Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Poll! Which young, non-starter is most likely to be 'the talk' of Training camp this season?

This is a new poll, and you have until NOV 1st to make your voice heard! Which of these guys is most likely to be the talk of training camp this season? Vote on the right hand side thingy . . .

Paul Millsap, PF/SFC.J. Miles, SG/SF
Paul boxes out Ceejay is looking for an opening this season
Kyrylo Fesenko, CKosta Koufos, C/PF
Fess dunks on KorverKoufos has balls
Morris Almond, SG/SFOther, ???
Mobe makes space . . . Other . . .

Which team will win the NW Division Poll Results

You guys voted, and by "you guys" I mean 44 people. That said the results are IN!

  • Minnesota did not receive a single vote, and finish with 0%
  • Denver came in 2nd last with only 2 votes
  • Oklahoma City somehow beat Denver, with a grand total of 3 votes
  • Portland had 5 total votes, for 11% of 'the' vote
  • Winning the division will be the Jazz with 34 out of a total 44 votes, and 77% of all votes

This was a dumb poll. Sorry guys, next one will be better, I promise . . .

not pictured: North West Division Banner

Information Overload . . .

With the Camp in Boise going on strong, the passage of media day, local (and by local, I mean local for the Jazz, not local for me) radio doing their thing . . . there is a lot of information that needs to be processed and presented.

Quincy feels my pain, over there on the right . . .

Anyway, I'm actually most surprised by the fact that there haven't been any stories about Kyrylo Fesenko changing his hair style . . . but quickly, Harpring is out . . . Locke is embedded (like Geraldo) . . . Kosta knows not to sit in Jerry's seat . . . no one wants to talk about next off season (and contracts) just yet . . . everyone is happy to have CJ back . . . and Andrei laughs at stupid internet rumors. Memo also shaped his beard a bit, I kind of wanted to see him rock the mountain man this season. More info to follow . . . man, I can't believe that it's October already . . . where did the off-season go?

Ay yi yi . . .

YouTube Tuesdays! Jerry Sloan's Summer

Jerry Sloan -- love him or hate him -- is still a good quote. It's all jokes now (Fesenko should ask him if he wants to be a coach or a clown), but he does make some good points. The Jazz need to win on the road, and they need to play defense. Utah is a great offensive team (no one thinks it, but look at the stats), the other side of the ball is a whole different story. Anyway, here's Sloan talking about his summer, about the benefit of being old (you can be lazy) and about how his wife stays in the kitchen. Additionally, he also swears in this. So it's basically Jerry Sloan, as usual.

Coach Jerry Sloan talks about the summer [1:43], uploaded by OfficialUtahJazz, so thanks guys!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Things to look for this season: Jarron Collins

We'll get to Jarron in a minute, but first we have to look at how we got to Jarron in the first place. Jarron is a product of the Utah Jazz scouting team and has developed during his entire career as a product of our system. This, invariably, causes a player to have more relative value in our system, than in any other. (Look a guys like Greg Ostertag, Bryon Russell, and countless others) He would have a hard time finding a spot on another team -- especially with the suggestion that refs will call flopping more seriously this season. What is Jarron Collins? He's a 6'11 molasses footed center who does not rebound, does not play defense, and does not play offense. Really, he is only good at the mental aspects of the game -- pretty much the only things he has done right on the court have been to flop, and get offensive fouls called on Shaquille O'Neal back in the day -- which would make Shaq frustrated, and have him make more mistakes down the road. If we were smart, we'd get rid of him. We just may get that chance as Jarron is in the last year of his insane contract extension that he got a few seasons back -- insane in that he got one in the first play. During this 2008-2009 season Jarron Collins will make approximately $2,074,302. (More than double what Paul Millsap expects to make this season.)

I have many leather bound books . . .

There are several obstacles which prevent us from making a clean break from Jarron though. First of all, he's pretty much well liked by the rest of the team. He's like the token nerdy/smart guy that you keep around when you are having trouble with your Digital Video Recorder, or when you need someone to set up your wireless Internet at home. Heck, he's a member of the Kappa Alpha Order . . . how do you replace someone like that? Most likely the same way that we got him -- through scouting, drafting and developing his replacements.

I've love to just let him walk, but if what we've done with Harpring is any example, he's probably going to get some ridiculous golden handshake deal for all of his services to the franchise over his career. He was drafted in 2001, and as a Rookie he started in 68 of the 70 games he played for the Jazz. He's going to turn 30 years old this season and has played in over 450 games for Utah. The first 5 seasons here he was averaging 20 mpg, and these last two he's hovered around 10 mpg. He has made a stink about this though. (Apparently the Internet cannot currently support my argument, but I've read it that he was unhappy with having his minutes slashed in half) That said, what are three things to look out for this season, from the man we affectionately call Tree?

  1. What you see is what you get: Jarron Collins does not improve, and actually, you can argue that he's only gotten worse over the past 7 seasons. He shot nearly a career low last season (43.9 fg%) and did manage to shoot a career low from the ft line (62.2 ft%). His rebounding numbers extrapolated over a 36 minute stint are 1.5 rebounds less than when he was a rookie. Collins is not going to improve vastly this season, one can only hope that his play continues to slide (in this, a contract season) that the Jazz Brass decide to just roll the dice on Kyrylo Fesenko, Kosta Koufos and Ante Tomic next season.
  2. Must work hard on transition: Do I mean he has to work hard running up the floor to get transition baskets? No, I mean he has to work hard on developing into a veteran coach in the locker room type of guy. He needs to hang out with Coach Ty Corbin quite a bit and find a way to tap his vast storehouse of NBA Lore and use it to teach younger players. Jeff Hornacek did not have to do any of this, he just retired and called it a career. Then he became a coach after. Collins probably still wants to earn an NBA paycheck for another few seasons . . . hence, the need to transition. By Drafting/Trading for three guys 7 foot and above in the past two seasons it's pretty clear that they aren't going to be hoping to keep Collins around as a player for the next 10 years.
  3. If he plays 70 games again this season, it is bad news: He played in 70 games last season. That is a lot games to go out and manage to grab a sum total of 116 rebounds, or score 118 points, or block 6 shots. 70 games, wow! That tells me a few things -- that for whatever reason, we had to use him and instead of playing Fesenko for 10 mpg, Kyrylo was sitting behind the bench in a suit. If guys like Koufos and Fesenko spend this next season with DNP-CD's and DNP-INJ's then it is bad news for the Jazz. Collins just isn't that good. And if he continues to play in games (stifling the development of our younger centers) then it just may very well mean that Kevin O'Connor is going to offer Jarron a contract next off season.
I don't even know what to write here . . .
If Jarron Collins isn't playing with Gordan Giricek in Europe next season, it means we are in deep trouble, Jazz fans . . .

