The stage was set for yet another thrilling, storybook ending between the Miami Heat and the Utah Jazz Friday night at Energy Solutions Arena.
For the second straight game the Jazz played host to a sizzling hot team. Miami had won nine straight leading up to Friday, with Lebron James playing like a man possessed! The Jazz would need a great performance to be able to beat the Heat and get momentum on their side as they head out for a five game road trip.
What followed was incredible.
After a starters duel that ended in a one point match in the first quarter, the bench came in. And the Jazz went on a roll. The offense was a thing of beauty. It was purring like a smooth, well oiled engine. Behind 19 bench points the Jazz scored a 30 point second quarter and took a 13 point lead into the half. The second half began just as the first half had ended with the Jazz putting the foot on the gas pedal, jumping out to an 18 point lead in the third quarter.
Then it happened...
Just when you thought the Jazz had Miami right where they wanted them, on the ropes, on the second night of a back to back...it happened, or should I say Lebron happened. Lebron got hot...SIZZLING HOT! He drained ridiculous shot after ridiculous shot, scoring 17 of his game high 35 in the 4th.
But what unfolded was something that a very young Jazz team needed. It’s no secret that the Jazz had struggled in close games this season, I believe the record is 3-4. They have struggled to close out games. So it should be no surprise when Lebron hit his second straight long range jumper...the one that had us all shaking our heads...yeah that one. You could hear a collective “not again” coming from Jazz fans.
Miami Heat's Lebron James shoots against the Utah Jazz during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Salt Lake City, Friday, March 2, 2012. The Jazz defeated the Heat 99-98.
The the amazing happened. The one guy that has been scrutinized more by Jazz fan all year than any other player on the roster made a play. Devin Harris. Yes I said Devin Harris. The heady, smart, crafty vet happened. With time running down, he drove the lane putting up one of his patented floater that found the back of the iron and the front of the iron...and rolled in...AND ONE! After hitting the free throw, the Heat had one last chance. Lebron working the pick and roll with Haslem found his forward for an 18 foot jumper that came off the iron.
This game featured some of the best basketball I’ve seen the Jazz play all season. The offense was fluid. It was as smooth as butter. Crisp cuts. Clean passes. Precision shots. Everyone moved. No standing around. And lots...I mean LOTS of energy. The Offense was pristine! The Jazz ended the night with 22 assists and only 11 turnovers. The team seemed to trust each other, playing unselfishly.
LeBron James of the Miami Heat reacts next to Devin Harris during the second half of play at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City Friday, March 2, 2012. Jazz won the game in the final seconds, 99-98. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)
Devin Harris continues to dictate the pace of the offense well. He finished with just 13 and 5 assists, but it was his energy, including on the defensive end that provided just what the Jazz needed to get a win. Both Devin and Big Al carried the Jazz home to a victory combining for 11 of the team’s 21 4th quarter points. It was the veterans, the “Old Dogs”(as my man Clint Peterson wrote), that put the team on their backs when the game was on the line.
Enes Kanter had another big night. His work ethic continues to pay off, as he finished the night with 11 points and 6 rebounds in just 16 minutes of play. I don’t know if anyone noticed but he’s learning to keep the ball high when rebounding the basketball, giving him better opportunities to finish at the rim. He also provided some impressive post moves as he muscled his way around in the paint, including a couple of nice fade away jumpers in the 4th quarter.
Enes Kanter of the Utah Jazz puts up a shot over Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat during the second half of play at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City Friday, March 2, 2012. Jazz won the game in the final seconds, 99-98. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)
The Jazz finished the night with 29 second chance points off 23 offensive rebounds. They hustled to every loose ball, every rebound, dominating the glass as they should have against a Heat team that does not have the size inside to match.
So “Miracle in Miami” is reprised in Salt Lake City. And another thrilling chapter, in this ever growing storybook fantasy, is written. It just keeps getting better and better.
There hasn't always been a lot to celebrate about this Jazz season in Utah, but a spot as bright as a nova was brought to us courtesy Jeremy Evans over the All-Star break when he made Utah a state of champions by winning the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest in spectacular fashion. Fittingly, in a leap year, on a leap day, Governor Gary Herbert honored the man his teammates simply call "Elevator" by giving him his own day: Jeremy Evans Day.
