utah was aggressive and landed a playmaker widely regarded as the best point guard in the draft and someone who appears to be the perfect fit for their team. While the Jazz also made two shrewd moves in acquiring the rights to center Rudy Gobert (27th overall from Denver) and point guard Raul Neto (47th overall from Atlanta) – the Burke trade alone made their draft a success.

I’ve kept tabs on Burke since he was a senior in high school and think he will provide Utah exactly what it needs as both a point guard and leader. In the coming days I will break down Burke’s game further, but for now here’s a short video profiling his 2013 season in which he was named First-Team All-American as well as Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year. The first-half of the video includes excerpts featuring Burke from the Big Ten Network’s “The Journey,” while the second-half includes highlights from his 2013 collegiate season.

Obviously draft picks can only truly be judged several years down the road, but for now the Jazz appeared to have filled a massive hole at point guard with someone who could stabilize the position for the rest of the decade.

Winston Churchill cautioned that “Success is never final, failure is never fatal,” but after the failures from the past several Jazz seasons, celebration and excitement over the last night’s draft success is certainly justifiable.

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NBA Superstar Trades

The Utah Jazz possess two first-round picks entering tonight’s NBA draft – their own pick at #14 and Golden State’s pick at #21. The Jazz acquired the Warriors’ pick on February 23, 2011 as part of the Nets’ package in exchange for Deron Williams. As a result – Utah’s total haul from trading Willliams to the Nets was one season of Devin Harris (who essentially became Marvin Williams in 2012), Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and now this year’s 21st overall pick (assuming they stay at #21).

Deron Williams to the Nets – Feb-2011

NJ/Brooklyn Receives:

  • Deron Williams

Utah Receives:

  • Derrick Favors (2010 #3 Pick)
  • Devin Harris (Jul-2012 traded to Atl for Marvin Williams)
  • 2011 1st-Round Pick (#3 Enes Kanter)
  • Warriors’ protected 1st-Round Pick – 2013 #21 Overall (top-7 protected 2012-13, top-6 protected 2014)

2011-12: New Jersey 22-44, no postseason; Utah 36-30, lost in 1st-Round.

2012-13: Brooklyn 49-33, lost in 1st-Round; Utah 43-39, no postseason.

While the overall success of Utah’s bold trade will likely be determined by the development of #3-overall picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, let’s compare Utah’s haul to that from the other superstar trades over the past 2 1/2 years.

Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks – Feb-2011

NY receives:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Chauncey Billups
  • Sheldon Williams
  • Anthony Carter
  • Renaldo Balkman

Denver receives:

  • SF Wilson Chandler
  • SF Danilo Gallinari
  • PG Raymond Felton
  • C Timofey Mozgov
  • NY’s 2014 1st-Round Pick
  • 2 2nd-Round Picks
  • Cash

2011-12: Denver: 38-28, lost in 1st-Round; New York 36-30, lost in 1st-Round.

2012-13: Denver 57-25, lost in 1st-Round; New York 54-28, lost in 2nd-Round.

Chris Paul to the Clippers – Dec-2011

LAC Receives:

  • Chris Paul
  • 2 Future 2nd-Round Picks

New Orleans Receives:

  • Eric Gordon
  • Chris Kaman
  • Al-Farouq Aminu (2010 #8 Pick)
  • 2012 1st-Round Pick (#10 Austin Rivers)

2011-12: LAC: 40-26, lost in 2nd-Round; New Orleans 21-45, no postseason (#1 overall pick Anthony Randolph).

2012-13: LAC 56-26, lost in 1st-Round; New Orleans 27-55, no postseason.

Dwight Howard to the Lakers – Aug-2012

Part of a 4-team trade. To simplify in terms of Lakers/Magic:

LAL Gives Up:

  • Andrew Bynum
  • Josh McRoberts
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Protected 2017 1st-Round Pick
  • 2015 2nd-Round Pick

LAL Receives:

  • Dwight Howard
  • Earl Clark
  • Chris Duhon

Orlando Gives Up:

  • Dwight Howard
  • Jason Richardson
  • Earl Clark
  • Chris Duhon

Orlando Receives:

  • Aaron Afflalo
  • Nikola Vucevic (2011 #16 Pick)
  • Moe Harkless (2012 #15 Pick)
  • Al Harrington
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Nuggets’ 2014 1st-Round Pick (Lesser of Den/NY 2014 Pick)
  • 76ers’ 2015-or-2016-or-2017 1st-Round Pick
  • Lakers’ protected 2017 1st-Round Pick
  • 2013 2nd-Round Pick (#51)
  • Lakers’ 2015 2nd-Round Pick

2012-13: LAL 45-37, lost in 1st-Round; Orlando 20-62, no postseason.

James Harden to the Rockets- Oct-2012

Houston Receives:

  • James Harden

Oklahoma City Receives:

  • Kevin Martin
  • Jeremy Lamb (2012 #12 Pick)
  • Raptors’ Protected 1st-Round Pick – 2013 #12 Overall (top-3 protected in 2013, top-2 protected in 2014-15, top-1 protected 2016-17; unprotected in 2018)
  • Cole Aldrich
  • Daequan Cook
  • Lazar Hayward

2012-13: OKC 60-22, lost in 2nd-Round; Houston 45-37, lost in 1st-Round.

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While it won’t be known for several more seasons who ultimately got the best deal, the 2013 NBA Draft will at least fill in a few of the missing blanks.

Utah Jazz Nets Deron Williams Trade

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Deron Williams Greg Miller Kevin O'Connor

On Tuesday afternoon, Jazz CEO Greg Miller shared his account of the events on the night of February 9, 2011 in which Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson both chose to resign.

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan resignation

Miller’s recent account appears to contradict his previous statements as well as the overall narrative the organization projected during the official press conference which formerly announcing Sloan’s resignation. From that time on, the company line was that Sloan simply grew “tired” of coaching and decided to “quit.”

Greg Miller on Jerry Sloan's resignation

While some gullible fans may have bought that, there has been just as much information out that led many to believe that the organizations narrative was false from the beginning.

On February 10th, 2011 Ric Bucher, then a senior analyst for ESPN, reported exactly what Greg Miller did yesterday, saying “There was a disagreement between Coach Sloan and Deron Williams about how a play was run.” Bucher then elaborated, “There was discussion between Kevin O’Connor and Coach Sloan, and I’m told Coach Sloan wanted to penalize Deron in some way and there was a disagreement on how that was going to be handled and so this came to a head.”

This completely jives with other reports by respected national writers. The highly-regarded Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports wrote on the same date: “After feeling undermined, one source said Sloan told Jazz owner Greg Miller that if this is how he wanted to run a franchise, he could do it without him as coach.”