Larry H. Miller on Locked on Sports [9.26.08]

Larry H. Miller comes back to 1320 KFan and talks with David Locke -- the 35 minute talk is over here, and they talk about everything from the whole Government Bailout; how it may impact the sports world (specifically the capsize in future years); some Jazz rumors; the exodus of NBA players going to Europe (like Josh Childress); and they make time to trash the New York Knicks a bit.

LHM and sonBailout . . .Masha, the twins and Andrei KOC talks about doing stuff . . .

Basically he did not know about the whole FAKE RUMOR of CSKA wanting Andrei deal, thinks that Kevin O'Connor is doing a good job, expects that all the players in contract seasons can be better placated by winning, and that his son is probably going to do a good job as the C.E.O.

Mark the Date: Oct 4th, 2008

Yes, this is my cousins' 27th birthday, but this is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the open scrimmage that will happen between the blue team and the white team -- live at the Delta Center Energy Solutions Arena. Doors open at 2:30 pm (mountain time) . . . aaaaannnnnnd . . . It's FREE!

I like how the Jazz franchise do this, I don't know if every other team has this for free or not, but compared to the spectacle that goes on for other teams, the Jazz have some room for improvement. Apparently there's a Q and A session where all the players are sitting in a row facing one direction . . . and then there's a scrimmage. (and the team that usually has the starting point guard usually wins, even back to the Stockton days) Other teams have the players dancing with the fans, rookie hazing (like they have the sing in front of everyone in the stadium, etc), and the fans get to enjoy themselves. I guess if you like watching Jason Hart drive into the heart of the defense then you pretty much leave happy. I can't say the same for everyone else . . .

Actually, this looks like Ronnie Price . . . sorry Jason!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flashback Friday: The 1988-1989 Utah Jazz

This 1988-1989 Utah Jazz team is historic for a variety of reasons. First of all, this team was the first in franchise history to win 50 or more games in a season. (They would win 51, a mark that the Jazz have equaled or bested 12 times since then) Second, they featured a 25 year old Karl "The Mailman" Malone who was coming into his own.

Bigger, Stronger, and Faster than Amare Stoudemire

[Tangent Alert: I hate all the hype Amare gets, if dude is so good and a beast why isn't he scoring 30 a game like Karl did? Karl Malone >>>>> Amare Stoudemire. For the record, all Karl did that season was score 29.1 ppg (51.9 fg%), go to the free throw line 11.5 times a game, average 10.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.8 spg and 0.9 bpg. What did the "Beast" Amare do at the age of 25? He got 25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.8 spg and 2.1 bpg.

Amare didn't even get to the FT line 10 times a game, or ever has in his 6 year career, Malone did it 3 times in his first 6 years alone.

Karl even shot better from the three that season (5-16 [31.3%] to Amare's 5-31 [16.1%])! So aside from blocks, his age 25 stats are owned by Malone at 25. And as for blocks . . . Karl was playing with Mark Eaton who sent back 3.8 shots a game "so yeah . . . think about it!" (read the 3rd one on that page to get this joke)]

Back to that Jazz team . . . aside from Malone becoming a force of nature, he also had some help from Eaton (previously mentioned as blocking 3.8 shots a game, but also getting 10.3 rpg on his own on his way towards being named and All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year); Thurl Bailey chipped in 19.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg; Griffith kept people honest on defense with his outside shooting (61 3pt made in an era where that would be one of the top totals for any player) . . . and this John Stockton guy had one of his several seasons that are arguably better than Steve Nash's MVP seasons. John would finish up with 1118 assists that season, a pretty average output for him, but still 221 more than Nash's best ever season. [I guess the whole Stockton vs. Nash thing is another tangent altogether . . . so just click here if you want to read an empirical analysis of their recorded effect on the game.] This season was also the last for Frank Layden, who would give the coaching job to Jerry Sloan 17 games into the season.

Goliath? Is that you? Griffith brings the ball up the floor Frank Layden orders three hot dogs and a beer
Mark Eaton blocks one in the All-Star game . . . one of his over 300 blocks that season. Due to Karl's development, 6'11 Thurl was often left posting up on small forwards . . . to the tune of nearly 20 ppg as the 3rd option. Dr.Dunkenstein's career was wrapping up, but he still had enough to average more than Kirilenko or Brewer did last season. Frank Layden was a more fun coach than any coach after him . . . or perhaps before him.

There are many reasons why the 1988-1989 Utah Jazz team could be called historic. There were many good things that happened this season:

  • This team had a coaching change during mid-season, and they were motivated and rejuvenated by having a young coach at the helm
  • They had some very talented players (three All-Stars, Bailey and Griffith) to offset an anemic bench
  • They won the Mighty Midwest Division Title for the first time with this core group (the first time in post-Dantley, post-Maravich era)
  • Last season they took the NBA Champion LA Lakers to 7 games in the 2nd round of the playoffs -- and scared them good.
  • The sky was the limit for this team that turn into a 'contender'

This is somehow not a foul . . .

