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Archive for January, 2014

Jackson, Mark vs Stockton

Did backup Mark Jackson actually attempt to turn the 2002-03 Utah Jazz locker room against Jazz starting point guard and future Hall-of-Famer John Stockton?

Background

During the 2002 NBA Draft, the Knicks traded Mark Jackson to the Denver Nuggets. The 37-year old quickly let it be known he had no interest in playing on a rebuilding Denver team that would eventually go 17-65, and negotiated a buyout before the start of training camp.

Utah’s 2001-02 backup PG John Crotty had a surprisingly effective season for the Jazz but missed 41 games including the postseason due to knee issues. In the 2002 offseason the Jazz let Crotty walk while penciling in 2001 1st-round pick, talented Raul Lopez, in to assume the backup role behind the 40-year old Stockton. That plan fell apart when Lopez re-injured his ACL in August, sending the Jazz scrambling. They signed a relative unknown in Carlos Arroyo, and then appeared to catch a break when Jackson and the Nuggets agreed to part ways.

The Jazz signed Mark Jackson on October 2, 2002. On that day, Jackson commented “I’m real excited to play for this team because of the class they have and the two Hall of Famers they have.” Jazz VP of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor remarked, “I think he wanted to play with a team that had veterans. He’s a veteran who knows how to play the game.”

The 2002-03 Jazz season was a roller-coaster. Utah started the season with DeShawn Stevenson and Andrei Kirilenko in the starting lineup, but the starting unit (including Stockton, Karl Malone and Greg Ostertag) could never seem to mesh. Amidst a 3-7 start, Jerry Sloan replaced Stevenson/Kirilenko with Calbert Cheaney and Matt Harpring in the starting lineup – and the Jazz suddenly vaulted themselves back into the playoff picture, ripping off streaks of 8-1 and 13-3 to find themselves sitting at 25-15 midway through January. Shortly after, Jerry Sloan would be assessed a 7-game league suspension for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland and the Jazz would go 21-17 the rest of the way.

The Attempted Coup

In April, the first reports of friction in the Jazz locker room leaked out, with Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen writing:

[Stockton] may be getting a push out the door by his new backup this season and the No. 2 man on the career assist list, 38-year-old Mark Jackson. Three members of the Jazz organization now understand why Jackson has been traded seven times in his 16-year career: They say that over a period of weeks, he succeeded in turning several teammates against Stockton by repeatedly remarking that those players would be better off if Jackson were the Jazz’s floor leader. Other players* rallied around Stockton, who, because of his quiet nature, was vulnerable to the locker room politicking. The rift on the Jazz was mended, though not before Stockton’s pride had been wounded. “There was no question it hurt John, because you could see him withdraw,” says a high-ranking team official. “But he’ll never talk about it, just as he won’t talk about injuries, because then he feels like he’s making excuses for himself.”

Sloan reached a breaking point in mid-January, when he lost his temper over the divisiveness on his team and stormed out of the gym during practice. He was threatening to retire then and there, only to be dissuaded at an emergency meeting called by team owner Larry Miller, president Dennis Haslam, general manager Kevin O’Connor and Sloan’s wife, Bobbye. “That had the real potential of Jerry saying, ‘To heck with it,’ and walking away,” says Miller, who believes that Sloan’s seven-game suspension for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland on Jan. 28 was the result of his built-up frustrations.”

In 2003 the rumors of the “divide” were that Jackson politicked with several Jazz bench-warmers that they deserved more minutes and that the team needed to run more (with Jackson claiming to be better suited to play that style than Stockton) while Malone, Ostertag, and Harpring backed Sloan (and Stock).

Thomsen’s reports and these whispers were corroborated by Salt Lake Tribune columnist Steve Luhm, who in 2007 wrote:

“During his second season, Amaechi became a member of rebellious clique that also included Mark Jackson and DeShawn Stevenson.* They all were unhappy with the roles, and their discontent fractured a locker room that John Stockton and Karl Malone had run relatively smoothly for 15 years. Although Stockton never said anything to me, others insist that the off-the-court turmoil contributed to his decision to retire after the Jazz were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs.”