It's officially official. Evans is forever more "The Human Pogo Stick." Dammit. Boler and Harp need to be banned from handing out heinous nicks.
Nevertheless, we're proud to be able to call Evans our own. Perma-grins abounded when Jazz CEO Greg Miller met with our guv to congratulate Evans on his finest moment. He was even rewarded with a little playing time to celebrate by, which he made the most of by landing himself in the night's Top 10 plays on a nice cut fed by five-dime beast Al Jefferson.
Via Deseret News, Jim Urquhart, Associated Press -- See all 27 photos
"I wanna see what the... vets have?!"
We've been overrun with fan and media sentiments of wanting to see the Jazz's young guns. All game. Every game. You literally can't go anywhere, read or listen to anything, without being bombarded by it. The prevailing thought process includes, "I already know what the vets have. I wanna see what the young guys have."
What more do you really expect to see from the team's third-highest minutes-total, Gordon Hayward, the Jazz's only player to start all 34 games? Hayward even led the Jazz in minutes played on the season at one point. What you see is what you get for now. More PT isn't gonna make him shoot better than the .424 from the field we're getting now. Earl Watson said he wanted to see 10-15 point-per-game from G-Time. If he were to hit closer to 50% of his 10.3 FGAs per-game, plus continue to make about 80% of his 3.7 FTAs per-game he'd be there, easy.
Derrick Favors? At the beginning of the season when many were calling for him to start over Al Jefferson I said he was still about a half season away from being ready to even think about starting over either Al or Paul Millsap. So far, his numbers have stayed the course, overall, starter or reliever, deviating only slightly in a couple of categories from what he was putting up previously. If anything, his career low field goal percentage indicates a step back, not forward, although it's possible this can be attributed to his learning process in the post in trying to obtain a reliable go-to move or two -- not a bad thing, but it shows that he's not yet at the level needed to compete night in and night out at against the league's toughest position.
Maybe the most important progression we've seen from Favors is his defensive rebounding rate being at a career high, over 20% for the first time, at 20.9%, and his tying a career high for assists versus the Houston Rockets with three. In the Jazz's offensive sets in the flex the big men have to be able to dish out dimes to cutters for the team to put up points. Stagnation is the ugly alternative, an option that can be attributed to not only isolation sets, but guys without the ball not doing their job either -- cutting hard like they're supposed to. When they do, guys like Al, Paul, and now even Favors and Evans will pass, as we saw against the Rockets, Al, Favors, and Evans combining for 10 of the Jazz's 27 assists in a blowout victory.
I told you everything about Enes Kanter on Twitter before he ever put on a Jazz uniform. We knew he'd be a great rebounder, already, and after watching every available bit of film and EuroBasket I added that he was extremely coachable, intelligent, and willing to learn, as well as a solid man defender, while warning that he'd have trouble finishing at the rim, lacked a post move, and had a tendency to try and bull his way to the basket, lowering his head and shoulder garnering whistles. That's exactly who he's turned out to be thus far. Seeing more of him won't change these habits right now, only enforce tendencies that form long-term bad habits. When he's ready, you'll know it. Until then, he needs to keep working on those feet to create shots that aren't so easily turned back, and confidence in his range, a part of his game we know he has, save the confidence part. He'll only get better defensively as he learns to rotate properly without looking so lost, an area we've seen signs of progression in.
If you've been paying attention without bias, the only real enigma when it comes to the young guns is Alec Burks. His play is increasingly putting pressure on Ty Corbin to put him out there for more and longer stints.
On the other hand, once you thought you'd seen it all from the vets they throw you a curveball.
Coming into the season, Al Jefferson was widely touted as a black hole. Few saw the signs of change coming from this "old dog" (who's not really old at all), saying he'd peaked, that he couldn't get any better, that he was stuck in his ways. And yet here he is, a willing and capable passer. And just when you thought that was all, that the count was full and he'd walk the hitter with the bases loaded, he throws you a splitter you never saw coming.
The Jazz haven't had a defensive director. Until last night. Earl Watson noted in the postgame that he'd never seen Jefferson be so vocal on the floor, directing traffic, calling out rotations and screens, reinforcing the effort from his 'mates.