A few days later, Karl Malone further added fuel to this fire by saying “I know for a fact that (Sloan) was overridden on practices sometime on the road because Deron was calling our GM at that time.

Finally, this past February Jazz president Randy Rigby also contradicted the party line. During his embarrassing weekly brag-fest on Ty Corbin, Rigby stated “He (Corbin) came in – in a very difficult situation, and immediately said to us, ‘Hey, I think I can work with Deron.'” Obviously, if difficulties with Deron weren’t a factor in Sloan’s resignation, there should have been nothing extraordinary about a new head coach claiming to be able to co-exist with his team’s franchise player.

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The obvious counter is the fact that Jerry Sloan himself has repeatedly stated that the decision to step-down was his alone and that Deron had nothing to do with it. I think Jerry’s statements are admirable, understandable, yet admirably untrue.

First, it’s important to understanding the type of coach and man Jerry is. Routinely throughout his career Jerry would look to pass the credit on to someone else. (For example after a 4/1/99 Karl Malone game-winner Jerry’s remark on the final play was “We’ve run that play since Frank Layden was coaching the team.” Jerry had no ego whatsoever, and a great love for the organization that reached a pinnacle following Utah’s 26-56 season in which he was not fired. I believe by 2011 Jerry truly felt management was more closely aligned to Deron, yet because of his love and loyalty to the Jazz he didn’t want his resignation to spark a “Jerry vs. Jazz management” civil war. He wanted out of a no-win situation but he wanted to leave the organization in better shape than when he started (which he did). Yes it’s an incredible sacrifice of pride, but Jerry Sloan is an incredible man.

While there may have never been a “Jerry or Deron” choice made, it’s now undeniable the halftime confrontation was a main factor and extremely possible that the reported disagreement regarding disciplining Deron was the real breaking point.

Also, there is precedent of the Jazz refuting reports of internal conflict that risk negative exposure – Mark Jackson’s 2002-03 locker room politics being the primary example.

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Both the NBA and the Utah Jazz were in different places in 2011 than they are today. Carmelo Anthony essentially held Denver hostage for the first-half of the season before finally landing in his preferred destination of New York. There was no Kyrie Irving in Cleveland and no 50-win seasons for the post-Melo Nuggets. The Cavaliers and Raptors were still reeling following the departures of LeBron James and Chris Bosh while small-market teams were terrified of ending up in similar situations.

Utah’s attempt to reload in the 2010 offseason had fizzled out. A surprising 27-14 start primarily behind the Jazz system (which routinely made journeyman into efficient role-players) and a brilliant start by Deron Williams turned sour. A recent stretch of losses pushed the insecurity over Deron’s pending 2012 free agency to an all-time high and it’s entirely conceivable how a franchise that had long supported coaches over their star players would begin to lose grasp of those priorities under new and inexperienced ownership.

Deron Williams reached a point where he was beginning to trump everything in the organization and that shift in priorities was exhibited in the immediate aftermath of Sloan’s resignation. Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune reported the Jazz still hoped to retain Deron following Sloan’s departure, calling Corbin “a likeable players’ coach who key personnel within the organization believe can not only reach Williams but convince him that a new era in Jazz basketball has arrived. And with that, the hope: Williams will remain with Utah after the 2011-12 campaign.”

After an 0-3 start under Corbin and Deron’s “networking” during the all-star break, Williams was a New Jersey Net by February 23rd.

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Less than two weeks before Jerry and Phil Johnson submitted their resignations, Johnson did a sit-down interview with KSL where he sounded like anything but a man anticipating his longtime friend and colleague was ready to step down. Phil made the following comments on January 28, 2011:
I think [Jerry’s] at his best at this time. He is at his best at these stages where you’re struggling and the team’s not sure. I think he shows tremendous patience and doesn’t do a lot of yelling and screaming like a lot of people think, he’s very trusting and tries to develop confidence rather than criticizing.”

Johnson also offered this tidbit when asked about the longevity he and Sloan enjoyed with the Jazz, giving credit to ownership for understanding the importance of supporting their coaches:
Larry Miller, although he was very demanding, he understood what was going on as far as coaching is concerned.

Another myth surrounding Phil Johnson’s resignation was that Phil left because he had always said he would go out with Jerry. That was false, as Phil made clear in an interview with KSL’s Rod Zundel directly following the February 10th press conference.
Zundel: “You always said that when Jerry goes, you’re leaving as well…”
Johnson: I haven’t always said that, earlier in our careers Larry Miller told me at one time ‘You have the job if you want it’ and so that’s been there forever, since Larry was here…he always told me that personally.”

Finally, when asked by Zundel what he would say on the reports that Deron Williams forced Jerry out, the words Phil didn’t say said more than the ones he did in his response:

“I just say let it play out and not worry about all that stuff, it was time for us to leave and we left.”

It has played out.
The Nets have gone through two coaches and are seeking a third in their 2 1/2 seasons since acquiring Deron Williams. Greg Miller’s story has changed from Deron having nothing to do with Sloan’s departure – to a halftime conflict which precipitated Jerry’s resignation. If the story emanating from the Jazz has changed to the point it now partially supports the initial reports the organization tried so hard to refute, what’s to say the truth doesn’t lie entirely in the story that management’s refusal to discipline Deron Williams evoked Jerry Sloan’s resignation?

I’m not sure we’ll ever learn exactly what happened between Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams, Kevin O’Connor and Greg Miller in February of 2011, but it’s as obvious as a 42’x24′ jumbotron that many more elements factored into it than simply one man’s solitude choice to retire.

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Footnote: I’ll close with this video (courtesy of jazzfanatical) from a 113-106 Utah win in Denver – just 5 nights before Jerry would decide to step down. During the confrontation, take note of how worn down, tired and uninvolved Jerry appears* to be. (*He showed more emotion and in-game involvement during that skirmish than Utah’s current head coach has exhibited in over 2 years)

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Utah Jazz Toughness

You know, most of the teams that we’ve had here have been pretty nasty — and they will get after you from daylight until dark. We’re just learning how to get after it a little bit more as we go along with younger guys.”
– Jerry Sloan, 2009.

These comments were made amidst the Utah Jazz’s 5-game first-round defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, but they still ring true today. While most players enter the league as strong competitors – developing NBA championship-caliber toughness is something that must be acquired through the experience of playing against the best talent at the highest level.

During a Utah Jazz home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on January 19, 2012 – there was a dead-ball incident where 33-year old Dirk Nowitzki slapped the ball out of 20-year old Derrick Favors’ hands. While Favors merely walked to the other end of the court, Earl Watson stepped in for his teammate and sent Nowitzki a message that the Jazz weren’t going to lay down and allow themselves to be disrespected.