*Note: At practice during the 2003 Playoffs, Stevenson screamed and swore at Sloan for not playing him more in Game 1. Stevenson was suspended and sent home prior to Game 2, but made appearances in the following (and final) three games of the series. Years later, Stevenson grew to appreciate his first NBA coach, saying in 2010: “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. 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.”

Mark Jackson’s Response (via Ian Thomsen):

Jackson says his actions were in no way aimed at Stockton. “I’m a born leader, and if people take that as manipulation, then maybe they haven’t been around leaders,” he says. “I make no apologies for embracing people and talking to people and making them feel like they’re important. Maybe in the past those stray dogs have been left on the side, but that’s not the way I treat people.”

In John Stockton’s recently released “Assisted: An Autobiography,” he makes no mention of Mark Jackson but does cite that in his final seasons:

Some of the older veterans who hadn’t been around our squad” … “…seemed to take offense to any player’s connection with the ‘brass,’ regardless of their history.” … “The grumbling created an undercurrent I hadn’t experienced at any other time of my career.”

The Best Source

There can be no better source than someone who was actually inside the 2003 Jazz lockerroom, and that’s exactly where former Jazz center Greg Ostertag was. No player has had more “run-ins” with Jerry Sloan, although eventually they both grew to respect and care for the other. In 2008, Greg Ostertag called into a radio show and spoke with Jazz host David Locke, in which Ostertag said Mark Jackson would “stir the pot” and the ever-classy Locke referenced Jackson as a 4-letter unprintable word.

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Reading Between The Lines

In January 2003, Mark Jackson recorded the 10,000th assist of his career. He was asked by USA TODAY’s Greg Boeck “What does it mean to you to reach the 10,000-assist club with Johnson and Stockton?” In Jackson’s 79-word answer, he mentions “Magic” twice while never referring to Stockton by name, saying: “I’m a student of the game and I’m well aware of what those guys meant and mean to the game. To be a hundred or so assists away from Magic means more. If you would’ve told me when I was a kid in New York City, backing people down and trying to be Magic, I wouldn’t have believed it. This is a dream come true. I’m very blessed. I played with some great players (who) deserve a lot of credit.”

During Mark Jackson’s tenure as an ABC/ESPN analyst, he became the initial voice to champion the notion that Tim Duncan was the best power forward to ever play (misguided by the fact that Duncan is a center, Malone statistically was a better player, and that even today an overwhelming majority still hold Malone in higher regard). Additionally in a 2010 B.S. Report with Bill Simmons, while briefly analyzing the Utah Jazz Mark Jackson noted that Jerry Sloan’s distinguished record spoke for itself while slipping in a caveat that “I don’t agree” with Sloan’s coaching methods, before continuing on with his discussion.

Mark Jackson’s Credibility

Mark Jackson is a licensed minister who has been married to a gospel singer who is now his fellow pastor since 1990. In June of 2012, the then 47-year old Mark Jackson made headlines as victim of an extortion plot that revealed he had an extramarital affair with a 28-year old stripper in 2006. Jackson initially paid off the victim and her co-conpsiritor with $5,000 and Warriors tickets before eventually going to the FBI as the monetary demands continued.

Following the publicity, Mark Jackson issued this statement: “At that time in my life, I was not pastoring. Three years ago, my wife and I established a ministry. With deepest regret, I want to apologize to my church family. I was wrong. We must live holy.”

I’m not trying to judge another man’s faith, and for the sake of both Mark Jackson and his family I hope he has sincerely and truly turned the corner and put this mistake behind him. However, this incident’s lapse in judgment further exhibits a pattern of hypocrisy where Mark Jackson’s discreet actions belie his reverent words.