The result of filling this formerly-gaping hole in the Jazz's game is two-fold -- not only does it make the entire defense better when you have a vocal anchor who can see the opposition unfolding, said anchor no longer has to act alone as a last line of defense, a role impossible for all but a handful of stellar stoppers. It's a leadership role, one young players don't do instinctively, one that the Jazz's young players would likely not learn, at least not properly, on their own without years of painful experience.
Jefferson stepping up into this role is huge for the Jazz. Not only does it make his own job easier, but it makes Devin Harris' job easier too, helping him to be able to anticipate the offense coming at him, allowing him to make a snap decision in an instant instead of guessing where he might have to go to head off a play, then giving up on it in frustration from the silence, save the squeak of sneakers and snapping of twine. Harris was able to dictate where Kyle Lowry would direct his own offense from, keeping the Rockets from getting what they wanted, when they wanted, where they wanted, making them play a game they weren't comfortable with.
And Harris dictated the pace offensively as well, showing us the skills that made him a desirable All-Star a few seasons ago. Few thought he still had that in him, or that he cared to show it to the likes of us, we, a fanbase that spent the first half of the season saying we didn't want him. Lauded as a leader, albeit it a quiet one, at one point after a broken play, Harris pulled aside Hayward, a player with some 60 more games experience in the offense, pointing out a moment where the sophomore had gone astray in the offense. After a quiet discussion and some nodding, we saw the Jazz's offense respond with a run that put the game away for good.
Yes, it's important that the young guys get experience and see real floortime. But it's equally important for them to learn the lessons many of the veterans had to the hard way, through a whole lotta losin'. Working together will accelerate the development process more than simple trial and error ever could. And it avoids the dreaded pit of despair that is the constant frustration of being blown out by mediocre competition, eventually creating an environment conducive only to creating the desire to produce for one's self for that next contract instead of for the good of the team.
Last night showed us that old dogs can indeed still learn new tricks, that we haven't seen by a long shot what they to give. Learning is a lifelong process, one most successfully employed with a little help from your friends and teammates. Devin Harris and Al Jefferson aren't vets by a lot. In fact, they're just coming into their own as leaders, and last night they together bookended an impressive display of growth for this young Jazz team.
Preaching more patience
• Through Jerry Sloan's first 62 games as a head coach, with a future Hall of Famer in Artis Gilmore, his team went 19-43, a .306 winning percent
• Through Ty Corbin's first 62 games as a head coach he's gone 24-38, a .387 winning percent
• An NBA player typically doesn't reach their peak on average until about 15,000 career minutes. Al Jefferson is at 15,608, Devin Harris 14,369
• There are currently 23 players in the NBA with more career minutes played than both Jefferson and Harris combined
• While it's been a calendar year since Devin Harris was a Jazzman, he's played less than the equivalent of two-thirds of a single normal season for Utah, only 50 games, due mostly to the lockout
Last night hurt. We can all agree with that. There was enough underachieving and ill-formed decisions to go around to keep all of our minds running circles for weeks. It was one of those nights that makes you instantly start playing the NBA Trade Machine and NBA Mock Lottery games for an hour just to make the pain go away. It hurt for a number of reasons.
To start out the night we get this gem courtesy of Brian T. Smith:
That's how the night starts out. We get a hint that Ty Corbin wants a full lineup of veterans. Then the disappointing game of Utah vs Sacramento got underway. Even though Harris had a solid game he was outdueled by a rookie drafted with the last pick in the NBA draft, Isaiah Thomas. Harris had 18 pts, 7 ast, 1 reb, 2 stl. Meanwhile Isaiah Thomas had 18 pts, 8 ast, 2 reb, 1 stl.
That's not even the worst part of the night. The Jazz had many chances to win this. The main being when the young guys, a lineup of Harris, Burks, Miles, Favors, and Kanter finally got rolling. They clawed the Jazz back into the game. Then with minutes left in the game Corbin thanked this young core by, you guessed it, escorting them back to their seats in the bench. You know the rest of the story. Jazz veterans blow the game, make horrible mistakes (#WeConsistentlyDoDumbSh*t), and let the Kings start their 2nd half to the season with a win while we play Groundhog Day with last year's season.
This whole game was a giant allegory of the Jazz's season. There is this insistance to rely upon the veterans in order to reach the playoffs (which with every passing day looks like a pipe dream), let the young guys play about 20 minutes a game (unless you are Gordon Hayward), then when the game is in reach go to an isolation on the left block to Al Jefferson. I know it's not always an isolation on the left block to Jefferson, but the very fact that there's a HIGH chance that it will be basically tells the story of itself.
