Friday, October 31, 2008

In Soviet Russia, Hallo weens you!

Yeah . . . have a safe and fun Halloween everyone!
seriously . . . what is up with this guy?

Flashback Friday: Some other young Jazz players that got better after their rookie seasons or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the Long Bomb (from Morris Almond)

No doubt by now you've heard that Morris Almond is out, or will be soon. The Jazz did not end up picking up his contract extension. They are planning on trading him, and Almond himself admits that he saw this coming -- basically ever since this happened. It really sucks, because I kind of called it a while ago (read #3) . . . but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Morris Almond is not a finished product, which NBA Rookie is? (Take Karl, for example: he didn't shoot FT's well at all, and surely did not average 30-10 as a rookie) Almond is competitive compared to the 'average' NBA shooting guard. He's only going to get better. I think that he can be a good player, and heck, he knows how to score. He gets to the line.

He would be one of the most talented 5th options out there in the L, if he started. (Is CJ really that much better than him on defense? Really?)

Almond may be spotting up in Detroit or San Antonio soon

Well, Almond isn't the only young Jazz player to be (apparently) shipped off after a very short audition. The startling thing is that so many players (almost all) get better in their 2nd and 3rd seasons in the league. Are we really ready to get rid of him so soon? [Some people are ready to move on already . . . ]

I do not think that Almond is at Stocktons level . . . but getting rid of him after one season forces our hand, we will never know for sure now

What if we got rid of John Stockton after his rookie year? In his rookie season he shot 18% from three, a low 70% from the FT line and a solid 47 fg%. He played quite a bit though, 18 mpg and had a very impressive 5 ppg and 5 apg. The next year after that he upped his playing time and got 7 and 7. He still shot 13% from deep that year. The year after that he averaged 7 and 8. Hmmm, has his reached his plateau? (5 and 5, 7 and 7, 7 and 8)

If there was no space for John then I guess the current Jazz brass would have gotten rid of him, try to trade him away for a roster spot . . . or, well, do what they actually did. They gave him the minutes and he went from 7 and 8 one season to 14 and 14 the next. It would have been a shame to give up on John after three seasons, as his 4th was the charm.

Almond doesn't have to become a super star in order to be useful though . . . look at Kris Humphries.

We all hated that guy, but he's become a solid rotation guy for the Toronto Raptors. Last season he ended up averaging 6 ppg and 4 rpg. He played in Utah for two seasons, but he was just too young to be any good in the league, he did not have any NBA experience (same with Almond, btw) and when he played -- he only played with players worse than him (also like Almond, btw).

Is Humphries a guy who deserved to be picked in the lotto? Based on what people thought of him back then the answer is yes. Has his NBA career backed that up? No. Is he better than Jarron Collins [1.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg] -- a guy who we continue to pay as he gets worse every season since his Rookie year -- and could a guy like Humphries be useful to us, as our current back up centers all suck? The answer better be yes, or you are lying to yourself.

Even if Almond never becomes awesome he can still be a great rotation guy on any contending team . . . how great at defense is Eddie House? All he did was sub in the game and shoot threes.

Not great . . . but better than Collins

Probably the best case (because Stockton didn't have 2 guys ahead of him) is Mo Williams.

Mo did not suck

He plays for the Cavs now, and looks a little lost, but as a rookie for the Jazz he got to play 13.5 mpg (for the record, Almond only played 4 mpg as a rookie). That was enough for Mo Williams to get 5 ppg and 1.3 apg. Nothing too great, much worse than Stockton got . . . but unlike the 3 year internship Stockton got, Mo got the boot after 1 year. Since then he's put up seasons of 10 ppg and 6 apg and 17 ppg and 6 apg -- twice. Sure, I'm happy that we got Deron Williams running things now instead of Mo Williams -- but there's no causality in there that prevented us from getting Deron. We could have just as easily sucked with Mo being there as Andrei and Boozer both got injured that season before Deron.

Is Morris Almond a Stockton to CJ's Green? Or is he more a Mo Williams to Arroyo and Lopez? I love Brewer, but I don't think that he can become a complete player for a two guard, as I fail to see him ever being able to consistently (40%) knock down the three. CJ has all the potential in the world, but he's still developing an NBA body and this is his 4th season in the NBA -- he's not very consistent either, even from quarter to quarter. Almond, on the other hand, seems like he can be a complete player (though he suffers from Boozer-itis on defense), and he is consistent. Brewer is the guy now, and he is the most exciting and athletic. CJ is young and has shown flashes of brilliance. I do think that out of the three, though, the one who is most likely to be a prime time contributor in the playoffs on a contending team would have to be Almond -- once people figure out a role for him, let him do what he's good at, and then give him minutes.