(Courtesy of TheRealMLC)

Favors’ passive response resulted in no penalty against Dirk, and only Earl Watson received a technical foul for his actions. It was a stark contrast in player reaction compared to a similar scenario involving former hard-nosed Jazz player Matt Harpring in 2003. During Game 4 of the Jazz’s first-round matchup with the Kings, Sacramento’s Doug Christie slapped the ball out of Harpring’s hands reminiscent to Nowitzki’s actions – but Harpring clearly wasn’t prepared to sit back and take it.

Matt Harpring’s aggressive response elicited a technical foul call against Doug Christie from referee Dick Bavetta. Clearly as a player, if you passively allow an opponent push the boundaries – their chances of getting away with it increase. Even moreso than technical fouls, simply earning respect and showing you won’t allow an opponent to walk all over you is the principal matter.

Now fast forward to this past season. During a home game against the Warriors on December 26, 2012, a late elbow thrown by Jazz center Enes Kanter on Warriors forward Carl Landry resulted in guard Jarrett Jack (GS’s veteran leader) getting in the face of the 20-year old Kanter. This time, the first person to step in was Derrick Favors – who then went nose-to-nose with Jack.


(Courtesy of jazzfanatical)

For all the talk about the inexperience of the Core-4, they’ve shown they not only are developing their all-around games and skill sets – but also their intangibles which include toughness and grit. This can only bode well for the future.
As I believe Utah’s long-term identity should be as a defensive-oriented team in the mold of an Indiana or Memphis, collective toughness is imperative from your core players. It takes an incredible amount of toughness, camaraderie, and desire to treat every defensive possession with the utmost importance. Not only must you be physically willing to sacrifice your body by drawing charges and contesting every shot, mentally you must have the mindset to always have your teammate’s back by playing attentive help-defense.

That’s what makes this type of maturation – where Favors instantaneously steps in to back up a teammate – exciting to see. It’s not something that can be quantified with statistical analysis and it’s not something that can be learned from sitting on the bench. Growth and development is about more than just developing a jump hook, it’s also about taking action and doing things that quality veteran leaders do – and I think Derrick Favors is progressing well in those areas.

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DeShawn Stevenson Utah Jazz

In his first NBA draft with the Utah Jazz, vice president of basketball operations Kevin O’Connor selected guard DeShawn Stevenson 23rd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft. For a traditionally conservative franchise, it was a shocking move. Stevenson, at 19 years old, became the youngest as well as the first Jazz 1st-round pick ever selected directly out of high school.

It’s a move into reality,” O’Connor said following the selection. “The reality is that players in the NBA are getting younger.” In getting younger, the Jazz acquired a player who averaged 30.4 points, 9.7 points rebounds and 6.2 assists per game as a high school senior.

From 2000-2004, Stevenson would play 222 games for the Jazz. Over the course of his tenure in Utah, Stevenson never blossomed into the player the Jazz envisioned him becoming. He displayed a lot of explosiveness and athletic ability (he finished 2nd in the 2001 Dunk Contest) but suffered from inconsistencies in regards to shooting, defending and sticking with the offense. Injury and sub par play among Utah’s veteran wings enabled DeShawn to make 23 starts in 2001-02 but he was unable to become a fixture in the rotation. In 2003 he displayed impressive toughness by sending a message to Ricky Davis that he didn’t care much for Davis’ cheap attempt for a triple-double which was appreciated by his old-school head coach Jerry Sloan who said afterwards “I was glad DeShawn tried to knock [Davis] down.”

Stevenson’s Jazz days appeared to be over a few months later when he screamed at Sloan for not playing him following Utah’s opening game in the 2003 playoffs. Stevenson was suspended and sent home prior to Game 2, but made appearances in the following (and final) three games of the series.

Following the departures of John Stockton and Karl Malone, Stevenson started all 54 games of his games in Utah during the 2003-04 season. He had some good performances (including a 16-point 1st-quarter and team-high 22 points in a road win in Boston) but never quite earned Sloan’s complete trust as Raja Bell often closed out games for the Jazz. Stevenson posted averages of 11.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists on 45% FG shooting, 67% FT shooting and 23.3% 3pt-shooting for Utah before being shipped to Orlando at the trade deadline in exchange for Gordon Giricek.

Sloan’s willingness to play DeShawn even after they had their run-in demonstrates Jerry’s willingness to not harbor grudges and move-on in a professional manner (Jerry gave players such as Chris Morris and Greg Ostertag similar opportunities after ugly sideline incidents).

9 years and an Abraham Lincoln neck-tattoo later, Stevenson is still in the league and has a championship ring in tow. He became a competent-starter on several playoff teams by gradually transforming his identity from an inconsistent athletic guard who was a poor shooter to a above-average tough defensive player and decent 3pt-shooter (34% for his career) who came to accept his offensive limitations (was never going to be a bigtime scorer) and fit into a role.

Looking back on his time in Utah, Stevenson credits Sloan for much of his development. “Playing with Jerry Sloan – Jerry’s a strict coach and we had our ups and downs, but I think he made me stronger as a player,” Stevenson said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News in 2010. “He was tough, but he made me who I am now. If I didn’t go through that kind of system and that caliber of coach, I wouldn’t be in the NBA right now.”

Final verdict on the selection? DeShawn may not have turned out to be a difference-maker for the Jazz but all things considered – he was still a good pick. Better alternatives were not available considering the final six picks of the 1st-round after Stevenson consisted of:

24. Dalibor Bagaric (out of the league by 2004)
25. Jake Tsakalidis (out of the league by 2008)
26. Mamadou N’diaye (out of the league by 2006)
27. Primoz Brezec (8-year career – backup outside of the expansion Bobcats)
28. Erick Barkley (out of the league by 2003)
29. Mark Madsen (9-years – career backup)

The lone draft steal came at pick-#43 where Michael Redd would go on to be an all-star and 20-point scorer for the Bucks but overall 2000 would prove to be an incredibly weak draft with few better options for the Jazz at #23. Furthermore, it could be argued Utah showed wisdom by not making their 2000 draft class (which also included 50th-overall selection Kaniel Dickens who played just 19 games in his NBA career)) any weaker. The Jazz also owned the 26th-overall pick but four days prior to draft night, traded it to Denver in exchange for a future 1st-round pick. The Nuggets used the pick to selected center Mamadou N’diaye.

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With picks #14, #21 and #46 in what has also been called a very weak 2013 draft class – the Jazz could select players that may be nothing more than average starters – yet in hindsight prove to be solid choices based on the overall strength of the draft. The best option however, may be trading out of one of their first-round slots and rolling it over into a future asset. Punting isn’t necessarily a bad choice if you receive good field position and score on the ensuing possession.