That said, there is one reason why I find this team particularly interesting. This team, for all of their successes, took a step back after building so much momentum. Sure, three seasons later they would reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history (and reach there 5 times in the 7 successive seasons) -- but during this upswing in success the Jazz fell back down and were swept from the Playoffs in the 1st round. (Thanks Golden State!) This troubles me because right now the current Jazz franchise is experiencing a second upswing and a similarly linear progression . . . and it would really suck to have to go through those bumps and bruises all over again as a fan. (I've been emotionally invested in this team since the 1987 season, and am finally getting over all those 1st round losses)

I am even tempting fate here by even bringing all of this up right now . . . as our beloved Jazz are 'perhaps' (if history repeats itself) primed for a less than stellar playoffs? (After all, we did just play LA in the 2nd round of the playoffs 20 years after the first time it happened) Ultimately you have to look at all of the good things that happened this season and find them to be inconsequential when examined against a 0-3 playoff elimination in the 1st round to an underdog team with no bigs. The 1988-1989 Utah Jazz season was not a good one . . . simply because where they where and where they ended up fell below expectations. This Jazz team is even ahead of the curve because they've already been to the Western Conference Finals (2 seasons ago), while at this point 20 years ago, the Jazz were still three seasons away.

I wish for the best for the Jazz in this, and all seasons; but would really pray against another regression year. After all, there is no guarantee that our current window of opportunity as a contender will stay open for as long as the window we had 20 years ago.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Wow, I've posted 100 times so far on this blog. My initial thought was: "man, I'm such a loser". My secondary thought was that maybe I should do something special every time I break a multiple of 100. Honestly I thought that I'd have the time to post close to 50 things per month when I started as I had 42 posts in July, my first month posting, and I didn't make my first post until July 14th. I guess this is it, though . . . gotta make this post count . . .


What's going on in this picture?

Post your caption submissions in the comments section, the winner (decided by me) will get a prize. Don't be shy in offering up a caption, as the next time this will happen will be after post #200 . . . so we have a looo-ooong time before you'll get another shot at this.

Things to look for this season: Kyle Korver

Who is Kyle Korver? Let's just say that he's a white shooting specialist who is a product of growing up in the Midwest and going to a smaller program in a fly-over state who was picked up by the Utah Jazz in a pre-trade deadline trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Isn't that essentially the rap on Jeff Hornacek as well? The only difference is that Hornacek was an All-Star player (in the West, no doubt), and Korver is 3 inches taller and does less on the floor.

Kyle Korver doesn't need your dress code

When speculating on what the expect from Kyle this season I was reminded by what Jeff said years ago. He stressed how much of a difference it was for him, as a player in this system, to have at least one Utah Jazz / Jerry Sloan training camp under his belt. He was not so lucky when he first came to Utah in the middle of the 1993-1994 season, and had to basically play catch-up for the remaining 27 games (plus playoffs) of the season.

His familiarity, timing and production in the Utah Jazz system all improved from his first season to the next. Obviously part of this is just the fact that he's going to be better in a system after 120 games than after 40.

The beneficial effect of a training camp cannot be discarded either. So, let's look at the difference in play between that '93-'94 season and the 1994-1995 season:

The first (and probably most apparent) point is that Hornacek's mpg went up (30.6 to 33.3); so did his shot attempts per game (10.7 to 11.6); his field goal percentage also went up (50.9% to 51.4%); he also found out where in the offense to go to get three point shot attempts (1.6 threes attempted per game to 2.7); he got to the free throw line more (3.4 fta/game to 4.0) and ended up scoring more points per game (14.6 to 16.5). He also was able to understand the offense better to the point that he also recorded more assists (3.9 to 4.3). If you look at the end of season stats the difference from his total stats in Philly and Utah (1993-1994) vs. his first full season with the Jazz (1994-1995) are just silly -- 47.0 fg% to 51.4 fg%; 33.7 3pt% to 40.6 3pt% (46.6 the next season!!!); etc . . .

The Jazz offense is more complicated than any random fan will ever know, so complicated that a 30 year old player who has been an All-Star and in the league around a decade IMPROVES after having a Jazz training camp. It would be ridiculous to also expect Korver not to play 'better' and know the system better after a training camp. I don't expect Kyle to play 33 mpg, but I do expect him to know what he can do with his time better this season. That said, here's are three things to look out for this season:

  1. Expanded role in the offense in accordance with understanding it better: Hornacek was (and probably will always be) a much more talented and capable basketball player. (He used to start at shooting guard in Phoenix and was the back-up point guard for Stern's sake!) He had a really high basketball IQ (only Wade seems to make crazier layups after being fouled than the one legged Hornacek). Jeff still understood the offense better after training camp. Korver will also understand the offense better as well. Essentially the first real barriers have been overcome already -- early on when Kyle got the ball he felt pressured to shoot it. When asked why he answered that in Philly he had been conditioned to not expect the ball back after passing it. Things are different in the Jazz offense and he was surprised to see simple things like 'give 'n go's still existed here. He seems to understand that Harpring curl play, and knows how to stand in the corner waiting for the kick out pass, but he really hasn't found his legs in terms of finding guys who are open in return. If he could average over 2 apg in Philly he should be able to at least MATCH that here in Utah. (1.4 apg last season with the Jazz) More to the point, he can be the guy who passes the ball to the guy who gets the assist (what Hornacek was on a lot of plays) . . . training camp will help with this as he'll become a much more effective and cognitively aware Jazz player. His rep as a shooter is solid, why can't he pump fake a guy rotating to cover him, take two dribbles and pass to a cutter? His role in the offense needs to expand as his understanding of it does.
  2. Shoot smarter, thanks in part to training camp: I remember in the first few games after Kyle came to the Jazz that on breaks Deron would pass him the ball and he would just raise up outside of the three point line (no doubt causing sparks to go off in Jerry Sloan's pre-1960's basketball wired brain) -- just look in his first 20 games with the Jazz he was shooting 4.35 threes a game. Things did change as the season went on and in his last 20 games last season that was cut down to 3.2 a game. That does not mean that he was generally shooting less in total, but he was shooting smarter shots within the team offense. (In his last 20 games he still had a few games where he shot more than 5 threes, but this time around they came within the construct of the Jazz offense, instead of against the offense) Another factor is that as the season went on he rarely shot threes when there wasn't at least one Jazz guy in the paint to potentially grab the rebound. Before, in his first 20 games, he was a volume shooter who did not take 'smart' shots. I expect his shots to be even 'smarter' after a full training camp.
  3. Better team defense: Kyle is never going to be confused with Michael Cooper or Joe Dumars. That said, he's not completely hopeless on defense. His days playing one on one against Allen Iverson in Philly has taught him to sag off of quicker guards and stay in front of them. This is, really, fundamentally sound defense, as he tries to get in situations where he is beat off the dribble increasingly less. It still happens, but he does something that few guards really do. His 6'7 frame and lack of expected ability allow him to get a ridiculous number of weakside, stealth blocks. [0.5 bpg with the Jazz last season, tied for 3rd best on the team] Last season he had 9 games of at least 2 blocks. Really. Look it up. That includes games where he had 4 blocks against the Wizards, and 3 against the Nuggets. Furthermore, he'd have a lot more blocks but the score keepers are themselves so surprised that they do not even record some of his blocks as blocks at all! That said, he's not a great defender. He is fundamentally sound, long, and hopefully with the help of training camp, become a better team defender. And frankly, if you aren't getting better defensively after a Jerry Sloan training camp then you are incapable of getting better defensively. (I'm looking at you, Carlos!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things to look for this season: C.J. Miles

