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Archive for the ‘Utah Jazz – General’ Category

The Utah Jazz are unquestionably a worse team on July 8th than they were on June 30th. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, they will be a worse team in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17. The Jazz lost their best player, but they did not lose their most valuable one. There’s a difference, and that difference will stabalize the franchise for the next 4 years.

An organization’s most valuable player and leader imposes his will on his team’s style of play. The 2016-17 Utah Jazz battled through injuries to win 51 games and advanced to the NBA’s second round as a top-notch defensive-minded group that suffocated teams defensively and on the boards while scoring and executing efficiently if not proficiently. That signature belongs more to the playing style of Rudy Gobert than the since departed Gordon Hayward.

It was Rudy who publicly called out his teammates with Utah mired in a 1-4 tailspin and fresh off a blowout loss in LA to their eventual 1st-round foe. It was Rudy who backed up those comments by immediately posting 20 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks to jumpstart a 7-2 finish entering the playoffs. And it was Rudy who led the Jazz in wins shares and finished in the NBA’s top-5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The Jazz won’t need to undergo a significant transformation into Rudy’s team because they were already assimilating towards that even with Gordon Hayward.

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It should also be said it was Hayward who carried the bulk of the load at the heaviest of times in the postseason – Game 5 & 7 road wins in LA in which he was the best player on either team and when Rudy battled foul trouble returning from injury. While Hayward may never be a #1 player on a championship team, losing a top 15-20 player at perhaps the NBA’s most important position significantly hurts Utah’s on-court product.

With Ricky Rubio flanked by lefties Joe Ingles and Rodney Hood, the Jazz will have no problems initiating their sets but will miss the luxury of getting the ball to Hayward on their 2nd and 3rd integration of screen-roll with the shot clock winding down. Teams will defend Gobert differently in screen-roll and show out less forcing Rubio to pull-up from mid-range or get into the paint (where Rubio’s also struggled converting) before dishing/kicking out.

Fortunately, Gobert has consistently advanced his offensive game from a 7-1 center who struggled catching and going straight up to a ferocious finisher rolling/diving to the rim to a cognizant passer capable of flashing nifty vision to look weakside and pass on the move. Another season of adaptation and growth offensively for #27 is not out of the question and surrounding Rubio/Gobert with shooting (Hood, Ingles, Joe Johnson?) should keep the lane open for Rubio to find Gobert at the rim.

The Jazz will miss Hayward’s ability to score off-the-bounce, his defensive rebounding when Utah went small, and newfound off-ball cutting abilities the most. While Quin Snyder’s system oft relied on Hayward in a leading role – the offense (not much different from the free-flowing ones most teams in today’s league run) did not revolve around him. Hayward had begun to show a developing post game to punish smaller defenders switching onto him and it would not be surprising if part of Boston’s pitch to Hayward revolved around ways Brad Stevens would get Gordon the ball in scoring position earlier in the shotclock (which would be more about stroking a player’s ego than anything wrong with Utah’s offense).

Perhaps more so than Stevens’ coaching, playing with an alpha dog personality in Isaiah Thomas will help relieve pressure off Hayward in terms of 4th-quarter scoring attention and most importantly providing selective leadership. Hayward was looked upon as a leader in Utah because he was the Jazz’s best and most prominant player, not because he consistently exhibited the leadership qualities championship contenders require. In Boston, Isaiah can set the tone and Hayward can pick his spots – and both Boston and Hayward should be all the better for it.

The move is not without risk for Gordon. In leaving his Salt Lake media bubble often devoid of criticism, he’s pushing a restart button and putting his NBA legacy on the line. By the time he was first-round fodder in Brooklyn, NBA fans quickly forgot how dominant and elite Deron Williams was in his Utah days. Hayward will also need to produce under the brightest lights on the biggest stages or else he too will suffer the same media pressure Deron felt in Brooklyn. If he doesn’t, he may find himself in Danny Ainge’s asset collection by the time he’s ready to opt-out as a 10-year vet with a Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown ready to assume stature as a new face of the franchise.