Mark Jackson’s 2014 Comments

When asked earlier this week by David Aldridge about the Stockton/Hornacek backcourt (which here at Jazzbasketball has been touted on the sidebar as “The NBA’s Best Shooting Backcourt” for going on a year now), Mark Jackson once again downplayed Stockton’s ability saying:

Hornacek — great shooter. John Stockton — good to very good shooter. Not a great shooter. Don’t get me wrong. He was an all-time great player. But John Stockton would not be considered a great shooter.”

John Stockton was a career 52% shooter and shot 50% or better in 12 of his 19 seasons. Due to his role and unselfish nature, he may not have been the “prolific shooter” Jeff Hornacek was, but it is absurd for anyone to go out of  their way to say Stock wasn’t a “great shooter” when virtually every statistic says otherwise.

I think it’s evident from all the smoking guns that Mark Jackson clearly played antagonistic role in Stockton’s final season, resented Jerry Sloan and his coaching decisions – and judging by his recent comments still holds some sort of grudge against Stockton. As someone infamously likes to say, “hand down, man down” – and Mark Jackson continues to sink lower with his clear bias against John Stockton.

Myth: Confirmed.

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In today’s B.S. Report, Grantland’s Bill Simmons said that believes the Celtics should and will make a run at Gordon Hayward. The entire podcast can be heard here, with the Hayward conversation beginning around the 34:10-mark.

Hayward Future

Here is the Hayward discussion between Simmons and Grantland’s Zach Lowe:

Simmons: “The Celtics made a sneaky trade over the weekend – they got rid of Courtney Lee’s contract. It’s now doable for the Celtics to make a run at somebody this summer, with a contract starting at I think – depending on where the cap is – it could be like $10 million, $11 million something like that. I think Gordon Hayward is a target for them and I don’t know if it happens next month before the deadline or it’s something where they just plan on making a giant restricted  offer and hoping Utah doesn’t match or whatever…but I think Gordon Hayward is somebody that they want.”

Lowe: “It wouldn’t surprise me, Hayward is the one restricted guy that I look at and say ‘You might be able to get this guy if you really love him, you’re confident that his sort of decline statistically this season is just because he’s on a horrible team where he has to do too much and he’s young – and you throw a huge offer at him…he’s the one guy of the restricted free agents you might be able to get.”

Simmons: “Hayward is also young, Hayward turns 24 in March and as you said not having a great season, not having a good shooting season his threes went in the tank this year he’s 31% right now, last year he was 42%. Umm, but again he’s on a terrible team, it’s not a well-coached team, I would say going from Ty Corbin to Brad Stevens would be a slight upgrade especially the way Stevens knows how to use him and I think the Celtics could construct an offer and get to, you know starting at $13 million that could probably get to like $58 million for 4 years and that puts Utah in a really interesting spot because…where-where did they – they didn’t even want to pay him what – 4 for $45 (million) as an extension? Something like that or did he want the max?”

Lowe: “I don’t think the figures ever came out, I mean th-they, umm I remember Marc Stein tweeting something that rumors that Hayward’s team demanded the same contract that Paul George got or a max-contract were not true, but I don’t know that the exact numbers ever came out and this year you know at the very least his value is sort of plateauing he’s not playing into – yet – he’s not playing himself into a massive deal.”

Simmons: “If you’re Utah would you consider trading him?”

Lowe: *deep sigh* …”I mean I’d consider anything if I were Utah.”

Simmons: “Right, but let’s say Phoenix said ‘Hey we have a lot of first-round picks, we like Gordon Hayward a lot, would you like some of our first-round picks? Then you could be reeeally bad, now you’re guaranteed – we’re taking only your kind of competent scorer other than Trey Burke off your roster.”

Lowe: “But I’ve already got two Golden State first-round picks, now maybe those aren’t going to end up being very good but one of them is in 2017 so atleast it has the possibility of being very good. I don’t know that – I might think that Utah might think the other way where, where you know ‘I’m just going to hold onto these assets and – including Hayward and try to see maybe down the line if there’s a superstar or a star that becomes available but…it’s hard when you’re Utah because you can’t trade for a superstar that has one or two years left on his contract because you run the risk of, you know he’s just going to go out of town.”