Ceejay had a newsworthy summer -- like last season, but even more absurd this time around. As a quick recap, C.J. opted not to play in the Rocky Mountain Review Summer League for the Jazz for the 2nd straight year (something which made life hard for him under Jerry Sloan the next season); the Jazz made him a restricted Free Agent anyway by offering him the minimum that they had to; he didn't sign that contract and played the waiting game; eventually Oklahoma City offered him a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract ($15 mill / 4 years); the Jazz then waited a full week; before finally matching the offer sheet, which it was concluded was dirt cheap. I can only hope that his 2008-2009 season will be more eventful than his off-season -- which really was 'much ado about nothing'. (He was a young RFA who was offered a pretty cheap contract for 4 years and was matched)

Jordan Farmar doesn't play defense on Shabbos The next step, now that he has some level of financial security (unless his financial planner is MC Hammer), is to actually work on getting that next contract after this one that he just signed. He does have his work cut out for him this season has he has to develop from a 'that guy who plays when we have injured starters' to 'that guy who always contributes'.

Sure, the Jazz have a legion of swingmen who can give other teams several looks:

  • Ronnie Brewer (6'7) -- starts at the 2, and can play 3
  • Andrei Kirilenko (6'9) -- starts at the 3, and can play 2
  • Kyle Korver (6'7) -- can play the 2 or the 3
  • Matt Harpring (6'7) -- can play the 3 or the 2
  • Morris Almond (6'6) -- can play the 2 or the 3
  • Paul Millsap (6'8) -- can play the 3
  • Ronnie Price (6'2) -- can play the 2

    But . . . there is only 96 minutes at the swing spots to give out to those guys -- and one other guy -- C.J. Miles. For him (or anyone) that's a lot of competition.

  • One thing that C.J. has going for him is that in his 120 game career (+8 in the playoffs), is that he just turned 21, and is the youngest out of that entire crew. Additionally, aside from Harpring and Kirilenko, he's been with the team the longest (this will be his 4th training camp with the Jazz). Essentially, he has the most NBA experience with the Jazz out of that younger shooting guard crew, while being the youngest.

    Another 'thing' that C.J. can be happy about is that the Jazz seem to do well in games where he actually starts (9 - 4 last season, 5 - 1 in the last 41 games of the regular season). In those games he has scored 11, 6, 7, 6, 8, 2, 7, 9, 2, 13, 4, 7, 29 -- which averages out to 8.5 ppg in 20 mpg. That's a nice improvement over his season averages of 5 ppg off of 11.5 mpg. He spreads the floor pretty well, and shot the ball at a very acceptable rate for a shooting guard last season: 47.9 fg%, 39.0 3pt%, 78.8 ft%. When extrapolated to playing 36 mpg he (statistically) becomes a 15.5 ppg scorer who also gets you over 4 rpg, nearly 3 apg, and nearly 2 spg. (And yes, for those who wanted to know, that's basically what Hornacek was giving the Jazz in those glory years) Should C.J. be playing 36 mpg next season, or even start for the Utah Jazz? Mostly definitely no, but he does have the tools to be a solid contributor.

    What are three things we should look for this season?

    1. Just be on the floor more -- Play in 75 games, and averaging greater than 13 mpg for the season should be a good start for Miles. His career has gone from 23 games to 37 games to 60 last season. The Jazz coaching staff should try to get him playing in almost every game by at least, the 2nd quarter -- after all, the Jazz Brass didn't sign him to a $15 million dollar contract just so he could continue collecting splinters on the bench. Kyle Korver can become a free agent, and really, the Jazz should focus on a guy like Miles who can become an okay defensive player instead of giving playing time to the pacifier that is Kyle Korver (he shuts up an immediate need, but may slow down progress in other areas).
    2. Be a better shooter -- Again, the main competition for playing time right now appears to be Kyle Korver. I do love seeing Korver knock down threes, but I do believe that the future can be Miles. In order for Miles to be on the floor more one of the things he needs to do is become a better shooter -- particularly from three and from the free throw line (two Korver specialties). For the majority of the season CJ was shooting around 43 % from three, but it tapered off as the season finished. He needs to finish above 40% to be considered a really good three point shooter. Additionally, as a guard he needs to be hitting above 80% from the free throw line. I'm not expecting him to become one of those 88-92 ft% shooters, but he needs to be better than Deron Williams for sure. (If he's not, then there's no point in having him in the game at the end of the game when the other team is fouling) If he's going to get playing time at all, it should be at shooting guard, and if he's going to get playing time at shooting guard, he has to be at least comparable to his competition there. He needs to be a high 40%/40+%/80+% guy. Right now he's a high 40%/high 30%/high 70% guy. Korver's career averages (5 seasons) are 40+%/40+%/high 80%. [With the Jazz last season Kover was a 47.4 fg%/38.8 3pt%/91.7ft% guy] For Ceejay to take some of Kyle's minutes, he's going to have to shoot that efficiently, or near to it.
    3. Continue getting better on defense -- One thing that Ceejay can get better at is on defense. He's only going to get increasingly stronger, and right now is miles (if you excuse the pun) ahead of Korver in terms of foot speed, quickness, lateral quickness and athleticism. For example, Korver plays more minutes per game, but gets less steals than Miles. At some point, Jerry Sloan is going to buckle and end up playing whomever can play defense better . . . and Miles has the tools to get better (especially when you factor in that he's only 21 and he's going into his 4th season in the NBA), Korver is going to be 27 by the time the playoffs roll around this season, and he's not getting any younger, or quicker. Eventually C.J. Miles should get better at defense (keep improving at his current rate, he doesn't need to make a quantum leap), and he should eventually start to play more regularly, and more minutes per game.