Utah has their own future to evaluate. Surrounding Rudy, Ingles and Rubio – the Jazz have several veterans (Johnson, Favors, Burks) who (if healthy) are talented enough to play major roles and contribute to a playoff push. They also have a slew of younger players (Exum, Hood, and Mitchell) who they’d also be best served to give extended minutes to in order to properly evaluate and project their fit into the organization’s vision moving forward. Whether the Jazz ultimately toe the middle ground or shift their plans towards one of those groups will depend on how the first 3 months of the regular season goes but it’s worth mentioning a couple of those veterans also represent expiring contracts who could net a valuable asset that someone (a contender looking to bolster a playoff push or big-market team looking to clear 2018 capspace) may be willing to part with at the deadline as cap space gradually becomes a premium across the league.

From a business standpoint, the Jazz feel pressure to win. They’ve invested heavily in player and facility improvement and are depending on an income boost (raised ticket prices and enhanced club/box seating in addition to the NBA’s TV money) that is reliant upon winning games. Fans would rather buy tickets to sit on green hard plastic seats to watch a winner than black cushioned seats watching a loss. With a fanbase both reeling and galvanized by Hayward’s departure, this is one of the rare occurrences a drop back to a 7th/8th-seed would emotionally feel like a successful season. Finishing 9th or 10th in the ultra-competitive West isn’t out of the question either and given the inbalance between the two conferences, could result in a 1st-rnd pick as high as 9th or 10th.

One organization to both study and learn from would be the Portland Trailblazers sans LaMarcus Aldridge. Also a 51-win team in 2014-15, Aldridge’s departure paved the way for CJ McCollum to assume a starring role alongside Damian Lillard. While that dynamic duo is a bonafide big away from being a 55-win team – what’s locked Portland into NBA purgatory (44 and 41 wins the last two seasons) was overpaying on marginal role players. Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Mo Harkless, and Meyers Leonard each have 3 years left on their deals at an average salary of $14.4 million. Having over $56 million tied up in that foursome for 2017-18 was miscalculated.

Utah was right to re-sign Ingles but must be very meticulous in evaluating Hood and Exum’s next contract. Although the hope is there that Exum or Mitchell becomes a star and Hood a consistent scoring option – the Jazz need to view Rudy’s supporting cast with the mindset they’re a significant acquisition/trade away from getting back on track towards contention. With that approach – assets and flexibility are key.

The Jazz are good enough to win 36-46 games and fighting like hell to make the playoffs for the first three months with the option to pivot and trade a starter/rotation player for a future asset before the deadline would seem to be the most flexible approach that could provide a pleasing mix of internal development and immediate competitiveness.

Rudy Gobert is under contract until 2021 and the Jazz need to operate like they have a 3-4 year window to build a contender around him even if it means the worst-case scenario is passively missing the playoffs in year one. If they’re ahead of schedule and they’re right in the thick of things come February, all the better and standing pat could certainly make sense as well.

While the strategy for constructing an NBA contender varies between homebuilding and flipping houses, a hybrid model of both is necessary when you’re a small-market team already with a major piece in place.

The Jazz enter the new season with an offensive void but still with a foundation and future of options and hope. That’s what happens when you retain your most valuable player.

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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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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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Final Score: Jazz 88, Bobcats 85

Following the Jazz’s last-minute road win Jazz assistant coach Brad Jones, nephew of Hall-of-Famer Jerry Sloan, was so fired up that he inadvertently hit Diante Garrett in the head with is clip board at the conclusion of the game. It was reminiscent of a incident involving Sloan and former Jazz assistant Kenny Natt during a 1999 contest in which Sloan accidently struck Natt as both he and John Stockton were emphatically demonstrating a clearout (offensive foul) that should’ve been called against Shaquille O’Neal.

Considering the tear Brad Jones was on, perhaps Jazz assistant trainer Brian Zettler should consider himself fortunate he didn’t step on the floor any sooner following the game’s final play. Between Sidney Lowe’s tax evasion conviction and Brad Jones’ streak of violence, I nominate Mike Sanders to win the best-behavior award for the Utah Jazz’s 2013 coaching staff.

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Note: Due to weekend events and the upcoming Christmas holiday, I haven’t posted in-depth game reviews for the last two Jazz games (not that there was much to review during Friday night’s abysmal showing in Atlanta) but they will resume next week. I greatly appreciate the compliments and interest I’ve received in the past few months and enjoy using twitter and this blog to discuss Jazzbasketball not matter how fun or frustrating it can be at times.