Simmons: “If you were the Celtics, would you say ‘Hey Utah, you know that pick we have – it’s the worst [least favorable] pick we have of Brooklyn or Atlanta – we’ll give you that pick right now for Gordon Hayward. It might get in the lottery. You can have it right now. Straight up. That would be interesting.”

Lowe: “Yeah…”

Simmons: “I think if I’m Utah I do that.”

Lowe: “If I were the Celtics I would do that in a second, I think Utah would demand more and I don’t know what the Celtics have that they’re interested in they’re a Jeff Green team and I don’t know that they are or not.”

Simmons: “Mmm I don’t know how many ‘Jeff Green teams’ there are out there at this point – I really like Gordon Hayward though and I think him and Lance [Stephenson] are the two fascinating [free agent] guys, Melo obviously is interesting and I think Chicago has to be considered – anything Carmelo conversation now Chicago has to be brought up because if they amnesty Boozer they’re on the road to having enough cap space to make him a huge offer.”

For good measure, Simmons and Lowe also briefly touched on Jeff Hornacek.

Simmons: “Phoenix is 20-12, I saw them in person last week and they just knocked my socks off how well-coached they were.”

Simmons on watching the Suns in person: “You would love it…you would have to…have a cigar afterward you would be so excited about Hornacek.”

Lowe: “Well they’re delightful on television and boy that’s the biggest mistake we’ve made in my short time at Grantland is ranking them toward the bottom of our league-pass watch-ability rankings.”

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On October 21, 2013 Marc Stein tweeted that: “Hayward has tons of fans in front offices around the league. Will draw tons of interest next July if he makes it to restricted free agency

That goes in conjuncture with what Peter Vescey tweeted on November 21, 2013: “According to a GM, the Suns will do everything possible this summer to sign Gordon Hayward to an unmatchable offer sheet.

Not counting Boston’s 2014 Draft Pick cap holds, assuming they renounce their rights on Jordan Crawford, don’t pick up Keith Bogan’s 2014-15 salary, and for now slotting Avery Bradley’s $3.2 million qualifying offer in – the Celtics will be around $48 million with 8 players – certainly possessing the wiggle-room to make one additional dump-deal and present Hayward an attractive 8-figure offer.

Although re-signing RFA Eric Bledose will eat up a large chunk of it, the Suns also project to have the cap room (although approximate figures vary due to fluctuating cap holds for 2014 draft picks they may or may not receive, along with a $6.8 million player option Channing Frye possesses).

So what do you think is Gordon Hayward’s free agency value is, and should the Jazz (or any team) meet/exceed it with the belief that a new coach and upgraded supporting cast can rebuild Hayward’s shooting efficiency – or should the Jazz preemptively trade him to get value in return if they think he’ll get an offer they won’t be willing to match?

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Bucks at Jazz 1-2-14

Final Score: Jazz 96, Bucks 87

The Utah Jazz defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in a battle between the two teams with the worst records in the NBA. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz with 22 points (on 8-16 shooting and 3-5 from behind the arc) while Derrick Favors scored 21 (on 9-16 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 4 steals). It marked only the second time in their 4-year Jazz careers that both Hayward and Favors scored 20-points or more in the same game. They were joined in double-figures by Alec Burks (13 pts), Trey Burke (11 pts), Enes Kanter (11 pts) and Diante Garrett (10 points) – signifying only the second game that the “Core-5” (Burke/Burks/Hayward/Favors/Kanter) all scored in double-figures in the same game.

Run It Back

Play of the Game: 3:18 4th-Qtr – Milwaukee had cut what was once a 14-point Utah lead to 3 late in the 4th when Alec Burks drove middle from the left-wing and converted a fingeroll over the outstretched arm of Larry Sanders. Utah’s offense was out-of-sorts against the Bucks’ 2-3 zone and Burks’ layup sparked a 10-2 Jazz run to seal the victory.