    Basically, what we need to look for this season is the continued improvement of CJ, he's a young player still, but he's not a rookie, or someone who doesn't understand the game. He's going into his 4th season, and as such, his expectations should be higher than that of someone like Morris Almond. Look for improvement, and if he is able to display said improvement, he should get more playing time. Deron Williams is a huge CJ fan and suggests that we should expect as much. [They were both picked by the Jazz in the 2005 NBA Draft, and both were raised and went to high school in Dallas, Texas]

    YouTube Tuesdays! Dee Brown Dreamin'

    Looks like Chris Paul's coach had to call a time out I think Dee Brown is a fantastic person, and he's a pretty good ball player as well. He was the prince back at Illinois (even though he was on the same team with Deron Williams and Luther Head). He then was drafted by the Utah Jazz, played very well as the season (and especially the playoffs) continued, did all the stuff the Jazz wanted (even spent part of his summer touring remote towns on behalf of the Utah Jazz, and played for their summer league team when he didn't have a contract) -- but didn't get a guaranteed contracted from them for his efforts.

    He spent a year playing in Turkey (at the behest of Mehmet Okur) and now has made it back to the NBA -- this time with the Wizards. I wish him all the best this season, he is a fan favorite wherever he goes. The D.C. fans will love him. Dee also writes and spends time in his recording studio when he's not playing ball . . . here is one of his tracks. (It's very positive)

    Dreamin' by Dee Brown

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Tangent Alert: sports figures ARE public figures

    I received an e-mail from the bloggers @ Hugging Harold Reynolds and they pointed me to their post on Sports Figures at the RNC. (If you don't know what the RNC is then you are just not 'there' enough to deserve to vote) Among those ex-jocks (or current jocks) who spoke was none other than Thurl Bailey. (Who had a great NCAA career and a solid NBA career for our Utah Jazz -- his life outside the game has been quite fulfilling as well for Bailey who is a pastor and member of the LDS, and was part of a great singing bible video where he plays the part of Goliath) This got me thinking . . . aside from how it is super de rigueur now to be politically active (e.g. black athletes saying that they are for Obama . . . riiiiight, because those guys feel the same way about his energy policy or ideas about stem cell research as he does) professional athletes have been relatively mum about issues for quite some time.

    Please buy my $hoes . . . i'm not very good as a GM

    Perhaps this is due to how these guys don't want to go out of their way and tell the world how they feel for fear of losing money somewhere down the line. LeBron James has a great platform to make some change in the world because of his fame and popularity, though he's been focusing on making money for Nike and Microsoft instead.

    (Quite similar to how Jordan was such an icon that he could have done so much more, but instead chose to party it up while selling shoes to make himself independently wealthy -- Julia Roberts gave more money to help with Katrina than he did, and she never sold one sweatshop created shoe in her life)

    The opposite happens to be people who talk too much, among this list are guys like Shaq (Kobe, how does my ass taste?), Ron Artest (who is smart, but not wise) and most recently, Josh Howard (who doesn't salute the flag). Sure, some guys like Charles Barkley can say anything he wants without people really being upset anymore as he's a caricature of who he used to be. While others like Rasheed Wallace are known by reputation alone, and his interview responses have been given with the cadence and passion of someone who had just had a full frontal lobotomy -- yet he is vilified in the press for his explosive expressiveness.

    That said, behind sports individuals being highly guarded now with what they say and do (thanks John Rocker!) the major issue appears to be a lack of desire to do what previous eras of sports figures were willing to do. Namely, be public figures.

    I remember watching those old NBA ads that were public service announcements, you may remember the ad of Mark Eaton talking about child abuse. I remember that one, and that was from back when sports figures were not afraid to actually take stands on things. Older guys, like Dikembe Mutombo, are concerned with the world that they live in and try to use sports as a starting point towards greater things. Few others look at sports as a launching pad, but rather a privilege that they use towards fame and wealth.

    Some guys like Kobe (with large conflict diamond in ear) and T-mac have spoken out about Darfur in recent months, though when someone less famous (Ira Newble) tries to actually do something that gets to the root of the problem, he gets the cold shoulder from the ever image conscious NBA. I guess the whole point is to avoid controversy, and in doing so, professional athletes are encouraged to avoid doing anything. That's like cutting off the leg to get rid of an infected toe. Which is a very safe, but ineffectual way to be a public figure.

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    The Utah Jazz, perpetual Rodney Dangerfields (prelude)

    Some kids don't know, so for the benefit of everyone born in 1980 and earlier, Rodney Dangerfield was a popular comic actor who is best known for the catchphrase "I don't get no respect". The NBA equivalent to him would be the Utah Jazz. Without getting too into it I wanted to post some screenshots from Operationsports.com which display the Utah Jazz roster for the upcoming console game NBA 2K9. Yes, it's a video game, and yes I can chance the stats whenever I wish -- but it's funny that the people who make the game seem to believe that Andrei Kirilenko has C+ athleticism, or that Jason Kidd is a better three point shooter than Deron Williams. It's almost as if they just made up the roster skills without even looking at box scores, or game tape -- the Jazz don't even get the respect of people making video games!