Which brings us to today. What do the Jazz do? Is there a solution? Yes. But it'll hurt at first.
Remember when the Timberwolves traded Al Jefferson to the Jazz for a conditional 1st round pick, a 2nd round pick, and Kosta Koufos? The Jazz thought they had robbed the T-Wolves. I thought Kevin O Connor had made the most brilliant trade since the Lakers had robbed Memphis of Pau Gasol. Except it wasn't that way at all. Kevin Kahn, and it pains me to even admit this, knew what he was doing. He was freeing minutes for his promising Power Forward, Kevin Love. Al Jefferson consumed too many possessions with his slow methodical post game. While Al Jefferson is a magician in the post he also is a black hole. Kahn knew this. He knew that he had Love whose rebounding rate was through the roof. He knew that Love's development couldn't take another year taking the back seat to Al Jefferson. So he traded him to the Jazz.
Fast forward to the present and now the Jazz are in the same predicament. Our Kevin Love is a two headed monster of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. In 42 minutes last night the young duo outrebounded Millsap and Jefferson, who played a combined 54 minutes. In fact Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter's per 36 combined rebounds a game is 23 rebounds. Compare that to the 18 rebounds the Millsap/Jefferson are currently averaging now with about 36 minutes per game. That's just rebounds. Blocks would go up as well. Points would take a dip for a season but points would go up. Kevin Love's per 36 that year he sat behind Al Jefferson was at about 15 ppg. What happened when Al Jefferson left? Well....let's just say it didn't stay at 15 ppg. Try 20 ppg. Meanwhile his rebounds per 36 actually went up two more rebounds.
So how do the Jazz trade Al Jefferson? They have to wait for the team that is desperate enough. To those who say his 14 million dollar contract is too much to trade, think again. The Jazz traded for it didn't they? Last time I checked they were paying deep into the luxury tax when they did so. Trading Big Al is not impossible. It just takes a team that is desperate like the Jazz were a couple years ago. Two years ago the Jazz had lost Boozer to Chicago, Kyle Korver to Chicago, and Wesley Matthews to Portland. So is there a team desperate like the Jazz were? Yes.
First look at the Lakers who are desparate for a third big. Look at the Memphis Grizzlies who need a low post threat to replace Zach Randolph who was lost to injury. Look at Houston who was actively looking for a low post threat and almost landed Pau Gasol and without Gasol available they'll be looking elsewhere for an alternative. Look at Golden State who is trying hard to land Dwight and if unsuccessful will try other avenues. Am I saying any of these will happen? No. But to ignore the obvious that Al Jefferson can be traded is to ignore that teams get desperate when the playoffs are on the line.
The Jazz have to follow the parable of the Al and the Love. They have to learn from the Timberwolves.
*Please hold while I throw up in my mouth for that last sentence. KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNN!*
But the Timberwolves made the right decision with Al and Love. They went their ways and allowed the Jazz to learn the lesson with Big Al. We have learned our lesson with Al. He's not the future. And if the Jazz thought Millsap was the future they wouldn't have drafted Kanter. The Jazz have a bright future. Unfortunately the future is being eclipsed by a present that has hit its ceiling. If the Jazz trade Jefferson then the Jazz will finally get to see true development from Kanter and Favors. Most importantly if the Jazz trade Jefferson we won't have to hear Kevin O'Connor ever utter the empty promise that the "Jazz are not rebuilding" again.
"It's about pursuing it rather than waiting to see what comes along. That's partly because I found myself getting typecast, as everyone does unless they pursue roles that are very different from what they've done before."
While reading one of my favorite weekly authors, our own Kyle Kirkham and his Utah Jazz Player of the Week, (if you haven't been following these, shame on you. Kyle puts a lot of research into his posts and presents them very well indeed) I found the Al Jefferson numbers extremely interesting.
The premise is a stereotype of sorts, that he puts up big numbers on bad teams, in the process creating the opposite of the intended effect, to win the game, a reputation garnered, fairly or not, from his years of putting up 20/10s in Minnesota (there's a whole other tangent here we won't go into today, but it includes having poor teammate options and coaching on the Timberwolves in his time there, as well as a losing culture that fostered an environment of "I'ma get mine").