Player of the Game: Derrick Favors displayed his offensive diversity as he scored his 21 points on 9-16 shooting in a variety of ways. He shot 4-8 on post-ups, 3-4 on pick&rolls, 1-2 on offensive rebounds (he grabbed 3) and 1-2 on direct dishes/kickouts. After shooting 41.6% in his first 7 games, Favors has shot 55.1% in his last 26.

Best Shot: 0:45 3rd-Qtr – A Hayward/Kanter screen-roll collapsed Milaukee’s defense giving Diante Garrett an open top-of-the-key three off a crisp skip-pass by Gordon – which Garrett knocked down. Garrett played quite well in 5 of his first 7 games since joining the Jazz, then jockeyed with John Lucas for 2nd and 3rd PG in the rotation and has since resumed backup duties in the last two games. With 10 points on 4-5 shooting and 2-2 from behind the arc, it was Garrett’s highest scoring game as a pro (in my opinion his 7-point/8-assist game in Dallas is still his best game as a Jazz player).

Next week the Jazz will have to decide whether to waive Garrett or guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season. Garrett won’t blow anyone away with his playmaking or shooting (40%FG/36%3pt) but he’s a better option than John Lucas III (32%FG/32%FG) because he understands his strengths&weaknessess, plays within himself, has size, and defends fairly well.

Best Block: 5:14 4th-Qtr – Following a Burke turnover, the Bucks pushed the ball in transition but Gordon Hayward rejected Giannis Anteokounmpo’s layup at the rim – pinning the ball to the backboard. Anteokounmpo is a springy 6-9 athletic freak in the mold of a young Kirilenko or Iguodala – and Hayward got the better of him on this above-the-rim play. Hayward recorded 3 blocks giving him 12 over the past 7 games. Gordon’s shooting percentages have fluctuated all season but his all-around play remains a bright spot. Last night shooting efficiency was back on target last night, as he shot 3-7 on catch&shoot jumpers, 1-1 on off-the-dribble jumpers and 3-5 on halfcourt drives to the basket.

Best Jazzbasketball Play: 1:15 1st-Qtr – The Jazz got one of their easiest baskets of the night – a Diante Garrett layup – off a well-executed UCLA rub cut. The Jazz ran a few UCLA sets in the 1st-half, not many in comparison to pre-2011, but more than they’ve run throughout most of the 2013-14 season. As I’ll explain below, with so-so offensive production (still just 26th in the NBA) – running more well-executed UCLA sets could open up a much-needed avenue of high-percentage looks.

See A Different Game

The UCLA set was once a Jazzbasketball staple under the direction and orchestration of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. Utah starts in a standard 1-4 set with a rub cut down the lane – where the ball-handler (normally the PG) initiates the play by passing to the wing before cutting down the lane.

Jazz at TWolves 2-13-13 #1

With proper timing and accurate passing, this simple set can garner a layup against an average defense atleast 1-2 times per half – either from the initial cut or via multiple secondary options.

Here the Jazz run the same set three times against the Bucks in the 1st-half.

1. The first possession the initial rub cut results in an easy layup for Garrett.

2. The second possession the iniital cut didn’t net an open opportunity so the Jazz run through their entire set with the initiator (Burke) running through to set a backscreen for Hayward. The next read for both Burke and the high-post passer (Marvin) is dependent upon Burke’s man (#13 Ridnour). Here, you’ll see Ridnour momentarily help on the backscreen, keying Burke to fire out weakside behind Favors’ screen. Ridnour shoots the gap, and as Burke learns more of the nuances he’ll fade to the corner and get a wide-open 16-footer from the baseline. Nevertheless Burke wisely doesn’t force a jumper with Ridnour closing out, and proceeds to quickly get the ball inside to Favors – who is able to establish deep post-position due to the location of the screen he just set.