    Other interesting anomalies include Carlos Boozer being a better defender than Mehmet Okur (did these guys even watch them play?); Matt Harpring has a B- rating in perimeter defense; Morris Almond is better over-all than both Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Miles -- and Ronnie Price is better than all three (so I guess we know who should start at the 2 for us this season . . . ).

    click for full image

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    It's just a wonder how a team with such a crappy roster manages to win over 50 games, their division and a handful (more than 4) playoff games every season . . .

    David Thorpe [ESPN] on the Rookie class of 2008-2009

    ESPN's David Thorpe (you may know him from his work with IMG) evaluates a lot of talent. He ranks the Top 50 Rookies of each class and continues to update and revise this list over the course of the season. That said, two members of the Utah Jazz make it up this first, initial, list.

    All the way down (or up, depending on how you view him, and his 20% fg shooting 'display' during the RMR) is our own Kosta Koufos. Our big fat Greek draft pick (who isn't actually fat, and he was born and raised in Ohio) is a 19 year old 7'0 center with a sweet stroke who has significant upside. Thorpe explains that he is

    "Coordinated, but slow, with a good frame. Looks like he likes to face up and shoot, but his shot looks flat now. Does an excellent job absorbing contact on shots inside; keeps his shoulders square on finishes. His capacity for work is very high, so rapid improvement is a far expectation."

    Over all, this is a very positive review for a guy who is a few seasons away (at worst) from contributing to our team.

    Additionally, at #40 is our own international man of mystery, Tadija Dragicevic -- an apparently 22 year old Small Forward (6'9, 222 lbs.) who likes to shoot the ball. He's going to stay in the Adriatic League as far as I know, for a very long time, and I seriously doubt that Kevin O'Connor will treat him as anything more than just an asset in the near future. Thorpe's take suggests that Tadija is "a strong and offensive-minded forward who is likely staying in Europe." Can't argue with that, as all I know about him is that his defense is non-existent and that we're stashing him over there. That said, the Serbian has been called a 'Scoring Machine' by draftexpress.com . . . really, check it out here.

    That's it David . . . keep climbing the ladder . . . one day you will be the GM . . . Kobe, how does my ass taste?
    Some temp gets to use a different dry erase marker color every so often . . . this is one of those moments. Tadijilla-Drilla throws it down

    Andrei's agent denies stupid Internet rumor

    It is no secret that I think that rumormongering is pretty weak -- and discredits blogging and bloggers everywhere. Seriously, we're better than Peter Vescey, right? So I was aghast when I saw ballhype hyping up such a silly and insane rumor. In order for this deal to go down (AK to CSKA) a few giant leaps would have had to be made (like getting out of an NBA-Player's Association deal, or getting bought out for $50 million dollars, and so on) -- the largest being a leap in logic. Andrei wants to finish his contract here, he can always retired from the NBA later and play ball in Europe. Many European players have done so previously, like Sabonis or Marciulionis for example, retiring from the NBA, only to play another 5 or so seasons back in their home continent. Anyway . . . from the horses mouth really,

    "There's no question that they would love to have him," agent Marc Fleisher said of CSKA. "But to my knowledge, they haven't made any efforts this summer -- at least through me -- to get him, so I don't take it (the rumor) very seriously." (Mark Fleisher, via the Deseret News, 2008)


    Marc Fleisher works as an agent with EnterSport, and represents Andrei Kirilenko, Tony Parker, Mehmet Okur, Jerome James, Sean Marks, Willie Solomon and Nathan Jawai.

    Things to look for this season: Paul Millsap

    Essentially, what the Jazz brass end up doing with Boozer the next summer will -- on some level -- be dependent upon what Paul Millsap does this season. Either he's a potential starter at power forward who can be counted on to get a double double, or he's a glorified energy player who cannot sustain his level of play for 30+ mpg. I think that what we know of him suggests that he is either one of those people, and not a combination of the two.

    Paul Millsap wants to know if you are seeing anyone special right now?

    Here is what he gets done when he plays 27+ mpg (according to 2007-2008 seasons stats including playoffs):

    So, in 12 games where Paul has played more than 27 mpg he averages: 16.2 ppg (62.8 fg%, over 6 fta/game @ 68.9 ft%); 7.8 rpg (3.3 off); 2.4 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.9 bpg. That really is not too shabby for under 30 mpg of work. Especially not for a 2nd year NBA player who still doesn't get the respect from the refs on defense. In his rookie season he played 18 mpg and had 6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg and just around 1 apg, 1 spg and 1 bpg. In his soph season he upped his mpg to 20, and boosted his stats to 8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and similarly around 1 apg, 1 spg and 1 bpg. He is not going to be a great contributor, or even want to stay in Utah, if he continues to play less than half the game. And clearly, it's not like he is an inefficient player by any means, as he has a career fg% that's easily above 50% and when he plays heavy minutes his FG% averages out to be an insane 62.8 fg% (see above). Dude needs the minutes, especially in this pivotal year where the Jazz may have to make a decision about Millsap or overpaying Carlos Boozer. That said, what are the three key things that we have to look out for this season from Paul Millsap?

    1. Season averages of 25-28 mpg: Really, this should be a given, and don't tell me that there isn't enough time to go around, I've been playing with time and rotations for part of the summer, and I know there is. (Even if that means that Carlos Boozer gets some playing time as the back-up center) 12 games is only 15% of the entire season, but I think that the foul situation provided, he can be a key performer when playing more than half the game.
    2. Meeting Statistical Benchmarks: This part is easy to understand . . . there will be more confidence in his game over the season by the coaching staff and brass if he can meet certain statistical benchmarks. I know that they must have some for him, and I do not know what they are, so here are mine:
      1. 5 different games of at least 20 points;
      2. 3 different games of 10 FTA;
      3. 45 games total of at least a combined 1 block and 2 steals, or 2 blocks and 1 steal;
      4. 3 3PTM
      5. At least 240 minutes of 4th quarter action
    3. Use quickness on offense more: He's a beast of an offensive rebounder due to his quickness, and he makes good cuts and gets open for dunks because of it . . . however, he needs to be able to use his relative quickness (compared to other PFs out there) when he gets the ball on one-on-one moves. He has solid ball handling for a big guy (he's no Odom or Kirilenko, but he's no Larry Nance either), and he has a rudimentary cross over and can do significant damage when he faces up his opponent. I'd like to see him get the ball at the high post, face up his man, and drive on him -- ultimately resulting in him getting to the FT line a bit more.