Up in the Twin Cities I could see how a rep such as this was attained, but it feels unfair to the new-and-improved Big Al as currently constituted on this Jazz team. He wasn't a willing passer before, but we've seen now that he is, whether finding cutters or feeling the double coming on defense and kicking it back out.
"He seems to know based on how he is being defended where he is going with the ball [every time]."
-Locked On Jazz
Al is so talented in the post with his hands, body, and feet that he has the ability to get a shot off under almost any circumstances, really a throwback to a previous age that's by and large gone from today's NBA, an ability under-appreciated by the fast-paced standards of the current ADHD age of 140 characters or less. It's too easy to simply isolate a couple of categories and make sizable generalizations from them because that's not the style you prefer to see. But it doesn't mean the method isn't effective in the course of chasing victory.
Whereas in Minnesota Al found that he could always get a shot off, even if triple teamed, and did, this year for the Jazz we see him draw defenders to his spot on the low, left block, then often move the ball elsewhere starting a series of flex cuts and ball movement in the flow of the intended offense. And without Al Jefferson's 10-19 the Jazz are never even in the game with the San Antonio Spurs with a chance to win late. Al is the only guy on the Jazz's roster you can play the odds on a given offensive possession with. Everyone else is far too inconsistent to gamble on when points are at a premium at any point in a given contest.
Simply put, he's the bread and butter.
I don't recall if it was Phil Johnson, Ron Boone, Thurl Bailey, or someone else, but during some recent analysis involving the Jazz's struggles and Al Jefferson something that was said stuck with me.
"Al Jefferson is the least of the Jazz's problems."
It's an oversimplification to pin Utah's troubles on any one guy, but what is clear is that the Jazz have struggled to close games out, be it coming back or holding off an opponent. When things go wrong it's all too easy to say "so-and-so's just a career a loser, play the new guys," however, the Jazz, aside from Raja Bell, Earl Watson, and Josh Howard are still really young, and none of those players are your late go-to guys. It's easy to think of Al as old and decrepit, but he's only 27, still learning to win, for once with a franchise that actually cares about winning.
Usually, it takes young teams -- and the coaching staff is included here -- years to learn how to win close ones. Old teams win a lot of close games for a reason with their acquired savvy; they know how to from experience.
It's not as if Al Jefferson is shooting the Jazz out of games -- in fact, I'd assert the opposite, that without him they'd be in far fewer in the first place. But there is one key area of his game that has hurt the Jazz's chances in close ones this year, his scoring in the clutch. It's inexplicably way down, and I mean way down. However, he's not dominating the ball in the clutch, stealing touches from other players in an attempt at hero-ball or anything. In fact, he's taking less clutch-time FGAs this year than any other I can find data for (since he's been a starter).
From 82 Games
The Jazz are predictable in the end-game scenario. There's only one player you can pencil in on a nightly basis and opposing scouts know this. That's makes any standard, normal play in the course of the game much harder to pull off when it counts at the end. "They're going to go to Al." Yep. We know.
To Ty's credit, in the heartbreaker against Minnesota they at least didn't run a predictable Al isolation play this time, although you probably don't generally want a career 36%-from-16-23-feet shooter taking a 19-footer in a pick-and-pop (although to Al's credit he made the shot. He's shooting a career best from mid-range with the Jazz, about 5% better as a Jazzman than previously).
While it's our nature as the fan to want to point fingers and out-guess brass and staff alike after a loss, the fact is, the Jazz are a lot closer than most thought they'd be to competing at this point. As Kenny Smith said in Friday's All-Star festivities, "The Jazz are one guy away."
They're just young, and making primary playing time even younger isn't really solving anything. All that would do is make the future Jazz the former Timberwolves. Have patience. Let us learn along with them how to win again.
How Doc Rivers Won the Game for Boston
*This post covers last week’s games, and this week’s (didn’t want to do a post for a 2 game week, soooo yeah.)
16.7%. Take a guess at what that number is. No it’s not Fesenko’s old free throw percentage, and no it’s not the percent of times that Josh Howard passes on a fast break. It’s actually the percentage of games we have won since my last post. That’s six games and only one win. I don’t I need to explain to you how bad that is. Just a few weeks ago, we looked like a legitimate playoff team, now we look like a legitimate lottery team. Am I overreacting? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s not the point. The point is this team is underperforming right now, along with a lot of its players. Let’s take a look to see who is and isn’t.