3. The third possession the Jazz should again have had a layup, but their timing is just a tad off. Favors doesn’t get a solid initial screen on Burke’s rub cut, but Burke sets a terrific screen for Jefferson who should have a layup springing free, but Favors is a split-second late with his pass. Instead of RJ catching the ball at the rim so he can go straight-up for a layup, the pass leads him through the lane all the way over to the left block. RJ posts up and the Jazz eventually get a Hayward three out of it, but that’s not an option you want to rely on.

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Even with so-so execution, you can see just a few of the multiple options this basic set provides. Not only do you get all the weakside options having the cutter run through, you can put a playmaker on the wing so after the rub cut, instead of passing to the high-post you turn it into a quick side pick&roll. The Jazz often did this with Deron Williams on the wing and Andrei Kirilenko initiating. Similar to how the Spurs screen for their screener to setup their high screen-roll, the initial rub-cut momentarily occupies the screener’s man giving the Jazz another advantage getting into side pick&roll.

Furthermore, this set can also trigger more of what Utah used to call their “auto” set and vaunted flex offense, where you pass to the wing but instead of the initiator cutting down the lane, he “bounces” back off the screen to receive the pass at the top-of-the-key for a quick ball-reversal where you have a weakside pindown (i.e. the automatic Korver/Harpring mid-range jumper). And if that doesn’t produce an open look, you have another weakside pindown with the guard screening for the bigman to come up to the elbow (often Okur) for another ball-reversal back to side of the floor the play originated on.

Considering the Jazz so rarely run this set anymore, it’s certainly understandable that their timing and execution won’t be crisp and they haven’t put in all the options and variations – but last night did provide some examples of the high-percentage looks Utah can get from this oldie but goodie.

Odds and Ends

  • The announced attendance of 16,012 represents the 4th-smallest crowd in the 23-year history of the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena.
  • The Jazz have now set the 4 of the 5 lowest DC/ESA attendance marks this season.
  • From Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Aaron Falk, the Bucks haven’t beaten the Jazz in Utah since October 30, 2001. That game was opening night and the Jazz lost in overtime on a night the overriding theme was the remembrance of 9/11 – that included this moving pregame ceremony featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The Final Word

The Bucks are a dreadful team with the worst-talent base in the league. As a team Utah’s level of play wasn’t great (as evidenced by a 1-possession game with 3:30 remaining) but the Jazz did take care of business at home against a team they had no excuse to lose to.

While veteran starters Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams both struggled (combining for just 6 points on 2-10 shooting), Utah’s young core provided the scoring punch with 78 of their 96 points (81%) coming from Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter. That talented fivesome is still yet to see the floor together at the same time (just 15-minutes in the entire season), but last night they all provided the scoring punch.

Aside from the “Kanter PT = 48 – Favors’ PT” and “Favors PT = 48 – Kanter’s PT” forumlas the Jazz appear to be adhering to, I feel surprisingly good about last night’s win. Beating a team you’re supposed to beat may not be an impressive accomplishment, but it’s a scenario the Jazz have rarely found themselves in this season. Seeing the future of the team succeed while still having the opportunity to play through new experiences is what I hope the 2013-14 season is ultimately about, as opposed to resurrecting the careers of soon-to-be veteran free agents.

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Jazz Year in Review 2013

2014 is upon us but let’s take one last look back at 2013 – and the 5 biggest storylines for the Utah Jazz.

1. 2013 Draft – Jazz Trade for Trey Burke

The Utah Jazz packaged their 14th and 21st picks in a draft night trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves netting them the draft rights to Trey Burke – the 9th-overall pick and collegiate player of the year who was widely considered the top point guard available.

After missing the first 12 games with a broken finger, the early reviews have been terrific. Despite lingering questions after a rough summer league performance, Burke has made a seamless transition adjusting to the NBA 3pt-line where he’s shooting 38% from and playing against NBA length – where just 11 of his 284 shot attempts have been blocked. Burke has posted averages of 14.4 points, 5.5 assists and just 1.9 turnovers since taking over the starting position. His current season average of just 1.8 turnovers per game are the lowest by a fulltime Jazz starting point guard since Ricky Green in 1986-87. That average may not continue but it emphasizes (even with a recent rash of TO’s last week) how remarkably well Burke has been handling the basketball.

