The Significance of CJ Miles by Jake Jeppsen
The NBA is a league rife with love for its superstars. The big names are lauded, praised almost daily. With that fame comes attention. Their moves – on and off the court – are analyzed, scrutinized and become front page headlines for the masses. Their decisions can leave lasting impressions about their character, sometimes damaging.
Importantly, these impressions become what we expect of our superstars. LeBron’s “Decision” debacle last summer, Melo’s mile high meltdown this season, as well as various player trade demands. It takes time – days, months, even years – to repair that damage. It takes time to forget.
But what about those players who’s light glows a little dimmer in the public eye? Though not in the spotlight as frequently, nor talked about nightly by mainstream media, these players leave impressions as well. At times, we have a tough time shaking our preconceived notions of them, too.
I give you Exhibit A for this experiment: CJ Miles.
Miles has had to fight for his right to prove himself under Sloan’s tutelage. Likewise, he’s had a difficult time winning over certain sections of Jazz fans. And while many are finally starting to come around, it hasn’t always been this way. Branded as immature, undisciplined and streaky, Miles is trying to change the perception of his character.
And like his superstar counterparts, he may find that time heals all wounds. Because fans have a hard time forgetting. And winning cures everything.
CJ Miles is in his 6th year as an NBA player, all with Utah. Though only 23 years old, Miles has had his fair share of minutes here, though rarely in consistent fashion. For the first three years, he spent time in and out of the starting lineup and sporadically off the bench, struggling to find consistency.
Coming into 2010-11, Miles most significant year was 2008-09, where he was essentially handed the reins to the starter role as a 21 year old. Starting all 72 regular season games he appeared in, Miles also nearly doubled his minutes per game over the previous year (22.5 vs. 11.5). He nearly doubled his points per game (9.1 vs. 5.0) and rebounds per game(2.3 vs. 1.3) all while shooting a career high 88% from the free throw line.
Things were definitely looking up. Patience and persistence had prevailed. Then, ANOTHER setback.
Miles missed the first 6 weeks of the season nursing ligament damage to his thumb. In his absence, an unknown, undrafted rookie named Wesley Matthews was given “his” minutes. Matthews story is history, as they say, and Miles was seemingly at square one yet again.
Then, in a mid-season trade, Ronnie Brewer was sent to Memphis. In March, Andrei Kirilenko suffered a nagging calf injury that would keep him out of regular playing time for the remainder of the season. And it was then that Miles seemed to just…click.
His demeanor had changed. His desire ratcheted up. The Miles and Matthews combination was quite literally the x-factor in the first round playoff series against a tough Denver Nuggets squad. And it was CJ instigating the hunger for pesky defense with his “Go Get That Ball” initiative for his teammates (a friendly, yet fierce, inter-team competition for steals and deflections). A new leaf was turned, encouraging us to be ready for next year.
2011 was going to be a new season. The old cast had exited stage left. No Boozer. No Korver. And most significantly for CJ, no Wesley Matthews. Yet Miles would still find himself in a peculiar position: coming off the bench. And while his game was looking up, Jazz fans would kick off the season still not knowing which CJ to expect.
Would we see the hungry, dedicated one we saw towards the end of last season? Or would this be the streaky CJ whose minutes were never guaranteed, nor totally efficient?
I guess right now would be a good time for me to interject this next thought. On one hand, it’s easy to look at CJ’s unusual case and say, “He’s in his sixth season. He should be in his role by now, consistent and solid. He’s reached his ceiling. It’s time to move on….” A few Jazz fans have drawn this conclusion and suggest their patience for this project has run out. On the other hand, however, you have to remember – CJ Miles is only 23 years old and been “saved” for this moment. His career to this point has been an up and down journey. Yet his career minutes played have hardly taken a toll on his body. You could argue, though, that they have taken a toll on his psyche.
But CJ is ready for his moment, even if it is 6 years later. He’s matured. He’s accepted his role. And he’s relishing it.
As Utah’s sixth man, he is making an impact. Miles is averaging a career high 12.2 ppg in 23 minutes. And for all the drama currently being discussed regarding the starting 5, CJ is offensively anchoring a second unit that has, on more than one occasion, resuscitated a lifeless Jazz team back to life. His mind is in the right place, a good place.
A fan favorite on Twitter (@CJMiles34), he is never shy to share his thoughts on his most recent performance, good or bad. In fact, some of his worst showings have led to some of his most honest, vulnerable moments. And not just on Twitter either. In the locker room with reporters, in the blogosphere, in the papers, too.
And it was a down moment like this last week, in fact, that exemplified for me everything CJ Miles has come to represent for the Jazz. Honesty, maturity and resolve.
The season had been kind to this point for CJ, but for some reason in Memphis last Friday, the wheels seemed to fall off a bit. He played just 9 minutes, his second lowest of the season, recording 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 2 fouls in an ugly loss to the Grizzlies. Most confusing was his substitution back into the lineup for the game’s final 26 seconds after sitting nearly the entire 2nd half. Afterwards, he didn’t sulk. He talked about the importance of being prepared to be called on at any time.
He showed maturity.
Since that game, he’s shown the resolve of which I speak. Knocked down, but not out as evidenced by his past 3 games: 20 ppg on 60% shooting while shooting 42% from behind the arc during most importantly, a 3-0 stretch for the Jazz. All this coming after serious questions were being raised regarding which direction Utah’s season was headed. And while other in his draft class are reaching or have reached there their peak (great research by Clint Peterson, @clintonite33), CJ is hitting his stride at a very young age.
For those who have difficulty letting go of the past, now is a great time to allow CJ Miles to leave a new impression. Time heals all wounds and he is coming into his own as an important piece of this Utah Jazz team.
Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by what may be outdated opinion on the matter.
CJ Miles is getting it done, inside and out. So do yourself a favor: Look a little closer and see what many of us have been witnessing all season. This is the CJ Miles we hoped for, that Jazz brass believed in and that is getting results in impressive fashion.
UTAH JAZZ (26-13) vs. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (8-30) Game #40 • Home Game #22 • Energy Solutions Arena • SALT LAKE CITY January 14, 2011 • 7 p.m. (MT) • TV: FSN Utah RADIO: 1320 AM KFNZ/B98.7 FM and 1600 AM ESPN DEPORTE
Joey Graham (right quad strain) – OUT,
Daniel Gibson (left ankle sprain) – OUT,
Leon Powe (right torn meniscus) – OUT,
Anthony Parker (low back strain) – TBD,
Anderson Varejao (torn peroneus longus tendon in right ankle/foot) – OUT,
Christian Eyenga (right ankle sprain) – QUESTIONABLE
Every once in a great while you will run into something that is a sure thing. It may be a certain kind of tool that you know will help you build shelves in your garage, or even a person that you meet that you know compliments your personality. The Utah Jazz have that on Friday night; a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coming off of a 55 point blowout, in which they only scored 57 points, the Cavaliers will come limping into the ESA only to be finished off by the streaking Jazz.
Now, I say "streaking" because the Jazz are coming off back-to-back wins; something that hasn't happened in ages it seems. I believe that the Jazz have actually been playing some of their worst basketball of the season. Their lack of hustle, rebounding, scoring, blocking out, playing defense, and intensity has left me across the line into the pessimists territory; a place that I am not totally familiar with.
However, this game against the Cavaliers is as close to a "gimme" as you can get in this league. I made the comment in the Utah Jazz Podcast this week that if the Jazz come out and lose this game, all the hope I had left for a successful season will have vanished. The team that looked like it could beat anyone in the league, anywhere in the league, will be a thing of the distant past.
Without King James Lebron or Duscheland, the team that had once stood near the top of the league has now withered into exactly where they were before Lebron was drafted. They lack the star power and talent that it takes to win basketball games at this level. Their point guard Mo Williams (once a Jazzman) has been left with an unrealistic scoring expectation and the components that were traded for to get Lebron "over the hump," (Jamison, Parker) have now shown that their individual abilities are lacking in a team without a superstar.
I don't want to make any declarations about this game, like I will bet my life or house or kids on this game...but I would pretty much bet anything else that the Jazz pull this one out. Deron Williams should be able to do anything he wants and if Millsap and Al don't both have double-doubles, I would think that something had gone horribly wrong. In fact, this might be a great game to get Hayward and Evans some more game experience. If they foul out, I wouldn't mind a few minutes of garbage time. I mean, my back has been feeling better lately and my ankle, I can tell, is hovering around 90%.
Here is a little piece of art that Jeremy Evans did on his Ipad. For in honor if his hopeful playing time tonight.
Cleveland's Side of the Story @StepienRules.com
Utah Jazz VS. New York Knicks
UTAH JAZZ (25-13) vs. NEW YORK KNICKS (21-15) Game #39 • Home Game #21 • Energy Solutions Arena • SALT LAKE CITY January 12, 2011 • 7 p.m. (MT) • TV: FSN Utah RADIO: 1320 AM KFNZ/B98.7 FM and 1600 AM ESPN DEPORTE
Mehmet Okur – GAME-TIME DECISION (lower back strain
Danilo Gallinari Sprained Left Knee Out
Kelenna Azubuike Left Knee Surgery Out
History Lesson of the Night
On February 25, 1977 Pistol Pete Maravich dropped 68 on the Knicks here is the video
This is the first of two meetings this year. The Knicks started out very slow (3-9) but have since gone 19-6 and are now 22-15. They are in the middle of a four game West Coast swing, and will be playing their third game in four nights.
Utah is coming of another double digit comeback @ the hands of the Houston Rockets.
Matchup of the Night.
Deron Williams Vs. Raymond Felton this matchup goes back to the 2005 National Championship Game
The game will not be won by the outcome of this matchup, but i think it will be the most fun to watch. The game will be won in the paint and depend on the Amare Vs. Jefferson Matchup. Jefferson will have to have a big night and at the minimum a double double for us to compete in this game. The Utah Jazz bench will also have to make a very strong performance. The Knicks lead the league in ppg @ 107.56 , but also give up 106.3.
Deron and coach Sloan have both been quoted recently saying, "we need to run more". Well nothing will get you running more than a New York Knicks team with the D'Antoni. The Jazz will be forced to run tonight, in fact ,they may get run out of the building. The Jazz will have to start strong to stay within striking distance. The Knicks will give up leads and well, the Utah Jazz can come back so.
Deron had 15 assists against the Rockets the other night, In order for us to win he will have to have 15 or more assists. I think he could end up with over 20.
Jimmy- The Jazz will change everything for me if the can win in a normal fashion. Including his sex.
Craig- Big Al MUST have a bigger defensive game than offensive. The Jazz can't afford to get into a shootout with NY. One last thing...I want the Jazz to draft JIMMER!
Brendan - Amare will go off for a ton(literally 2000 points). The Knicks will score over a 100. I really have a hard time seeing the Jazz score enough to win.
Spencer- Jazz are 6 point favorites and the over under is 211 both seem off to me. I imagine that this is mostly due to the Knicks back-to-back. The optimist in me thinks we win this game @home in a running match. However, the realist in me thinks that we come out flat on 4 days rest and lose by 12 106-98