Last Week’s Line: 9 points (53%), 5 assists (2.7 TO’s), 1.5 rebound, 1.2 steals
Not exactly the most impressive line, but I won’t lie, Harris has looked better recently. He plays a lot better when he is pushing it and taking it to the basket, both of which he has been doing lately. Is he still underperforming? Yes, he can definitely play better. Hopefully All Star break can help reenergize him some more.
Last Week’s Line: 10.5 points (60%), 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 60% on 3’s.
Despite missing the last two games, Bell once again played pretty good. The 10 points a game sure doesn’t look like a lot, but it’s hard to be disappointed when it is coming on 60% shooting from the field (AND from downtown). I don’t think Raja is the ideal shooting guard for many teams; however he has been a bright spot for the Jazz of late as one of the only players who isn’t underperforming. Call me crazy, but he’s actually played himself into contention for this week’s award.
Last Week’s Line: 5.3 points (33%), 1.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists (2.2 TO’s)
There is no question that Hayward has had a rough year; calling it a roller-coaster ride would probably be an understatement. 10 days ago, Hayward was playing the best ball he had all year, now he is playing some of his worst. I think you can pin some of this on the fact that the team is playing pretty bad overall, but you cannot deny that Gordon is still trying to find his stride. I still don’t think it’s a question of if he will find it, but when he will. It took him most of the season last year to find his stride, how much longer do we have to wait this year? Maybe an appearance in Orlando this weekend will do the trick…
Last Week’s Line: 15.2 points (42%), 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.7 assists (1.3 TO’s)
I personally thought that being snubbed from the All Star game would help get Millsap’s game back on track, but calling him a ‘snub’ at this point may be a little generous. Right now Millsap is shooting 49% on the season, and if he keeps up his current play it could be the first time he finishes under 50% in his career. He’s worn out, I don’t think there is any question about that. However there is question in whether he can up his production by season’s end, because the Jazz sure need it.
Last Week’s Line: 20.6 points (49.6%), 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists (.3 TO’s), 1.5 blocks, 1.7 steals
Statistically, Jefferson had a pretty good 6 games. In a matter of fact, that really is an impressive line. But that’s the problem. Putting up good numbers on bad teams is exactly what Jefferson is known for. I got curious this morning about Al’s shot attempts in wins compared to losses, so I looked it up.
I’m not an expert when it comes to numbers, but I did find it interesting to find that this [season] was only the second time that Al has put up more shots in losses than wins, it also happens to be the largest margin as well. What may be more concerning about this is Jefferson shoots 9% worse in losses this year (53% in wins compared to 44% in losses) but still averages more overall attempts. Jefferson is a good player, but can he be a good player on a good (playoff) team? Right now the answer is no. That could change though, there are still 34 games left this season.
Last Week’s Line: 3.33 points (28%), 3.2 assists (1.5 TO’s), 1.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals
You only have to take one look at Earl’s stats to know he didn’t have the best week. He actually had the worst average +/- on the team at -7.7. Then again, putting up good stats isn’t really Earl’s thing. It’s funny, while Watson may hate losing more than any Jazz player, he also happens to be one of the most positive players on the team. If you follow him on twitter, you’d probably agree with me. Like I said, Earl didn’t have the best week. But I am fine with that, because the intangibles he brings to each game mean a lot more than his stats do.
Last Week’s Line: 5.7 points (29%), 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists (1 TO)
Not exactly what you expect from a 7 year veteran in a contract year, right? Then again, it probably wouldn’t be fair to expect something specific from Miles since he has been doing the unexpected his entire career. Brian T. Smith tweeted about Miles possibly resigning after this season.
While Miles is one of my favorite players, I honestly don’t see it happening. Maybe we sign him for a short and cheap contract, but my money is that another team will offer a longer and better deal.
