Its been a long time since we've heard the din of cheers that followed every 3 point bucket Mehmet Okur made at home in a Jazz uniform. The silence surrounding Memo has been conspicuous, and in this truncated preseason I've held my breath to no avail as he has missed shot after shot from beyond the arc.
Get used to that silence. The zeitgeist of the 2007 Western Conference Playoffs seems to have packed up and headed east, aided in its departure by the reality that players and franchises don't exist in a vacuum and cannot completely control where they are when opening tip comes. In the time that has elapsed since April 18, 2010 Mehmet Okur has been on the sidelines, unable to return to his place in the lineup and the lineup in its mercurial way, moved on.
Factors that seem to stem from Memo's torn achilles have drastically altered the direction of the Utah Jazz (Kudos to David Locke and others who saw this a long time ago). If trading Ronnie Brewer was the original sin, Memo's injury all but cemented the Jazz's fall from grace. At the end of the 2009-2010 campaign, the exodus took shape. Boozer was gone. Korver was gone. Matthews was gone and almost a moment thereafter Sloan and Deron were gone too. Though Jerry is putting his feet up in Herriman, the majority of the old guard is starting this season east of the continetal divide. What began with Memo in 2004 seems to have ended with him tonight. The era of Jazz basketball marked by DWill to Memo pick and pops and Jerry stubbornly skulking the sidelines is finally, truly over -- there can be no doubt that all eyes in the Jazz front office are fixed firmly on the future with no intent to rekindle old flames.
Watch Memo at the top of his game
In his consistently unpredictable way, Kevin O'Connor has once again sent a Jazz man out the door with no warning and left the fanbase to vascillate endlessly between outrage, understanding, shock and nostalgia. It is the way things are done in Utah. Ronnie had to get off the plane, Deron was in the weight room when his name scrolled across the ESPN ticker and Memo got the call directly from Greg Miller the night after the final preseason game of this yet to be started season. No one sees these things coming (except, apparently, Billy King). We in "Jazz Nation" discuss the wisdom of a basketball decision only after the ink has dried.
Such will be the case for the trade of Mehmet Okur.
While the possibility of money balls raining down at Energy Solutions Arena again brings a smile to all our faces, that possibility has more value elsewhere, to another team for a spectrum of reasons I'm not qualified to speculate about.
So, while I will be lending my opinion to the sea of others on Twitter pontificating en masse in 140 characters or less about this trade, I really don't have any opinion to express here. Instead let me say this:
Two free agents set the stage for the draft selection of Deron Williams and the ascent of the Utah Jazz from the ashes of the Stockton/Malone era. One of those players was an opportunist seeking a paycheck and a comfortable spot in a starting lineup. The other was Mehmet Okur, who had just finished his second season in the NBA by becoming the first Turkish player to win an NBA title. Memo signed with the Utah Jazz in the summer of 2004 and was traded to the New Jersey Nets at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
Through seven seasons with the Utah Jazz the sharp shooting big man provided offensive energy, defensive rebounds, a three pointer you could set your watch to and a charmingly unkempt beard. He was kind to fans and popular with the media and his teammates. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Memo was tough. He played through injuries that sidelined some of the most hailed players on Utah's roster. He was a significant part of the Jazz's deep 2007 playoff run and a consistant contributer to the product that Utah put on the court night in and night out for several seasons.
He fought hard to come back from a torn achilles and though a back injury hindered his progress, the lockout lengthened offseason allowed him to rehabilitate and play serious competitive minutes overseas. At the end of the 2011 offseason he looked to be a significant part of the continued development of the new look Utah Jazz, and while that aspiration has been snuffed by the front office, Memo will doubtlessly be of great value to Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets recently without Brook Lopez.
His success inspired the Jazz's newest big man Enes Kanter to pursue his dreams of being an NBA center. It is no small bit of serendipity that Kanter will soon take the floor in the same lineup spot that Memo long occupied.
If there was ever a player who embodied Jazz basketball, it was Mehmet Okur. I imagine he will continue to embody Utah's ethic in New Jersey this year. The Nets are lucky to have him.
I can safely speak for all of us when I say he will be dearly missed.
Peace out Money Man.
I know, I know. It’s just the preseason right? Jazz fans will be the first to tell you not to put too much stock into the preseason. Last year the Jazz coasted through the exhibitions games with a 7-0 record, only to have one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history.
However, thanks to the lockout this preseason is a bit different. Not only is it cut down to only two games, but training camp was also cut short, giving Coach Corbin even less time to figure out lineups, rotations, and what his players were even going to give him. Regardless (insert Boozer joke), I’m doing a Preseason Player of Week.