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Jerry Sloan vs Rasheed Wallace 1999

“A technical foul has been charged to coach Jerry Sloan.

Longtime Utah Jazz public-address announcer Dan Roberts has uttered that exact phrase dozens if not hundreds of times.

Jerry Sloan technical fouls

In Wednesday’s radio interview, one of the most interesting things Jerry Sloan said when asked to reflect on the past two years (since friction with Deron Williams led to his departure as Jazz head coach) was that he regretted he wasn’t able to maintain better relations with the officials.

Here is a portion of Jerry’s transcript from the great @monilogue:

Jazzfanatical - Jerry Sloan Transcript 6/19/13

As a player Jerry Sloan was one of the fiercest competitors to ever play the game and that fire carried over into his hall-of-fame coaching career. His competitiveness translated not only into motivating and willing his players to perform to their fullest potential, but also into fighting for every call he thought his team deserved.

When Jerry felt his team wasn’t receiving fair treatment from the officials, he let them know about it the best way he knew how: directly and with blunt honesty. He did so loudly and often with strong language, but most importantly he did so with the underlying message that he was willing to fight tooth and nail to help his team win.

As a result, Sloan was often ranked among the league leaders in technical fouls assessed to coaches.

That begs the question: How many technical fouls were assessed to Jerry Sloan over the course of his career?

I keep detailed Jazz logs which include technical foul tallies – but my records don’t go back anywhere close to when Jerry first became head coach of the Jazz in 1988. Therefore using the 2008 Guiness Book of World Records – it was stated that as of March 15, 2007 Jerry Sloan had accumulated 413 technical fouls as both a player and a coach. Adding in technical fouls accumulated since provides a bare-minimum number of T’s Sloan has been assessed since entering the NBA over 40 years ago.

Jerry Sloan – NBA Technical Foul Totals
  Season Regular Season Postseason Total
Pre-3/15/07 413
2006-07 (post-3/15) 1 2 3
2007-08 6 2 8
2008-09 12 3 15
2009-10 4 1 5
2010-11 2 2
Total 446

Assuming the 413-figure includes postseason numbers – Jerry Sloan finished his NBA career amassing a total of at least 446 technical fouls. The actual total is likely higher considering Sloan played five seasons before the NBA began officially recording technical fouls as statistics in 1970.

Regardless, 446 is an extordinary number. By comparison, Rasheed Wallace (who holds the NBA single-season technical foul record of 41 set in 2000-01 – which broke his own record of 38 he had set the previous season) was T’d up a total of 373 times (including playoffs) in his NBA career which may (or may not) be over.

Oh and when those two technical foul wizards crossed paths – all kinds of good stuff happened:

Jerry’s willingness to go after Rasheed Wallace always harkens back to an old Frank Layden quote that Michael C. Lewis shared in his outstanding must-read book “To The Brink” in which Layden said of Sloan: “Nobody fights with Jerry because you know the price would be too high. You might come out the winner, at his age. You might even lick him. But you’d lose an eye, an arm, your testicles in the process. Everything would be gone.”

While Sloan definitely had his own distinct manner in dealing with the refs, it’s important to remember how the league has cracked down on the verbal abuse of their officials in recent years. The leeway that Sloan and other hot-tempered coaches such as Don Nelson once had to work over officiating crews no longer exists in the current NBA. Coaches were forced to relatively “adjust” aspects of their sideline presence as the years went on and Sloan adapted with it.

For example, during the 1999-00 regular season Sloan was called for 24 technical fouls and ejected 6 times. That carried over into Utah’s 9-game postseason where he was called for 4 more technicals and 1 more ejection. By comparison, from the 2007-08 season until the end of his coaching career in 2011 – Sloan was called for a combined total of 24 regular season technicals and 4 ejections. He still maintained his fire and knew when to pick his spots but overall he had calmed down a great deal compared to the Stockton&Malone era when he would pick up technical fouls as if they were candy antique tractors.

While it’s highly possible Jerry Sloan will never coach again in the NBA, I’ll always remember him not only for the great teams he put out on the floor and the toughness and teamwork they displayed – but for his sheer fire and competitive spirit that often carried over into his team’s play.

It’s great to have Jerry back in an advisory role with the franchise, but his best and greatest role ever was as a head coach and it’s still very sad he no longer maintains that position. He truly was an outstanding coach and face of the franchise, technical fouls and all.

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Ronnie Brewer - 2006 NBA Draft

Ronnie Brewer may have been my favorite draft pick ever. Not speficially because of his play (Ronnie was a solid rotation player for the Jazz who fit very nicely into their system), but because of the hilarious exchange between Dan Patrick and David Stern that preceded his selection. In all the years of televised drafts, it’s hard to recall a more amusing snarkfest between a commissioner and television host.


Now back to Ronnie Brewer.

By his second season Brewer was Utah’s starting 2-guard and developed into a very solid albeit limited role-player. He had world-class athleticism, was a great teammate, a solid defender, a good passer, a great cutter, and fantastic open-court player – but he just couldn’t shoot. He could make the 16-footer but didn’t take them often or make them consistently. Utah was able to mask that weakness by possessing one of the premier shooting bigs in the league in Mehmet Okur. In Utah’s vaunted high screen-roll – Okur filled the “Jeff Hornacek” role as the 3pt-shooter who rolled up on the weakside and Brewer became the dive-man who cut to the rim. It worked beautifully in 2007-08 with Brewer shooting a gaudy 55.8% from the field and averaging 12.0 points per game as part of the league’s #1-offense. Those numbers also translated into the 2008 posteason in which Brewer averaged 10.2 points on 52.0% shooting.

Although Brewer would shoot over 50% in his first three seasons with the Jazz, his lack of shooting-range was magnified when Okur’s body began to break down. Okur missed most of Utah’s 2009 first-round playoff series against the Lakers with a hamstring injury and Brewer’s limitations were accentuated by Kobe Bryant’s unwillingness to defend Brewer outside of 10-feet in half-court sets. Bryant sagged off Brewer and with another streaky perimeter shooter at SF in Andrei Kirilenko and a total non-shooter at center in Jarron Collins – defenses were able to focus all of their attention to collapsing on all-stars Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in the paint which fouled up many of Utah’s sets.

As shown below, Brewer’s primary scoring production came as a paint-finisher where from 2006-10 he converted a stellar 64.4% of his field goal attempts within 10-feet of the basket. He also shot an extraordinary percentage of his shots from point-blank range. (By comparison, in his Jazz tenure only 49.0% of Al Jefferson’s shot attempts have come from within 10-feet of the basket).