Last Week’s Line: 6.5 points (40%), 4 rebounds, .8 assists (.8 TO’s)
While it wasn’t a great week for Howard, atleast he didn’t look like a corpse like he did in the previous week. Josh actually played really good the last two games, which is hopefully a sign that he is getting his legs back. Brian T. Smith also tweeted about Howard resigning. As I said with Miles, I don’t know if I see it happening. Not unless it’s for short and cheap. However, depending on whether or not the Jazz draft or make a move for a different wing, we will need somebody back. The second half of the season could be an audition for next year.
Last Week’s Line: 8.5 points (47%), 3.3 rebounds, .8 blocks, 1.3 TO’s (16.6 minutes)
Is Favors struggling? Yeah to a point he is, the sophomore isn’t exactly excelling. But I’m guessing it is pretty hard to excel when you are only getting 17 minutes a game (3 less than last year). Truth is, I think it’s difficult to make an impact when your playing time is limited. Statistically, Favors had a decent week. Convert his averages to 36 minutes, and he is putting up 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 TO’s. Not numbers that make you drool, but definetly numbers that make you wonder whether he should get more time or not. Now I understand, minutes don’t necessarily mean development, but can you develop without minutes? Here is a breakdown of Favors’ minutes from this season (from www.basketball-reference.com).
A little while ago David Locke tweeted that the Jazz are 8-2 in games that Favors plays more than 20 minutes. I don’t know what is more amazing about that, the record, or the fact that he has only played 20+ minutes in 10 games. I decided to take a deeper look. It turns out there have been 11 games now where he has played 20+ minutes (8-3 W/L). In them he has averaged 27 minutes, 11.3 points (57% shooting), 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.6 turnovers. Now, I’m not here to tell Ty Corbin what to do, he has a very hard job. The Jazz have 4 really good bigs, so it’s going to be hard to give them all the minutes that they are worthy of; a trade may be the only way of making that happen.
Last Week’s Line: 5.2 points (45%), 6.2 rebounds, .7 blocks, .8 TO’s (14.8 minutes)
Kanter is also struggling to get minutes on the floor. Regardless, Kanter is still producing. He has improved greatly on both sides of the ball since the season started, and is still rebounding at incredible rates. Hypothetically, if you gave Kanter Kevin Love’s minutes, he’d bring down 16.7 boards a game. Read that again, 16.7. That’d be good enough for #1 in the NBA. Of course that is hypothetical. Kanter isn’t going to get 40 minutes a game. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he is already a top rebounder in this league.
Last Week’s Line: 7.5 points (48%), 2.5 rebounds, 1 assists (.5 TO’s), .8 steals (15.8 mintutes)
Burks may not be completely free yet, but he has finally earned a spot in Ty Corbin’s wing rotation. In a matter of fact, we have been seeing Burks come off the bench before CJ in some games, and it comes with good reason. Alec is looking really good lately. Not only is he putting up good numbers in his limited time, but he is playing within the flow of the team, and a lot less out of control. In the past 6 games, Burks has been averaging more points than Howard, Miles, and Hayward. He’s also been shooting much better than all three of them. I love watching him play, but I don’t make that decision, Corbin does. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a nice bump in minutes if he keeps his current play; I hope he does.
*Players who didn't play (very much): Jeremy Evans, Jamaal Tinsley, DeMarre Carroll
There is no question that the Jazz played really bad over the past 6 games. So while deciding on who should get this week’s award, I decided to eliminate all players who are underperforming and see who is left; there weren't too many.
Player of the Week (Week 8 and 9)
Alec does a good job at containing his emotion after hearing about his latest
award. (Photo via Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune)
Alec Burks: 7.5 points (48%), 2.5 rebounds, 1 assists (.5 TO’s), .8 steals (15.8 minutes)
Runner up: Raja Bell
Special Mentions: Enes Kanter, Al Jefferson
Thanks to @sproul13 for weekly statsno comments
The Utah Jazz got off to a hot start...a SMOKING hot start in Minnesota Wednesday night. Behind the stellar play of Howard and Millsap it seemed the Jazz were well on their way to a much needed road win. The offense was clicking, the defense was dialed in and the Jazz seemed to be humming like a well oiled engine. They had 10 steals at half, two more than their season average. They were forcing Minnesota into bad shots and playing extremely well offensively with 16 assists on 23 made field goals by halftime. It was a beauty to watch. But it was the Jazz' two achilles heels that proved to be their demise in the end.