As far as point guard play went, I wasn’t that impressed. Harris was far from perfect in the first game, as he struggled on both sides of the ball. He did look a little better in his second showing though, managing to shoot over 50% from the field and three-point land. Earl Watson continued to show why he is one of the top (if not the best) back up point guards in the NBA as he led the Jazz in assists while doing a good job on defense as well. Jamaal Tinsley, who is still in danger of being cut, didn’t make it into the first game. However he did look good in the second game, most likely good enough to be a third string point guard.
Jefferson struggled in the first game, but managed to bounce back in the second putting up a solid 15 and 9. Mystery man Enes Kanter looked much better than a lot of us suspected he would. The man was an absolute beast on the boards. He simply has a knack for getting the ball and does a great job at positioning himself to get it. The rest of his game wasn’t nearly as impressive, but you can’t expect much from a rookie who hasn’t played in two years.
This brings us to our first candidate, Derrick Favors. I can’t tell you how excited I am for Favors. Every time he checks in, I can’t take my eyes off him. Favors came off the bench in the first game and put up 25 and 12. Yeah you heard me right, he was flat out awesome. The thing is, he is doing this with just athleticism and instincts. He is only going to get better from here as he continues to learn the game. Favors’ biggest weakness, foul trouble, kept him from playing as much in the second game where he finished with 7 and 6.
None of our wings had amazing games, but Burks, Hayward, and Howard all had their moments and showed us why we are excited for them. However, CJ Miles did impress me quite a bit. The player who many fans have labeled as “inconsistent” was probably the most consistent player on the team this week. CJ scored 17 and 9 in the two games (respectively) while shooting 47% from the field, 40% from downtown and was perfect from the line.
Lastly, I can’t finish writing this without mentioning Jeremy Evans. Sadly enough, I don’t think Evans will be a starter in this league. However, I do think he can play a role as a major difference maker off the bench, something that he was able to do in both games. Jeremy was the only Jazz man with a positive +/- in the first game (+3) and had the second highest in the next game (+5). Oh, and this too.
I won’t lie, preseason or not this was a very hard decision for me. So without further ado…
Player of the Week (Preseason Edition)
Derrick Favors 16 pts, 9 rebs
*Runner up: CJ Miles
*Special Mention: Jeremy Evans
The other day I took a look at the best of the Jazz's debut. Now the two-game preseason is over and Ty Corbin played all 13 healthy players at his disposal in Game 2 of the compressed preseason sched, so let's tally up, shall we?
In the previous post, because of such a small sample size, we looked at particular players' numbers adjusted for 36 minutes, the typical starter's playing time in a game. In this excercise we'll simply total everyone just to see where we stand. It's pretty easy to get an idea of what those numbers would have been in a typical game from what we have. And remember, Nate McMillan played his starters and rotation as if the two games were a regular season burn.
"(Att)" designates the number of attempts
Bold designates team high
*Mehmet Okur was traded to the New Jersey Nets literally while I was in the middle of collecting his stats for this exercise (right after I'd written his free throws and before I'd gotten to his rebounds). He netted a total -16 +/- in the two preseason games
• Although Devin Harris' 3-point FG numbers don't stand out here, he's actually shot the 3-ball as well as he ever has while in a Jazz uni. In his games last season he matched his career best mark for any team in his seven-year career, a respectable .357. 35% is the cutoff between what's considered a good and not-good 3-shooter.
• Rookies Alec Burks and Enes Kanter shot woefully, to put it nicely, but found other ways to contribute and neither ever really appeared out of place at the NBA level. Those FG percentages will come up eventually to acceptable levels as they figure out how to score at this elite level.
• Gordon Hayward, on the other hand, struggled mightily while logging the most minutes and tied-for-fouls and turnovers of any player. It was as if, like all of us, Ty Corbin kept expecting him to shake it off and explode at any time. He looked like a completely different player this season than last, and not in a good way.
• CJ Miles has been maligned his entire career as inconsistent. Ironically, he was by far the most consistent player for the Jazz in preseason and steadily filled the team's stat sheet a variety of ways. Of note is his willingness to get to the free throw line where he didn't miss and while it isn't bolded, Miles' 3-point shooting was overall the best effort from the arc. His overall 47% FG percentage from the floor is a very good mark for a wing player, and above average. Gotta address that foul rate though, my friend.
• Favors' numbers are a little deceiving as he did the vast majority of his work in Game 1. He padded the totals a bit in Game 2 as a starter, but not by much. Still, the level of his raw talent and strength is staggering and once he learns how to use it to his advantage against starting-caliber NBA'ers as well as he does versus second units he will be one the most unstoppable forces in the league since Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. The 67% from the FT line is a 7% improvement over last year.