Ronnie Brewer Shot Breakdown
  Overall FG% 10-ft % of FG Att FG% Outside
Season FG% or closer Inside 10-ft 10-ft
2006-07 52.8% 66.7% 63.7% 28.6%
2007-08 55.8% 65.6% 61.4% 40.4%
2008-09 50.8% 63.2% 54.5% 36.1%
2009-10 49.5% 63.8% 53.4% 31.5%

It also shows that playing with the Deron-Kirilenko-Boozer-Okur unit clicking on all cylinders in 2007-08 was when Brewer was his most effective. In 2008-09 Deron, Boozer, and Okur missed a combined 69 games and Brewer’s point-blank looks declined. That continued into 2009-10 where Okur’s minutes dipped from the 33-34 range to 29 as his durability and effectiveness began to slip. With Brewer set for free agency in 2010 and a roster featuring five capable wings (Brewer, Kirilenko, C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and rookie Wes Matthews) who all deserved minutes – management shipped Brewer at the trade deadline to Memphis for a protected 1st-round pick that was used in their acquisition of Al Jefferson (the Grizzlies’ pick ended up being F Donatas Motiejunas whose rights were traded from Minnesota to Houston).

Ronnie Brewer has played on 4 teams since being traded and has yet to find a role or system that fit his abilities as well as Jerry Sloan’s system. He was a solid draft pick, a quality Jazz player and a great teammate – and he gave NBA fans the greatest gift of all: an all-out snarkfest between David Stern and Dan Patrick.

I’d be satisfied with a similar haul from this year’s 14th-overall pick – particularly with this being David Stern’s final draft as commissioner.

Come on Bill Simmons, pick a fight with Stern! You know you want to!

David Stern booed at 2012 NBA Draft

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Utah Jazz Last Minute Comebacks

Last night the Miami Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit with 10-seconds remaining in the 3rd-quarter as well as a 5-point deficit with 28-seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime where they would eventually win 103-100.

The Utah Jazz have never experienced a comeback of similar magnitude during their 12 NBA Finals games (the closest being rallying from a 5-point deficit with under 3-minutes remaining in Game 4 of the ’97 Finals), but here’s a look back at their greatest comebacks in franchise history divided into several different categories.

Biggest 2nd Half Comebacks (From Halftime Deficits)
# Opponent Deficit Trailed Final      Date
1. Denver -34 36-70 107-103 11/27/96
2. at Golden State -19 38-57 107-105 12/4/84
3. at Sacramento -18 37-55 110-101 11/22/06
4. Atlanta -17 54-71 116-105 1/29/91
5. L.A. Clippers -16 39-55 96-95 11/6/10
6. at Charlotte -16 33-49 92-90 11/13/10
7. at Portland -15 39-54 92-90 1/2/94
8. at L.A. Clippers -15 37-52 103-99 2/16/94
9. Seattle -15 35-50 92-85 1/16/03

To this day, the 34-point comeback against Denver in 1996 remains the largest halftime deficit overcome in NBA history. The 2010 16-point deficit overcame in Charlotte also featured a 3-point deficit with 50-seconds remaining in which Utah closed the game with a perfect score-stop-score sequence that Deron Williams capped with the game-winner.

Biggest 4th Half Comebacks (From End of 3rd Quarter Deficits)
# Opponent Deficit Trailed Final     Date
1. at Atlanta -21 72-93 112-106 12/20/06
2. San Antonio -18 80-98 124-122 3/15/79
3. Milwaukee -17 71-88 103-101 2/16/75
4. at Houston -16 80-96 117-114 4/7/78
5. at Golden State -16 66-82 107-105 12/4/84

The 21-point 4th-quarter comeback in Atlanta was sparked by an unconventional 4-point play by rookie Ronnie Brewer and secured by a high-arching corner three from Mehmet Okur over the outstretched arm of Josh Smith.

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While large-volume deficits are certainly note-worthy, in my opinion the most impressive comebacks occur in the final 60-seconds of a game. Trailing by two or more possessions in the final minute – win probability is extremely low. In order to overcome the deficit the team trailing has to play near-perfect basketball down the stretch – not only scoring but also making stops or benefiting from their opponent missing free throws.

This is what happened last night with the Heat trailing by 5 with 28-seconds left. LeBron missed a catch-and-shoot 3pt out of the timeout, but Miami got the offensive rebound and LeBron made a three with 20-seconds remaining to cut the lead to 2. The Heat intentionally fouled but Kawhi Leonard (an 83% foul shooter in the regular season) split 2 free throws and after LeBron missed another three, Ray Allen tied the game off a Chris Bosh offensive rebound to send the game to overtime where the Heat would eventually win. If any one of those plays goes differently, the Miami Heat’s season is over in a 6-game NBA Finals loss.
That’s what make final minute comebacks so impressive and intense.

Therefore, here are what I deem to be the greatest Utah Jazz final-minute comebacks this century. Again, to qualify the Jazz must have rallied from a two-possession deficit (4 points or more) in the final minute of the game to either win – or force an overtime period that would ultimately lead to victory.

Paul Millsap Buzzer Beater vs. Heat

Utah at Miami – 11/9/10

Final Score: Jazz 116, Heat 114
The Comeback: The original “Miracle in Miami” featured another large-volume comeback (19-point halftime deficit and 13-point 4th-qtr deficit) as well as some last minute magic. Fed up with his play, Jerry Sloan sat starting center Al Jefferson for the final 19-minutes opting to play youngster Kyrylo Fesenko and journeyman Francisco Elson at center down the stretch. Miami led 98-90 off two Dwayne Wade FT’s with just 37.3 seconds remaining. Utah called timeout and came out of it with a Paul Millsap pick&pop three to cut the Heat’s lead to 5. The Jazz intentionally fouled and caught a break when Heat guard Carlos Arroyo made only 1 of 2 FT’s. Utah answered with a Deron Williams pull-up three in transition and again fouled Arroyo – who made both FT’s this time to extend the lead to 101-96. Again Utah pushed in transition and this time the Heat doubled Deron who hit a trailing Millsap for another 3 to make it 101-99 with 12-seconds left. Two more Arroyo FT’s made it 103-99 before Millsap hit another step-back three with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Then the game got really crazy. The Jazz tried to intentionally foul but Deron Williams committed the foul (his 6th) before the ball was inbounded – resulting in Miami shooting 1 FT (Heat could pick the shooter) and retaining possession. Shockingly, Arroyo missed the free throw and Utah fouled Dwayne Wade who himself made just 1 of 2. Utah totally erased the 2-point deficit when Paul Millsap rebounded an errant C.J. Miles three and banked in the putback as time expired. Millsap’s 11-points in the final 28-seconds were incredible, but so were all the other plays that contributed to the simple fact that his 10th and 11th points signified the game-tying margin.