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Flashback Friday: First 20 games of previous seasons

    As the trees change colors and all the snotty kids begin to learn their locker combinations at school the seasonal dynamics take another turn -- a turn towards the return of the NBA. Before you know it, it'll be opening night. The NBA schedule makers usually have to give the Jazz the short end of the stick (because our owner doesn't fancy home games on Sunday), and our last month of the season (April) the last few seasons have been absolutely brutal. That said, the Jazz usually start off strong in the first handful of games before taking a mid-season nose dive in December.

    Stockton and Malone's last stand In the 2002-2003 season Utah went 12-8 in the first 20 games of the season. Some of the boxscores were just flat out nutty on that team. For example, the first game of the season (a 100-75 loss to the New Orleans Hornets) had Malone lead the team with 20 points, had Mark Jackson lead the team in rebounds with 7, and Malone and Stockton led the team with assists with only 4 each. Malone led the team in scoring 11 times, Kirilenko 3 times, Harpring 4 times, Stockton 2 times and Ostertag 1 time. (The next few games were even crazier, including increasingly less scoring from Malone, and more from Kirilenko and Harpring, who would lead the scoring for the Jazz in 9 of the next 10 games.) Clearly it was a season of transition. By the start of January Malone had broken 30 points in a game once, and Harpring and Kirilenko did it a combined three times. That team finished the season 47 - 35 and was bounced from the playoffs in the first round by Sacramento in 5, Stockton and Malone's last game together.
    Karl left for LA this season, but he did teach Andrei some things in the time they shared together The next season (2003-2004) was the first season without John Stockton on our team since the early 80's. The Jazz started the season 11-9 and were led by the likes of Arroyo, Kirilenko, Harpring, Stevenson, Bell and Lopez. A mid-season trade for Gordan Giricek proved to be a smart move immediately as he helped the team with his scoring (24 points in a win against Detroit, 21 points in a win against the Lakers, 33 points in a win against Phoenix on the road, 25 in a loss to the Raptors, 19 in a win against New Orleans, 22 in a loss to the Spurs, 25 in a win against Memphis and 23 in a win against Houston -- all in the last two months of the season) on the way to a 42-40 final record. The Jazz barely missed the playoffs and this special shooting guard seemed to be a big part of that. (I wonder what happened to this guy who could go off for 20+ points on any given night?) Andrei was an All-Star this season, if I remember correctly.
    Carlos Boozer's first few seasons in Utah were a bit East/West, and not North/South in terms of progression That off season the Jazz front office had a free agent coup by signing Carlos Boozer (FA), and Mehmet Okur (RFA) to big money deals. The results of the first 20 games of 2004-2005 speak for themselves though: the Jazz went 9-11. This was the first time they were below .500 to start the season in quite a long time. The future looked bright for the Jazz as Boozer was scoring quite a bit (27 in the 1st game of the season, and win against the Lakers; quickly followed by games of 30, 34, 27, 25, 27, 36, 29 and so on) and Andrei was doing his all around thing . . . but both went down and did not finish the season. The Jazz finished with a 26-56 record, and a date with the ping-pong balls.
    Okur became a 19-9 man for the Jazz

    The very next season Carlos Boozer got injured in the pre-season and the 2005-2006 season was beginning to look a lot like Deja Vu for Jazz fans. Utah limped to a 8-12 record to start the season, some wins relying on Matt Harpring scoring 30 points and Jarron Collins getting 10 boards. Utah finished the season 41-41, just baring missing the playoffs again! This season finished with the starting lineup of Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko (at the 2), Matt Harpring, Mehmet Okur (at the 4) and Carlos Boozer (at the 5). For those who forgot, the Jazz won 7 of their last 10 games (2 of those losses were to the Spurs though).

    Deron Williams showed everyone why he was picked ahead of Chris Paul this season Utah finally makes the playoffs in 2006-2007, winning the Northwest Division title and breaks 50 wins in a season for the first time in what seems like eternity. The Jazz go 51-31 off of some strong performances by Boozer, Okur and Williams, after an amazing 15-5 start! Everyone was finally healthy and a 2nd year Deron Williams powered the team as Memo and Booz were honored to be part of the Western Conference All-Star team.
    Utah 2 - Denver 0 Last season (2007-2008) the Jazz improved on their win total and end the season with a 54-28 record. How did they start? They started the season 13-7 -- which is less than the previous season, but they ended up winning more games. They ended up trading Gordan Giricek for Kyle Korver and won their 2nd straight Northwest Division title (sorry AI and the rest of the Denver Media Hype Bandwagon).

    Here is a recap of the past 6 seasons:

    Season 1st 20 games Season Record Playoffs? Won Division?
    2002-2003 12-8 47-35 Yes  
    2003-2004 11-9 42-40    
    2004-2005 9-11 26-56    
    2005-2006 8-12 41-41    
    2006-2007 15-5 51-31 Yes Yes
    2007-2008 13-7 54-28 Yes Yes

    So we can clearly see that starting off well is very important to the Jazz actually making the playoffs. Every season where we've won at least 12 of the first 20 games has us making the playoffs and being close to a 50 win team. It's probably something to watch then as winning games early and making the playoffs seem to share some common factors, if not are correlated to one another.

    What do our first 20 games look like this season?