• Al Jefferson didn't shoot well, but to be fair he didn't look to as much, tying for a Jazz team-best three assists in Game 2 and finding himself with a hot potato at the end of a couple shot clocks where he still managed to see a portion of the ball go down before it would pop back out. He also got out front on a number of fastbreaks, something he's never been capable of before in his career. As that sore hammy heals up his numbers should do what they always do; get penciled in nightly, or better.
An additional word on Jeremy Evans that should leave you with a dunkface:
Evans was the only Jazzman that played in both games to net a positive plus-minus, a +8 in his 30 minutes. In my last column I waxed somewhat philosophically that "in hindsight, maybe he should have started against Gerald Wallace. Certainly, his body type and athleticism matches up much better," hoping against hope that "Ty Corbin recognizes at some point that Evans is always a +/- and stat-monster leader in his extremely limited playing time and gives him a bump in the rotation so we can find out once and for all if his off-the-chart numbers translate in appropriate matchups."
I got my wish.
Evans doubled-up in minutes in Game 2 compared to Game 1 and drew the matchup he was best suited for in the critical 4th quarter stretch. And won it.
Check out the 4th quarter gameflow from PopcornMachine.net. Mouse over a stint to see the player and what they accomplished in it.
The Utah Jazz have traded Mehmet Okur to the New Jersey Nets for a second round draft pick and a trade exception. Here is the official press release from the Utah Jazz. This opens up 10.8 Million in cap space, which allows the Utah Jazz to sign another player or room to sign another player. This also tells Enes Kanter what the Jazz think of him (via Lockedonsports). Here is a link to Mehmet Oku'rs career stats via Basketball Reference. More to come...
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press via Deseret News
The Utah Jazz's preseason debut was something less than stellar, so here's a snap-take by the numbers, by the best of position. Coach Ty Corbin did a lot of unusual experimenting, so what follows is per-36 minute production from last night in the Rose Garden in Portland versus the Trail Blazers, with one exception, as you'll see.
Best PG Play
• Devin Harris: 15 pts, 5 asts, 3 rebs, 5 stls, 8 TOs
• Earl Watson: 7 asts, but only 10% FG shooting
Barely even serviceable levels. The Jazz will need a lot more from the point to do anything besides obtain lottery balls this season.
Best SG Play
Bell v. Hayward
• Raja Bell: 10 pts, 67% FGs, 2 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls, 4 TOs, 6PFs (Personal Fouls, not Power Forward, not Practice Facility... #BTS'd)
• Gordon Hayward: 7 pts, 29% FGs, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl, 3 TOs, 1 PF
The problem here is as much what was given up on defense as what was done on offense. Wesley Matthews scored 7 points in the first 6:00 on Raja to lead all. We all expected more on D from him and as much on offense from Hayward, who played 33 minutes and showed very little even against Portland's 2nd and 3rd units. As is the case with the PGs, if we could combine the best of both worlds into one player the Jazz would be lookin' good.
Best SF Play
• CJ Miles: 18 pts, 2 rebs, 60% FGs (this is a BIGGIE), 6-6 FTs, 4 TOs, 8 PFs
Eight fouls! Here is the aforementioned exception. As CJ would have fouled out we must now readjust his production to account for it.
• CJ Miles: 13 pts, 3 rebs, 57% FGs (still much improved), 4-4 FTs, 3 TOs, 6 PFs
Will we ever get Complete CJ? Last night's CJ was the utter opposite of last season's CJ. Last year he scored inefficiently but contributed everywhere else. Last night he scored very efficiently and contributed almost nothing else. So strange. His getting to free throw is an important improvement he began last season, and it appears to be carrying into this one. That is key to his success and nice to see.
Best PF Play (I don't really have to, do I?)
• Derrick Favors (duh!): 31 points, 15 rebs, 3 asts (LOVE THIS), 1 stl, 3 TOs, 1 PF
While Favor Fav was on another planet as the rest of the team, 99% of his production still comes from sheer athleticism and strength. When/if he develops an actual polish the sky's the limit for this dynamo.
Best C Play
• Al Jefferson: 14 pts, 6 rebs, the Jazz's lone block as a team, 4 TOs, 2 PFs
• Enes Kanter: 11 pts, 18 rebs, 9 O-rebs (Holy... as advertised), 7-7 FTs, 4 TOs, 2 PFs
This is a disappointing showing for Big Al. It's far below his production capabilities which should have gone up after his summer and fall of daily work at the P3 facility. He did take full responsibility for the team's awful start though, so let's hope it translates better in future contests. The defensive rotations were atrocious.