Burke’s biggest performance so far was a 3o point, 8 assist, 7 rebound night in Orlando), and has hit numerous clutch shots late in games (against Chicago, Phoenix, Houston, and Charlotte), and is now one of the favorites for NBA Rookie of the Year. The questions about Burke now have become how high is ceiling ultimately is, and that’s a great sign when you’re still talking about a 21-year old rookie.

2. Jazz retain Ty Corbin as head coach/Jeff Hornacek leaves for Phoenix

After failing to qualify for the 2013 postseason during a season in which the playoffs were identified as the ultimate goal – the Jazz opted to retain Ty Corbin after two-and-a-half seasons on the job. As an indirect result, bright and widely respected assistant Jeff Hornacek interviewed for both the Philadelphia and Phoenix openings before taking over as Suns head coach late in May.

Despite a roster possessing comparable talent and experience to Utah’s, Hornacek’s Suns have shocked the NBA by racing out to a 19-11 record playing a highly-entertaining style focusing on tempo, floor-spacing and shot-selection. Of all the attributes used in the glowing reports on Hornacek, the most common one is how he builds confidence in his players. In a season in which the Jazz have seen noticeable struggles from Kanter, Burks and perhaps most disconcerting Hayward – confidence-building appears to be a quality sorely lacking from the Jazz coaching staff. Hornacek also heeded his general manager’s advice, bringing in former Boston defensive assistant Mike Longabardi who has improved the Suns’ 2012-13 23rd ranked defense to 13th as of January 1st.

This blatant oversight can be smoothed over nicely if the Jazz land a potential franchise player in the heralded 2014 Draft while using the offseason to secure a quality long-term coach for the future. In the present, it continues to sting. As Hornacek has allowed young players such as Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe among others to flourish, the Jazz continue to marginalize the development and experience of 3rd-year lottery picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks while relying heavily on veteran pending free agents Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams.

Despite emphasizing improvement on team-defense entering the season, the Jazz’s defense has actually grown substantially worse – dropping from 21st in 2012-13 to 29th in 2013-14. 210 games into his head coaching career, it appears Ty Corbin will coach the final 48 games of the season as a “lame duck” coach in the final season of his contract.

3. Jazz Sign Derrick Favors to 4-year Extension

On October 19, less than two weeks before the window ended, the Jazz and Derrick Favors formally agreed to a 4-year/$47 million extension (plus incentives) to keep Favors in a Jazz uniform through the 2016-17 season. Not only is the longterm stability welcomed, the Jazz did it at a relatively low-risk cost that won’t hamstring their future flexibility (considering DeMarcus Cousins re-signed for $62 million) while allowing Favors to establish himself as a fixture on their frontline.

While Favors may have disappointed Jazz analyst Matt Harpring during the preseason, he has quietly pleased the majority of Jazz fans during much of the regular season. He’s averaging 13.4 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 52% from the field and playing less than 32 minutes per game. In his last 25 games he’s shooting 55% from the floor and since the Jazz have mercifully altered his pick&roll defensive responsibilities, is averaging nearly 2 blocks per game.

Always a presence going hard to the rim via the pick&roll, Burke’s playmaking ability has showcase more of Favors’ developing catch&shoot mid-range game on high screen-roll to the point he’s now shooting 46.2% on mid-range shots down the lane (8-16-feet), up from 37.8% (on middle-of-the-floor 8-16 footers) in 2012-13.

In terms of shooting percentage – Favors has increased his accuracy from virtually every floor level this season, up to 58.8% from 0-8FT (from 55.9% in 2012-13), up to 42.5% from 8-16FT (from 31.5%) and 28.1% from 16-24FT (up marginally from 26.2%).

While Utah may still have longterm questions at other positions, it’s clear Trey Burke and Derrick Favors solidify 2/5’s of their starting lineup for the next 4 seasons.