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John Stockton Biography - Assisted - Released Oct-29th

The release John Stockton’s autobiography “Assisted,” to the public on Tuesday, October 29th kick-starts a much anticipated week in Utah Jazzland that concludes with the Jazz tipping off the 2013-14 regular season Wednesday night against the Thunder at Energy Solutions Arena.

Two passionate Jazz writers were able to obtain advanced copies and for some terrific early insight into the book, check out reviews by Moni on Jazzfanatical and Diana on SLC Dunk. (UPDATE 10/29/13: Click HERE for a complete SLC Dunk review).

As someone who has an entire book shelf filled with Utah Jazz media guides, magazines and books (including useless items such as this), I would probably buy a grocery list if it was written by John Stockton. With that said, the early-reviews make me particularly excited for this rare glimpse into the life and career of one of the most unique personalities in NBA history.

Most NBA superstars have had their careers and lives documented and promoted by either themselves or others (Karl Malone for example has been featured in Beyond the Glory and Sportscentury documentaries) in some way, shape or form. For John Stockton, one of the most reserved and private superstars in all of professional sports, this book offers a rare public look into an often private professional career.

As a 6-1 point guard out of Gonzaga (back when very few outside of Washington had even heard of the Zags) who was cut from the 1984 Olympic basketball team and would go on to win two Olympic gold medals, face-off against the greatest player of all time in two NBA Finals, and play 19 NBA seasons in the NBA’s golden era where he became the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals – one can only imagine the collection of Stockton stories on tap.

While it’s highly doubtful Stockton will throw any former teammate under the bus the way many retired celebrities do to generate publicity and sell copies, the book still figures to be a gold mine of insight because Stockton has so often shied away from sharing his thoughts, memories and experiences to the public.

The “Forward” was written by Hall-of-Fame running-mate Karl Malone and co-authored by Kerry Pickett – Stockton’s grade-school coach in Spokane, Washington and apparent confident.

To see a cameo by Kerry Pickett, here is an “NBA on NBC” feature done profiling the off-court life and demeanor of John Stockton – which aired during the 1998-99 Postseason:

While the clip did include interviews with some of John’s closest friends and family from Spokane, in typical Stockton fashion there was no sit-down interview with John himself. As was so often the case throughout his 19-year NBA career, Stockton allowed everyone else to do the talking about him. He won’t be doing that with this book, and that’s precisely why you should buy it.

John Stockton’s “Assisted: An Autobiography” can be purchased here on Amazon.

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Worst Free Throw Shooter in Utah Jazz History

When the Jazz acquired Andris Biedrins over the summer, the thing most often noted was how terrible he shot from the free throw line.

As I wrote before, Biedrins was once in elite company as a 22-year old but has since deteriorated into one of the least productive players in the NBA – which is why the Warriors tossed in two 1st-round picks at the price of absorbing Biedrins’ (and two other players’) expiring contract. Much of Biedrins’ lack of productivity has been attributed to injury as well as a lack of confidence to do anything offensively due to a fear of being fouled and sent to the line. As you can see, over the past three seasons Biedrins went from being a “bad foul shooter” to an “absolutely horrific one.”

Andris Biedrins Career Free Throw Splits

Seasons G FT Att FT%
2004-09 318 363 682 53.2%
2009-13 192 19 78 24.4%
Career 510 382 760 50.3%

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The Jazz have had some bad free throw shooters in their 39-year history, so where do Biedrins career averages stack up with some of the worst in franchise history?

Here are the 7-worst free throw shooters in Jazz basketball history.
Note the one requirement was a minimum of 100 free throw attempts to qualify, so that eliminated a sharp-shooter such as Michael Ruffin (who shot 16-38 – 42.1% in 2003-04) or Calbert Cheaney (who bizarrely shot 50% from the field but only 40-69 – 58% from the line in 2002-03).

1. Olden Polynice
Center – 1999-01

Games FT Att FT%
163 45 155 29.0%

For an example of how O.P. was so bad at the line that he even left Jerry Sloan sitting speechless and in awe – go to the 12:53-mark of this clip.