In overtime, the Jazz won the game on a brilliant transition feed from Earl Watson to Elson who was fouled and make both free throws with 4-tenths of a second remaining to give the Jazz an improbable 116-114 victory.

Sundiata Gaines buzzer beater vs Cavs

Cavaliers at Jazz – 1/14/10
Final Score: Jazz 97, Cavs 96
The Comeback: Before Sundiata Gaines could hit his legendary buzzer-beater, the Jazz had to make a serious comeback. Despite losing both Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko to injuries during the game, the Jazz rallied from a 12-point 3rd-quarter deficit behind their reserves to build a 12-point 4th-qtr lead before LeBron absolutely erupted with an array of dunks, free throws and three-pointers to put the Cavs ahead 91-85 with just 32.5 seconds remaining. Then the improbable began to occur. First Ronnie Price (a career 30% 3pt-shooter) hit a three to cut the deficit in half. Utah intentionally fouled and Anthony Parker (79% FT’s) made both to push it back to 93-88. Then Price drew a foul and made both FT’s to again make it a 3-point game with 23-seconds remaining. The Jazz then caught a break when Parker split 2 FT’s. Utah answered with Paul Millsap drawing a foul and converting both FT’s to draw within 94-92 with 15.7 seconds remaining. Parker again split both FT’s and Kyle Korver pulled the Jazz within 1 on a ridiculous over-the-backboard fadeaway. This time Cleveland got the ball to Zydrunas Ilgauskas but Big Z (a career 78% FT shooter) missed 1 FT to give Utah an opportunity to tie or win, and the rest is history.

Utah at Portland – 2/21/10

Final Score: Jazz 93, Trailblazers 89
The Comeback: Playing without Mehmet Okur on the road, the Jazz trailed the Blazers by 23-points midway through the 3rd-qtr. Utah gradually whittled the lead down to single-digits but still trailed by 4 with 30-seconds remaining. Deron Williams was able to draw a 2-shot foul where he made both FT’s to pull Utah within 2. The Jazz forced a miss and called timeout with 5.4-seconds remaining. Deron received the ball out of the timeout and pulled up for an 18-foot jumper that was off the mark. Fortunately, Carlos Boozer was there for the rebound and he was able to beat the buzzer and bank in a hook shot to send the game to OT. In OT the Jazz scored on 4 of their first 5 possessions to win 93-89.

Deron Williams vs. Warriors 06-07 Playoffs Game 2

Warriors at Jazz – Game 2 – Conference Semifinals – 5/9/07

Final Score: Jazz 127, Warriors 117 (OT)
The Comeback: In what became known as the “Derek Fisher Game” (Fisher arrived at the arena during the 3rd-qtr following a flight in from NY after his daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer), the Warriors stunned the Jazz when Matt Barnes banked in a jumpshot from the top of the key that put Golden State ahead by 5 (112-107) with 52-seconds remaining in the 4th-qtr. Andrei Kirilenko promptly missed a three but Boozer got Utah a second chance, and converted a layup with 35-seconds left to pull Utah within 3. Pressuring Baron Davis fullcourt, Fisher forced a backcourt turnover but Okur missed what would’ve been the game-tying three with 16-seconds left. Utah was forced to foul but Mickael Pietrus (a mid-60’s% FT shooter who grabbed the rebound) missed both free throws that kept the door cracked open. Okur again went for the tie and made a tough shot from the corner but had a foot on the line. Utah again fouled and again GS gave them a chance when Baron Davis split two FT’s. Down by 2 with 5.8 seconds left, Deron drove hard and pulled up from 12-feet to tie the score at 113-113 and send the game to OT where Utah would win going away.

By virtue of a single shot, Golden State could have won Game 1 and Game 2. Instead they dropped both and would eventually lose to Utah in 5 games.

Suns at Jazz – 11/18/06
Final Score: Jazz 120, Suns 117 (OT)
The Comeback: Utah trailed the hot-shooting Suns by 15 points with 11-minutes remaining in the 4th-qtr. Despite gradually chipping away at the lead, the Jazz still trailed by 6 with less than 50-seconds remaining. From there, Deron Williams shook Shawn Marion with a hesitation move to score a layup in which he also drew Amare Stoudemire’s 6th foul. The 3pt-play cut the lead to 3 with 47.8 sec left. On the ensuing possession Suns guard Leandro Barbosa missed an open layup and then fouled Okur on a 3pt-attempt with 13-seconds remaining. Okur calmly hit all 3 FT’s to send the game to OT where the Jazz eventually prevailed.

The Jazz improved to 9-1 and this victory signified the Jazz had returned to NBA relevancy after a three year hiatis.

Utah at Golden State – 2/27/06

Final Score: Jazz 117, Warriors 108 (OT)
The Comeback: The Warriors appeared to have the Jazz finished off as they held the ball and a 102-99 lead with 18.9 seconds remaining. Utah intentionally fouled but Warriors guard Derek Fisher split a pair at the line. Trailing 103-99, Utah responded in transition with a quick Okur three and the Jazz still had life trailing 102-103 with 11.8-sec left. Utah intentionally fouled again but Jason Richardson also went 1-2 at the line. The Jazz appeared to squander their last chance when Devin Brown missed the potential game-tying layup with 4.1 seconds left but GS kept the door open when Mike Dunleavy also went 1-2. Inbounding from halfcout with only 3.7-seconds remaining, Utah made Golden State pay for the missed FT’s when Matt Harpring nailed a three to tie the game at 105. In OT Utah outscored the shell-shocked Warriors 12-3.

Chicago at Utah – 2/6/06

Final Score: Jazz 109, Bulls 107 (OT)
The Comeback: This doesn’t technically meet the criteria but it still represents an improbably Jazz comeback. Utah trailed Chicago in overtime by a score of 106-100 with less than 90-seconds remaining. Utah’s comeback started with a Keith McLeod layup which was followed by a Chicago miss and loose-ball foul on the rebound which resulted in Okur shooting (and making) 2 FT’s. The Jazz then forced a Bulls’ turnover and Matt Harpring hit a baseline jumper to tie the game with 36-seconds left. Chicago retook the lead on a Tyson Chandler FT with 25-seconds remaining and appeared to have the outcome firmly in control after Harpring missed a baseline jumper, but Kirilenko and Devin Brown combined to force a backcourt turnover which resulted in a spot-up Mehmet Okur three to lift the Jazz to a dramatic 109-107 victory.