As for Kanter, he looked and played just about how most of us realists had expected: Really amazing on the glass and hardworking, but had trouble scoring in the paint and looked lost on defense, at times rotating away from his man with the ball leaving a wide open offense for the opposition. While his weaknesses were on display, so were his strengths, those being rebounds and getting to the free throw line. Most of his scoring for the foreseeable future will come from the line and O-rebs.
One last note on Enes: He shook off the nerves nicely, a concern many had.
Best Utility Man
• Jeremy Evans: 32 pts, 11 rebs, 11-14 FTAs (79%, a major improvement for him), Jazz's only player in the plus on +/-, at +3.
Elevator Evans (nod to @AllThatAmar) was the MVP of small sample sizes last season, and not just on the Jazz, but also a leader in the category in the NBA, and looks to be once again. In hindsight, maybe he should have started against Gerald Wallace. Certainly, his body type and athleticism matches up much better than Okur, while we're in the beakers and Bunsen burners stage anyway. Hopefully Ty Corbin recognizes at some point that Evans is always a +/- and stat-monster leader in his extremely limited playing time and gives him a bump in the rotation so we can find out once and for all if his off-the-chart numbers translate in appropriate matchups.
I’ve been a Utah Jazz fan for roughly two thirds of my life, nearly a quarter of a century. However, basketball, in particular the NBA, was never watched in my house. My dad wasn’t really into a lot of sports. It was BYU football and that was about it. Sports wasn’t a priority.
High school came around and basketball started to become something of an interest for me. I would play in the occasional pickup or church ball game. I would attend all of the high school basketball games. I even remember watching a handful of Jazz games with my friends. But even then, I really wasn’t an avid Jazz fan.
It was at the age of 19 that the NBA started having an effect on me. Michael Jordan was at the height of his career. I remember watching the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns in the ‘93 NBA Finals. I wanted so bad for Barkley, Ainge, Johnson and company to win that title. But it was absolutely amazing to watch Jordan.
By the time the ‘95-’96 Jazz season came around, basketball and the NBA were becoming a part of my life.
I was glued to the TV during the playoffs watching the Jazz and Sonics in the ‘96 Western Conference Finals. I was heartbroken, deflated, as Karl Malone missed those late free throws in what would be a decisive game seven, sending the Sonics to attempt the impossible task of beating Michael Jordan and the hungry, rejuvenated, record setting Chicago Bulls in the Finals.
The following season is where I really started watching extensively. That year was the start of something special. I remember vividly sitting on the edge of my seat the night the Jazz ignited a 34 point comeback win against the Denver Nuggets.
I was becoming a basketball junkie. I would tune into the radio and listen to David Locke every day, hanging on his every word, as if my whole day depended on anything Jazz basketball related.
It was eat, drink, and sleep NBA basketball 24/7. Especially in the Playoffs.
I was downstairs in my basement when Stockton orchestrated an unbelievable 4th quarter, culminating in “The Shot” to send the Jazz to their first finals appearance.
I was ecstatic! I was one of the few thousand who made the trip, at 3 am, to the airport to welcome them home that next morning. I was geeked out!
The following year was where it all finally came together. The 64 win season. Home court advantage throughout the playoffs. It was also when my first opportunity to go to a game came. It was the Western Conference Finals ‘98 game one vs. the LA Lakers. What an experience! Where had this been all my life? I had never experienced anything like it! An electric atmosphere! It made me hungry for more. If this is what the NBA is like then I want to be a part of it.
Back then KJZZ hosted a nightly playoff show at the Delta Center. I grabbed a friend, got all painted up in Jazz colors, made a sign on poster board and headed down to the arena. They were giving away tickets to game one of the NBA Finals vs. Jordan and the Bulls to the craziest fan.
My buddy and I intended on winning...and...we did.
Game one was even more electric than the LA series had been. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but it ended in a win and I was excited. I wanted more. And I would get my chance sooner than I had anticipated. A friend had two tickets to game six of that same series. I was ecstatic!
Game six was incredible. The most intense game I had ever been to. You could feel the anticipation of every fan in the arena that day. I had not been to a spectacle like this...ever.
I witnessed the greatest basketball player to ever lace up hit a game winning shot against my favorite team. It was deflating and yet incredible!
That single game, single shot, single playoff experience left the most indelible impression on me. It defined me and shaped my future as a basketball fan. I was baited, hooked and reeled in like a prized trout. The NBA had itself a new fan.
And so...here I am 13 years later enjoying it as much now as I did then.
I love the NBA.