Josh Howard has climbed out of his slump. He looked 10 year younger last night, showing signs of what made him an All-Star in 2007 with Dallas. He shot the ball extremely well, was scrappy on the defensive end, and beautiful in transition all night long. The play that defined his night best was his blow by two handed dunk early in the game. He finished the night with an extremely efficient 19 points and 6 rebounds.
Much ado has been made about Paul Millsap’s game as of late(I’ve been one who has been expressing my disappointment).
Maybe all he needed was a little “Love”. He seems to rellish playing against Kevin Love. Paul stuck it to Love again tonight leading the Jazz with 25 points. He played well on the defensive end as well finishing the night with two steals and two block shots. Here’s to hoping a little “Love” was all Sap needed to get his game back on track moving forward.
Utah Jazz' Paul Millsap, left, drives around Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves won 100-98. Millsap led the Jazz with 25 points and nine rebounds while Love scored 10 and had 10 rebounds.
Burks also continues to shine. He is playing with a bit of swagger. And why shouldn’t he be? He is making the most of his time on the floor. He provides flashes of brilliance on both ends of the court. Drawing tough defensive assignments, tonight’s being Barea, and playing smart on the offensive end. He dominates the ball when he’s in but has found a way to find his teammates and get them the ball at the right time. He chooses his moments when and when not to make a play. And proves efficient even in short stints on the floor.
As indicated early, the Jazz have two Achilles heels that continue to be their downfall: defending the three point shot and opposing guard play. And both proved to be their undoing tonight. The T-Wolves shot 40% from the floor on the night, suggesting the Jazz defense was getting exactly what they wanted. But what that number doesn’t show is the T-Wolves blistering 50% from behind the arc. When the Jazz seemed in control up 83-67 early in the 4th, the rain started falling, in torrential form.
And what of the other Achilles, opposing guard play? Barea and Ridnour, who hit the game winner, led Minnesota in scoring, combining for 39 points. The Jazz continue to struggle defending opposing point guard. Barea and Ridnour were just another in what has been a long line of guards racking up the points against the Jazz.
Minnesota Timberwolves' Luke Ridnour , right, shoots as Utah Jazz' Paul Millsap defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves won 100-98. Ridnour scored the winning basket at the buzzer.
This game hurt. No question about it. A game that was in the firm grasp of the young, talented Jazz only to be stolen away by an equally young and talented Wolves team is tough to take as a fan.
And lets be honest, it’s not going to get any easier to watch as the toughest is yet to come, but there is still many positives to watch for. Burks play continues to impress and amaze. I sat and watched him tonight and couldn't help but think of what the future holds for him. He plays with confidence, with that swagger. Gotta love that. Combine that with Kanter's stellar play and you have a very, VERY promising future.no comments
B+Utah Jazz (15-16)Five weeks with a winning record is longer than most would have expected the Jazz could last, even with a schedule front-loaded with home games. A year after the departure of legendary coach Jerry Sloan and All-Star point guard Deron Williams, the challenge was to stay competitive with veterans like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Devin Harris while developing youngsters such as Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. There have been some glitches: Harris has disappointed, Hayward is still very inconsistent and Favors, Kanter and Burks all could use an extra five or seven minutes per game. When the team was winning and Millsap and Jefferson were both mentioned as possible All-Stars, the kids off the bench naturally got shorter shrift. But Utah has inevitably faded in February, and now even pleasant veteran surprises like swingman Josh Howard have to yield playing time.
Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/britt_robson/02/21/midseason.grades/index.html#ixzz1n5HNhz2E
My thoughts.... I think the guys at SI hit it right on the head. The Jazz are on pace for 31-35 which is higher than I had them orignially. I was excited when they won 8 of 9 but have come back to earth and realized that my orignial 30-36 is probably right around where are going to end up. I mentioned this on the podcast the other day, but we should expect changes at the deadline. Either a trade or minutes moved around. I don't want a fire sale, but if we don't come out of this season with a better understanding of what we have on board, I feel that season is a waste. I don't want to bench Millsap and Jefferson to give the young guys 35-40 minutes a night. I don't care what our record is between 25-35 wins is not mans land. We will get to mid first round picks which will do us no good. At this moment we are only two games ahead of GS so their is a possibility that our pick ends up higher than theirs. A possibility. With a bunch of road games left and March looking evern worse than February I think Jazz fans should at least grab the O @#%$ bar.