4. Jazz Do Not Re-Sign Paul Millsap

In July Utah allowed 7-year Jazzman Paul Millsap to walk in free agency, where he signed a bargain-basement 2-year/$19 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. This was done primarily under the pretense that the Jazz were serious about allowing both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to develop and grow on the court together.

Instead the Jazz coaching staff concluded that their nightmare start (that was heavily affected by the absence of Trey Burke as well as the lack of an effective offensive system and bizarre defensive strategies) verified that Favors and Kanter simply could not play together. As a result, the Jazz are now starting 8-year veteran Marvin Williams at power forward. As a starter in the final year of his contract, Marvin is having a career year from behind the arc shooting 41% while averaging nearly 30-minutes per game. Conversely, Enes Kanter’s playing time has declined to 22.6 mpg when coming off the bench.

In Atlanta, Paul Millsap is playing at a near All-Star level averaging 17.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while averaging 2.6 three-point attempts per game on 43% 3pt-shooting despite attempting just 39 threes all of last season in Utah. In his last 5 games, Sap has been spectacular posting averages of 25.8 points per game to go along with 11.2 rebounds on 50% shooting.

There are valid reasons for starting Marvin at PF, but if any of those reasons meshed with Utah’s offseason goals just 6 months ago, then the Jazz made a clear mistake not re-signing Millsap – who would fit their “stretch-4” role better than Marvin in virtually every facet. Not only are they currently starting the lesser option of the two, it comes at the price of marginalizing both the development and trade-value of the #3-overall pick in the 2011 draft while not providing any tangible short-term benefits such as a surprise playoff berth.

5. Jazz Fail to Qualify for 2012-13 Playoffs

A 3-12 stretch last March sabotaged the Jazz’s playoff hopes, as the Lakers narrowly limped by them for the 8th-seed on Kobe Bryant’s tired and eventually wornout legs. Following the 2011-12 season in which the Jazz secured the #8-seed before being swept by the Spurs, that step back along with the gradual assimilation of Dennis Lindsey into his general manager role sparked an apparent shift in Utah’s philosophy.

After looking to upgrade the PG position by acquiring veteran Mo Williams and opting to keep pending free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson through the trade deadline, Kevin O’Connor’s 2012 win-now approach struck out which Dennis Lindsey has since hinted at as early as exit interviews last April saying, “We’re not collectively afraid if, that the best alternative is to go young, and be very patient with the flexibility that we built in. I’m not afraid of that. You know, so to speak, take a step back. If we need to do that, then we’ll do that.”

Lindsey’s preseason comments echoed the team’s approach the following summer, where he identified “3 D’s” as his goals for the Jazz – being establishing a defensive culture, development of young players and a disciplined level of play.

The Jazz currently have the 2nd-worst record in the league and appeared poised for a high draft choice. Had the Jazz secured the 8-seed and won a game or two, perhaps the franchise would have been more inclined to bring back Al Jefferson, Millsap, and Mo Williams which would have relegated them to middle-of-the-pack status and further stifled the development of their young core.

Their current blueprint hasn’t been perfect, and obviously retaining Corbin (which elimintated the possibility of considering Hornacek) appears to be a huge mistake, but this path still allows Utah to right that wrong in the 2014 offseason while perhaps also making a franchise-altering draft pick.

A new coach and the addition of a potential all-star (whether it be Jabari, Wiggins, Randle or Embid or a late-riser), would put some serious shine on the bright Jazz future that may have dimmed over the past couple seasons as internal growth was impeded. Nevertheless, I’m convinced this youth movement remains the best path for the franchise as long as all parties (ownership, management, and coaches ) are fully committed to it. Five years from now, I hope we look back at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season as impetus for a franchise course-correction, under Dennis Lindsey’s guidance.

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For the Jazz, 2013 was a year of change, a year of frustration and a year of promise. Let’s hope it will ultimately be remembered as the first of several baby-steps in the right direction for the Jazz, as they look to once again build a potential title-contender.

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