2. Kyrylo Fesenko
Center – 2007-11

Games FT Att FT%
132 51 128 39.8%

3. Kris Humphries
Power Forward – 2004-06

Games FT Att FT%
129 78 166 47.0%

4. Carl Nicks
Point Guard – 1980-82

Games FT Att FT%
120 121 217 55.8%

5. J.J. Anderson
Small Forward – 1982-85

Games FT Att FT%
144 138 246 56.1%

6. Greg Ostertag
Center – 1995-04, 2005-06

Games FT Att FT%
700 820 1427 57.5%

7. John Amaechi
Center – 2001-03

Games FT Att FT%
104 92 157 58.6%

So at-worst Biedrins is in “Olden Polynice” territory, and at-best he’s in “Kris Humphries-to-Greg Ostertag” range. My advice to Biedrins this season is to go out and play aggressively when his number is called, wow us with more of this, and if he gets fouled he gets fouled. Whatever he does at the free throw line, we won’t be surprised. Much to our regret, we’ve seen it before.

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If there’s one silver-lining to Biedrins’ free throw woes, it’s the joyous celebration that can occur when one is made. Here, in Game 2 of the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals between Biedrins’ Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz, Biedrins was fouled with 90-seconds remaining in a 1-point game. He stepped to the line and made both foul shots.

Three things about this that I love:

1.) Mickael Pietrus initial reaction (0:10-mark) to Biedrins being sent to the line.

2.) Al Harrington so excited that he accidently knocks his headband down over his eyes as he’s towel-waving (0:19-mark)

3.) And of course the “Biedrins made a free throw” celebratory handshake between Sarunas Jasikevicius and Mickael Pietrus (0:30-mark) that might be one of the greatest moments in the history of the NBA.

If we can get Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert to duplicate that handshake every time Biedrins makes a free throw this season, this could go down as one of the best trades the Jazz ever made regardless of where the Warriors’ picks end up being.

Get the nuances of that handshake down and this will be something we all look forward to seeing.

Biedrins Free Throw Form

 

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Today is Jazz media day – which of course means fascinating reports like “Richard Jefferson looks to be in terrific shape,” Andris Biedrins says he’s excited for a new opportunity” and of course my favorite “Andrei Kirilenko has added 20 pounds of muscle.” (Can we please still do the “AK weight” report one even though he’s no longer with the Jazz?)

Beyond the dynamic quotes, what has become my new favorite part of Jazz Media Day is the player photo shoot – which each year seem to have a new wrinkle added to it.

Here are a few of my favorite Jazz Media Day Photo Shoot Collections:

The “Even though we’re professional basketball players, we’re going to pose with multi-sport props and pretend like we’re really enjoying ourselves” photo shoot.

Jazz Media Day Multi Sport

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The “Don’t mind me while I stand here and smile at a basketball that’s on fire” photo shoot.

Post #1

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The “Watch me pretend like I’m doing skillful things with the basketball that we all know I’m nowhere near capable of doing” photo shoot.

Jazz Media Day Ball Handling Skills

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The “I should probably enjoy this as much as I can because we all know I won’t be with the Jazz for much longer” photo shoot.

Jazz Media Day Training Camp Invites

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The “Pretend you’re an airplane flying away from the team you just lied to in order to get out of your contract” photo shoot.

Derek Fisher Lied

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What do you want to see from this year’s photo shoot? Jeremy Evans with a painting of himself sitting on the bench waiting for Corbin to never put him in the game? Enes Kanter with duck tape over his mouth? Gordon Hayward in a Paul George jersey? Rudy Gobert cleaning leaves out of Trey Burke’s rain gutter?

Here are a few suggestions:

The “Sidney Lowe: No, I’m not taking any questions about my rescheduled court date” photo collection.

Lowe

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The “Andris Biedrins: Guess which one of these two things I love the most” photo collection.

Biedrins

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The “I’d much rather be posing for pictures like this than trying to dunk a football” Enes Kanter collection (which required no photo-shopping whatsoever).

Kanter #4

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The 2013-14 Utah Jazz season is soon upon us!
It’s going to be a fun time!

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