Utah at Charlotte – 11/16/04

Final Score: Jazz 107, Bobcats 105
The Comeback: The Jazz visited the expansion Bobcats off to a 5-1 start, but that didn’t prevent 1-4 Charlotte from racing out to an 18-point lead at the end of the 1st-quarter. The Jazz played catch-up the rest of the night but appeared to be in serious trouble when Keith Bogans scored the last of his team-high 28 points to put Charlotte up 105-101 with just 21-seconds left. Utah called a timeout and answered with Raja Bell hitting a three-pointer from the left-corner to cut the lead to 105-104 with 18.4-seconds remaining. The Jazz intentionally fouled but Keith Bogans reverted back to Keith Bogans and missed both FT’s. Utah took another timeout and this time Bell drew a two-shot foul which put the Jazz ahead for good. With their second consecutive victory the Jazz improved to 6-1 which signified the high-water mark of the 2004-05 season. Catastrophic injuries would set in and the Jazz would not win two consecutive games over their next 29 contests.

Dallas at Utah – 4/21/01

Final Score: Jazz 88, Mavericks 86
The Comeback: The 4th-seeded veteran Jazz appeared to be in serious trouble against the young up-and-coming Dallas Mavericks playing their first postseason game in the Nowitzki/Nash/Finley era. The Mavs held an 86-82 lead with under a minute to play when 35-year old reserve Danny Manning (who shot just 7-28 from behind the arc in the regular season) calmly hit a three with 58-seconds left. Utah got their much-needed stop on the following possession and John Stockton drew a shooting foul in transition where his 2 free throws put Utah ahead with 25.8 seconds left. On the next possession Karl Malone stripped Nowitzki to force a turnover that Donyell Marhsall converted into a 1-2 trip to the foul line. Dallas had one final chance but Finley’s desperation heave at the buzzer was off the mark.

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The Jazz may never have a last-minute comeback of the same magnitude and importance as the Miami Heat did against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, but they certainly have had several since the turn of the century. While the significance of those games pales in comparison to Miami’s, one requirement they all share is you have to be pretty good and pretty fortunate to pull one off. It’s a tough combination to achieve, but when it happens it’s a victory that is often remembered for a long time to come.

Note: This is not considered to be a complete list of two-possession final-minute comeback wins by the Jazz since 2000. For the most part I identified the listed games off memory and not by researching every Jazz game played from 2000-2013. If any further comebacks meeting the criteria are found, please list them in the comment section and I’ll be sure to add them to the main post.

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Jerry Sloan and Andrei Kirilenko - 2001
Note: This is the first of a series of “Jazz Mythbuster” posts intended to clear up many common misconceptions and false narratives that have been perpetuated by either fans or media regarding the Utah Jazz and their franchise history.

The frustration over Ty Corbin and the Jazz’s refusal to play the “Core-4” significant minutes over the past two seasons has been well documented. Many excuses have been offered in their defense – but none are more blatantly erroneous than “Jerry never played young guys either.” There couldn’t be a more false or inaccurate statement as Jerry Sloan’s 23-seasons in Utah are littered with examples of the Hall-of-Famer entrusting the ability of rookies moreso than their veteran counterparts.

Before delving into specific examples, there are a couple important points to consider.

1.) Not all rookies are created equal.

Successful teams picking at the back-end of the first-round aren’t often bringing in rookies with high ceilings to attain.
Jerry Sloan often was handed mid-to-late 1st-rnd picks with very little NBA ability. Players such as Erick Leckner (17th overall), Luther Wright (18th overall), Quincy Lewis (19th), and Morris Almond (25th overall) simply never possessed the qualities to be a competent NBA player. As head coach of the Utah Jazz, Sloan only had three lottery picks at his disposal for an entire season – one #3 pick and two #14 picks. Between 2010 and 2011 the Jazz selected two #3 picks, a #9 pick and a #12 pick.

2.) Not all rosters are created equal.

A coach with two future hall-of-famers competing for an NBA title does not have the same luxury to allow young players to grow and learn through their mistakes – and that is common with virtually all championship-caliber coaches. Phil Jackson didn’t go out of his way to give 1st-rnd pick Rusty LaRue developmental time in 1998. Greg Popovich played 1st-rnd pick Ian Mahinmi played a total of 188 minutes in his first two seasons in the league. It’s not like Sloan could’ve easily sacrificed the home-court advantage Utah attained throughout the 1998 Playoffs by giving Jacque Vaughn extra minutes in place of John Stockton.
When a team is established as a top-8 team in the league – it has a different set of priorities regarding the future of the franchise as opposed to – let’s say a .500 team that fails to qualify for the playoffs.

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Deron Williams (3rd overall) was the only top-10 Jazz draft pick Jerry was able to coach for a full season (the next highest draft picks were #14 – Kris Humphries and Ronnie Brewer). Much has been made over Deron not playing enough as a rookie, with Sloan himself admitting in 2007I probably screwed him up a little bit“). It should also be pointed out however, that Deron significantly struggled in the first-half of his rookie season (he became a full-time starter after the All-Star break) to the point not giving him the starting position also made quite a bit of sense.

Deron Williams Rookie Season
2005-06 Pts Ast FG% FT% 3pt% Min
Pre All-Star Break 9.3 3.9 38.4% 72.3% 34.7% 26.4
Post All-Star Break 12.4 5.2 47.2% 87.8% 53.7% 30.8

With shooting percentages mirroring those of Keith McLeod – Deron hardly gave Sloan much reason to name him a starter any earlier than he did. Nevertheless, for the season Deron still finished with 47 starts and averaged 28.8 mpg. In his second season Deron averaged 36.9 mpg starting all 80 games he played; and in his third season he made 82 starts averaging 37.3 mpg. Comparing only Deron’s rookie season numbers to those of Utah’s two current #3-overall picks shows how the “limited” opportunity Deron received as a rookie still blows away the opportunities Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have received through three seasons.

Player –   Season Starts/Games Start% Min
Williams – 2005-06 47/80 58.8% 28.8
Favors – 2010-11 4/22 18.2% 20.2
Favors – 2011-12 9/65 13.8% 21.2
Favors – 2012-13 8/77 10.4% 23.2
Kanter – 2011-12 0/66 0.0% 13.2
Kanter – 2012-13 2/70 2.9% 15.4

Yes, Deron made more starts during his “He should have played more” rookie season than Kanter and Favors have made combined in their first two and three seasons with the Jazz. What makes these splits unforgiveable is that their development wasn’t even sacrificed in the interest of significant team success (i.e. contending for a championship) with Utah earning merely an 8th-seed and subsequent first-round sweep in 2011-12 and failing to qualify for the playoffs in 2012-13.

Those two seasons of mediocrity squash any notion that limiting Utah’s young players in favor of veterans who theoretically gave the team a better opportunity to win was a wise decision. Given the success Utah has seen when the Core-4 has been given increased roles – it also flies in the face of Jerry Sloan’s coaching philosophy in which he consistently played whoever he felt gave him the best chance to compete regardless of age or size or experience.

In Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals – Sloan opted to play rookie 2nd-round draft pick Shandon Anderson throughout the 4th-quarter of a tight game which was eventually tied at 86 with less than 30-seconds remaining. Not only did Anderson secure a spot in the rotation as a rookie – his role only increased over his next two seasons with Utah and he often found himself out on the floor in crunchtime of crucial playoff games.

In 1999, Jerry Sloan gave rookie Scott Padgett (28th-overall) a golden opportunity – naming him a starter in only the 4th game of the season. Despite making 9 consecutive starts, Padgett struggled mightily in those contests – averaging only 4.2 points and shooting just 32% from the field. That same season, Sloan gave fellow rookie Quincy Lewis (19th overall) every opportunity to replace the departed Shandon Anderson as Utah’s primary off-the-bench scorer but Lewis shot just 37% and struggled so badly defensively that by the end of the season Sloan was playing 6-1 point guard Jacque Vaughn at SG in relief of Jeff Hornacek.

Utah opened the 2001-02 season with a veteran-laden roster coming off a 53-win season. On opening night, Sloan had 28-year old Donyell Marshall (in a contract year) starting at SF, 28-year old Greg Ostertag starting at center, 31-year old John Amaechi (the team’s marquee free agent signing) as the first big off the bench and 36-year old John Starks (final year of contract) as the first wing off the bench.
By the end of the season, Sloan had benched the oft-injured and inconsistent Marshall in favor of starting 20-year old rookie Andrei Kirilenko (40 starts and over 2100 minutes played). He also gave 20-year old DeShawn Stevenson a chance midseason with 23-starts at shooting guard. Searching for a spark, he opted to leave John Starks off the playoff roster (in those days you set a 12-man playoff roster and only those 12 players were eligible to play in the postseason) in favor of Quincy Lewis who had spent much of the season in the Developmental League after starting opening night and repeating his struggles. Frustrated with the lethargic play of his veteran centers, Sloan also opted to start rookie 2nd-round pick Jarron Collins at center for the final 68 games. Utah opened the playoffs with two rookies in their starting lineup and put a serious scare into the Sacramento Kings – the league’s best team.

The makeup of the 2003-04 team is well-documented but it should be noted that Sloan played a slew of young players (including four rookies in Sasha Pavlovic – 14 starts, Curtis Borchardt  -16 games before breaking wrist, Raul Lopez -11 starts and 20 mpg, and 30-year old undrafted rookie Ben Handlogten -backup PF before tearing ACL) ahead of the few veterans the team possessed in Keon Clark and Michael Ruffin.

-In 2006-07 Utah finished the season with PG Derek Fisher as their starting 2-guard but only after Sloan gave 19-year old C.J. Miles the opportunity to start the first 12 games of the season. Despite some overall team success, Miles struggled defensively and offensive averaged just 4.2 points in those starts. The next man into the lineup was Ronnie Brewer (14 starts at SG as well as SF filling in for an injured Kirilenko) who showed flashes but struggled with his perimeter shot. Only after giving Gordan Giricek another chance did Sloan resort to Fisher. The young player who made the biggest impact however was 21-year old rookie Paul Millsap – who played in all 82 games, averaging 18 minutes filling in at both PF and even some at SF early in the season when Kirilenko was injured.

From 2006-2010 the Jazz were competing among the top teams in the West, so setting aside developmental time for rookies became difficult but one of the most promising rookies in that group was Eric Maynor – whom Sloan played at both backup PG as well as some SG alongside Deron Williams before management traded him to Oklahoma City midseason in a salary dump.

-In 2009 injuries allowed undrafted Wesley Matthews to find a spot on the roster, and Sloan opted to start the rookie by the 9th game of the season in place of 28-year old Andrei Kirilenko and his $16.5 million salary. Even when veterans Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles returned from their respective wrist and hand injuries, Sloan kept Matthews in the rotation to the point either Korver or Miles was squeezed out of the 5-man logjam on the wing. Following the trade deadline deal of soon-to-be free agent Ronnie Brewer, Sloan inserted the rookie back into the starting lineup for the final 38 games of the regular season as well as all 10 postseason games and Matthews responded with numbers of 11.0 pts on 50%FG/90%Ft/41%3pt following the trade.

Kyrylo Fesenko was one young player who many fans clamored to play more due to his likeability as well as eye-popping analytics (Utah’s defensive metrics were significantly better with him on the floor) A 7-foot-1, 300-pound teddy bear , Utah’s 2007 2nd-round pick rarely saw significant playing time barring injury to Mehmet Okur but played reasonably well in the 2010 first-round playoff series against Denver (3.8 pts/3.2 reb/57% FG) before coming back down to earth in the 2nd-round series versus the Lakers (2.5pts/5.0reb/31% FG).

Fesenko opened the 2010-11 season as Utah’s backup center and had some nice moments but still fouled a ton (for his Jazz career Fesenko averaged 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes) and also missed multiple games do to ailments ranging from “ankle” to “sinus infection” to “gastric distress.” During his Jazz tenure Sloan had always harped on Fes’ lack of maturity – particularly his “jackpotting,” and Fes gradually lost minutes to Franciso Elson.
Nevertheless on February 7, 2011 Sloan played Fesenko  heavy minutes in the second-half and Fes responded by scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in a comeback win in Sacramento. Following the game, point guard Deron Williams took a public shot at Sloan’s decision-making saying “Fes, given the minutes, he always performs…He might make a few boneheaded plays a game, but who doesn’t? Coach has got to realize that and let him roll with it.” Jerry Sloan would choose to resign two nights later.

Fes would sign with the Pacers for the last part of the 2011-12 season but saw a total of just 17 minutes in only 3 games. Indiana opted not to re-sign him and he joined the Chicago Bulls’ for training camp in 2012 but was waived just 12 days later. Perhaps Jerry Sloan was wrong in his evaluation of Fesenko’s defensive potential – but Frank Vogel’s Indiana Pacers found no use for him and neither did Tom Thibbedeau’s Chicago Bulls. Two of the league’s best defensive coaches gave Fesenko far less of a chance than Sloan did. In hindsight, it’s again hard to argue Fes should have played more in Utah.

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Jerry Sloan certainly wasn’t immune to making errors or mistakes – but one thing that is certain is that he didn’t shy away from playing talented players just because they lacked experience.

I’m critical of Ty Corbin but I judge him on being a quality NBA head coach – not on being Jerry Sloan. It’s completely unfair to compare Ty Corbin to a Hall-of-Famer, but it’s equally ridiculous and absurd to compare Ty’s decision-making and rotations to Jerry Sloan’s.

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