    Game vs.   Game vs.  
    1 Denver 1-0 11 Phoenix 8-3
    2 LA Clippers 2-0 12 Milwaukee 9-3
    3 @ LA Clippers 3-0 13 @ San Antonio 9-4
    4 Portland 4-0 14 @ Memphis 10-4
    5 Oklahoma City 5-0 15 Chicago 11-4
    6 @ NY Knicks 6-0 16 Memphis 12-4
    7 @ Philadelphia 6-1 17 Sacramento 13-4
    8 @ Washington 7-1 18 New Jersey 14-4
    9 @ Charlotte 8-1 19 @ Sacramento 14-5
    10 @ Cleveland 8-2 20 Miami 15-5

    Sure, that's with the homer hat on, but I think that we will finally beat the Knicks in NY, and drop games against the Cavs on the road, and against the Suns, Spurs and Kings (in Sactown). This may be a conservative estimate, but after the first 20 games we very well should have around 15 wins!

    Thursday, September 18, 2008

    News Headlines - The calm before the storm

    Can you believe that it's almost October? Really? We're less than half a month away and more and more NBA news will be coming in the near future. [point of reference: us bloggers have lamented how boring the Month of August was, imagine how bereft of information it will be in those non-Olympic years!] Anyway, here is a quick rundown of some Jazz related stories:

    Yes, I know what ubiquitous means . . .

    * The Dominator is ubiquitous -- Deron Williams is "The Man" of this team, and lives in SLC full time, and as a result, he's been busy there full time giving back to the community, read about in the Desert Morning News!

    "When Williams first appeared in Utah, he was confident but guarded. Charles Barkley he wasn't. But as time passed, he became increasingly willing to show his humor. Sometimes it's simply a glint in his eye or a short one-liner. For those he trusts, he's engaging and cooperative, the proverbial good guy. Which raises the obvious question: What's in it for him? Is this some kind of radical publicity blitz?

    Probably not, since he had already signed his contract extension before most of this happened.

    "We didn't just sit down and say, 'Deron, we've got to come up with a major media crash course,' like we're promoting a movie," said Wright. "It's not like that. People were calling and saying, 'Can you go here?' And a lot of it, if it fit into his schedule, we did."

    Wright says Williams also did it because he understands he's the Jazz's guy. His team, his town, his responsibility. Which is quite unusual. The team has three players who have been All-Stars (Boozer, Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur), yet the most popular, and the unchallenged leader, is Williams." (Brad Rock, 2008, Deseret News)


    We love Isiah

    * Steve Luhm (of the Salt Lake Tribune) talks about the 2010 Draft pick that we own, and how the improvement of the New York Knicks may reduce what looked like a for sure lock at a Top 5 pick in that draft.

    "The Knicks weren't going anywhere under Isiah Thomas and the Jazz's chances of being in the top five or top 10 of the 2010 draft with the pick previously acquired from New York would have improved had he stayed in charge.

    The hiring of Donnie Walsh as team president and Mike D'Antoni as coach is first step toward respectability for the Knicks, which is not good news for the Jazz.

    Walsh's track record and reputation are impeccable. He's one of the best in the business and was the perfect choice to direct the reconstruction in New York.


    I've known him since he was hired as Denver's director of player personnel in 1997. During the lockout-shortened 1999 season, D'Antoni inherited the impossible job of head coach and guided the Nuggets to a 14-36 record. He was not retained, but got a second chance to be an NBA head coach in Phoenix, starting early in the 2003-04 season.

    Everybody who follows the NBA knows what kind of job D'Antoni did with the Suns." (Luhm, 2008, Salt Lake Tribune)


    I am a big freak!

    * AK back to Russia, for reals this time, people! -- People love to jump to unreasonable conclusions, as a story grows exponentially with each blog that links to it, and gives their take -- I read this blog post from "The Hoop" from a variety of sources (ballhype and dimemag) today, and Dime even goes the distance to suggest that solving the financial burden in Utah is as easy as shipping AK off to CSKA Moscow (reading jazzfanz much?)-- because of their "reported" interest in him.

    Didn't they have 'reported' interest in Ben Gordon too? How did that work out?

    The Hoop reports from somewhere else (krepsinis.net?) that this can be a done deal, and that it may have some weight because Andrei hasn't renewed his contract with the Utah Jazz yet. First of all, it's good to check your sources.

    There are a few places on the net that show these financial facts quite easily . . . Andrei is under contract for three more seasons @ $15 million, $16.5 million and $17.8 million. So not only is AK not able to renew his contract (as it's not expiring), but this means that CSKA would have to buy out his contract from the Jazz (much like how when NBA teams have to buy out contracts from big dogs across the pond, it works both ways guys). This guy (Anthony) said it best:

    "I mean, CSKA's got money, but I don't know if they have 3 years/50 mil of buyout money to go along with a similar sized contract. His wife has a shop in Salt Lake, he's good friends with the other Eastern European dudes on the team, and he has one of the best point guards in the league (and if Boozer bolts he'd become his preferred target). Something tells me that this won't happen.

    Scratch that, everything tells me that this won't happen."  (comment from The Hoop article, 2008)


    * Training camp Tid-bits -- It basically starts on September 29th with media day (yes, we'll get to find out what hair color Fesenko currently has, or if Kover finally got that 'Thugg Life' tattoo he kept suggesting that he'd get over the summer), then they're off to Boise from September 30th to October 3rd. (Mark your calendar, Masha!)

    Greg Ostertag always pays attention to when Jerry Sloan speaks. And by always, we of course mean 'never'.

    When this happens each year I think of Jerry Sloan telling all the players that for that point in time that he's going to be their daddies, and that he forces integration by having unlikely pals to room mate together -- like, a few seasons ago we may have had Greg Ostertag sharing a room with DeShawn Stevenson. Okay, sure, my entire concept of Jazz training camp is like that sequence from "Remember the Titans".
    Just fast-forward to the 3:30 mark if you don't want to watch all of this, the best part (the part I'm talking about) starts at 6:30 . . .anyway . . . the first pre-season game is against the Lakers on October 7th in Anaheim. Woo!



    * Trickle down economics means that during an energy crisis air travel is more expensive . . . duh. Thanks for showing up Jasen Lee.