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Yesterday David Locke(@lockedonsports) sent out a Tweet with the probable starters, pulled from the Jazz media guide, listed as Hayward, Harris, Jefferson, Bell, and Okur. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that most every Jazz fan’s response was, “Hmm”. Hours of debate ensued as we wondered about the pairing of Big Al and Memo.
Well, the truth about the situation is this: Jazz coach Ty Corbin has yet to solidify his starting lineup and its possible that he may set the lineup based on the opponent throughout the season. In this case, the Blazers have Camby, Matthews, Wallace, Batum, and Felton listed as the starters in their media guide. Anything stick out? They will be fielding (courting? Not courting that sounds weird) a very small lineup. Though this will create a problem for the Jazz big men in that their counterparts are significantly faster, it will provide a good test for the team defense. The Blazers backcourt of Matthews and Felton doesn’t possess significant athletic ability, so Devin Harris and Raja Bell are more than capable of keeping their men from penetrating the paint and getting easy baskets. Should these guards be in a position where they are ran off their man by any combination of screens or picks, Gordon Hayward has enough size and speed to switch or clog the passing lane to allow his teammate to recover. If the screened Blazer does manage to make it into the paint, the size of Al and Memo will create problems in making a short pass in traffic, as well as attempting to go up and over the Jazz defenders.
This also creates a huge advantage on the offensive side. The low post game of Al Jefferson would be absolutely overwhelming for Batum or Wallace, forcing Nate MacMillan to cover Al with Marcus Camby. This decision makes for an equally favorable matchup for the Jazz as Memo, stationed either at the elbow or free throw line extended, would force the smaller forwards to close out any potential shot, giving Memo the choice to drive the lane for a high percentage shot, dish to Al if Camby rotates, or hit a slashing Hayward or Harris coming from the opposite side, both of whom are very good when finishing at the rim.
While the offensive advantages created by this particular front court lineup are apparent, it is the defensive synergy between these two big men that will be scrutinized by fans and the Jazz coaching staff. Though it is highly unlikely we see these two starting any significant number of games, it’s not hard to imagine them being part of one of the Jazz’s better 5-man rotations.
5. Utah Jazz
Young stud? Maybe | Cap situation? Getting there. | Likely lottery picks? One (Golden State)
I know what you're thinking: how can the Nets and Warriors not be on this list but the Jazz can? It's a fair question given that they have two near All-Star veterans in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. But the Hornets just copied what the Jazz did last season with Deron Williams: trade the superstar for rebuilding pieces. And I'm not convinced that Jefferson and Millsap aren't next on the list. Not with promising bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings and a host of contenders looking for scoring on the block.
Record-wise, this is a rebuilding organization, too. Forget the final split -- the Jazz were an atrocious 8-17 following the Williams trade. That's a 26-win season translated to a full 82 games season. (I know, who plays 82 games anymore?) The Jazz have a base reinforced with promise in Kanter and Favors and they could be ready to crash the playoff scene in 2013-14.
Their books will be wide open after 2012-13 -- sooner if they unload Devin Harris and their bigs in the near future. The Jazz may be No. 5 on this list right now, but they could be No. 1 by season's end. The seeds are planted.
From Tom Haberstroh ESPN INSIDER...
I have to be honest, I think we are one or two trades away from turning things completely around. I don't know who, but I like the idea of trading Millsap and CJ for a pick and a proven two. I would imagine that during draft time we could trade our first round picks and a player to move up into the top three or four. So we trade our 7 and 11ish picks (assuming we get our 11 and GS's 7) and Jefferson/Millsap to Washington for their two or Sacramento's three pick. Obviously these are just hypotheticals. Just some quick thoughts on the above information.
"The Show" is on his way. In case you missed all of the stories and interviews over the past couple of days here they are.
SI.COM Zach Lowe Interview. Interesting to note that O'connor was the only one at the workout with Josh and his trainer. For me I would feel much better if the coaches/assistants had some imput on the situation.
Interesting that Josh Howard chose Utah over SA and Was.
As a Utah Jazz fan, I know how we treat our players and that we have a culture of winning, I think those are the pluses. San Antonio has a very similar situation, so why did Josh Howard choose Salt Lake over San Antonio ( I don't feel that WA was a real option)? I don't know the real answer, but here are some guesses. Over the past 20 years or so Utah's system has made good players look great, ok players look good, and bad players look ok. I think Josh wants to move up a level and get one last 3-4 contract before he retires. I don't know if he has alterior motives or what, only time will tell.
Coming to Utah from Josh's site.
From the Washington Post...
Basketball John's thoughts via SLCDUNK
Jazz ready to give Howard a second chance. Standard Examiner
Trib on Risks and Rewards