And that's the crux of this argument . . . there just does not seem to be any minutes for him. There were minutes for Stockton AFTER FOUR YEARS WITH THE TEAM, and he got a chance to produce. There were minutes for Humphries in the two years he was here, but he did not produce -- though he has developed into a rotation player (he was 19 with the Jazz, btw, and has no brain) in the years he's had outside of Utah. Mo Williams was dropped after only one season, and out of the guys he was dropped in favor of, he's currently the only one who is any good. Unlike those three guys, Almond did not even get a chance to play 5 mpg with the Jazz -- he did entirely destroy the NBA-DL, and set their scoring records on fire. It's a dirty damn shame that the Jazz are just taking the easy way out and not working him into the lineup (or future plans) . . .  Almond has to go while Harpring stays. With that type of thinking then I guess Johnny boy is going to move into the White House while Obama looks for a new job. For the record, I don't like either candidate -- but I like Almond over Harpring anyday. At least Almond is healthy and can learn to play better defense. Harpring is just physiologically incapable of it.

After 1 game, a dozen practices, and the entire pre-season: AK still fine with his role (so can we stop asking him this question daily? Huh? Can guys with journalism degrees find something else newsworthy?)

The Salt Lake Tribune reports (I haven't even read the article and I doubt that I will from it title of it) that "AK says he's fine with his new role". Which is good, because just the day before they put out an article that's titled "Kirilenko, Miles content with new roles". I'm glad that nothing changed over night. I can understand how the perception of AK is that he makes a stink about things for no reason, and unexpectedly . . . but that perception is wrong. I fully believe that he only makes stinks about things that are justified. And pretty soon being asked in every interview everyday since the beginning of the month about "how does he feel TODAY about coming off the bench" is going to get very old soon and be a justified thing to blow up about. (Some recent examples of him being quoted in JUST one newspaper are Oct 31, Oct 30th A, Oct 30th B, Oct 21st, Oct 13th, Oct 8th, etc...)

After all, he's going to be asked this question in 41 other cities this season, you'd think that the hometown reporters would give him a break?

seriously . . . is there nothing more interesting to write about this season?

Now, let's not just jump to conclusions but I think that this "AK off the Bench" issue could be the new "Fesenko's Hairgate". We need to ask ourselves a question, though: is this really that newsworthy that the Salt Lake Tribune is spending so much time on it that it appears to be on the same level as the near daily updates on the 2nd year player's hairstyles? (Which I satirized here, here, and here)

The second question, and perhaps more serious one, is "is this really the best they can do? These people have journalism degrees and all they do is report the same story over and over again?" It's really a shame when this appears to happen -- what if a blog wrote the same story over and over again, and used the same pictures each time and so forth? That blog would lose credibility and become less interesting because it appears to be fixated on an already sufficiently discussed situation. I don't think that newspapers with PAID reporters who do this for their living should get a pass on something like this.

And what about Andrei? I'm not expecting him to go all Chris Everett here, but how do you think he feels? If you know how to read between the lines you would already know that -- but apparently beat writers on the case of "Andrei off the bench" don't seem to pick up on these things.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The best homecourt advantage in the NBA just got better . . .

No doubt you may have already read that 44.4% of all NBA GM's (which kind of doesn't make sense, as there are 30 GMs, so that's 13 1/3 people) agree that the Utah Jazz have the best home-court advantage in the league. (2nd best was Boston with only 25.9% of the vote) This advantage seems to be partly based upon how great the fans are in Salt Lake City . . . and the results cannot be argued as the Jazz won a league high 37 home games last season. (Boston was 2nd best with 35 home wins -- and yes, for the record, the Jazz beat Boston in Boston last season -- by 18 points.)

Well, the rest of the NBA should be upset because the best homecourt advantage in the NBA just got better, thanks to the work of the Jazz Brass (thanks Randy Rigby!) They spent the big bucks to upgrade the sound system and lights (now with spotlights and lasers!) . . . and well, just like the home record last year, the results cannot be argued with either.

Don't expect the Jazz to go into the 2nd quarter behind anymore
Click here to view the video
Links to the Deseret News website video, thank you to Mike Terry, Michael Brandy and fellow Jazz fans everywhere

I do hate that song because that's the song the most vile and hated Chicago Bulls used to use. This video does not do the entire situation justice, it looked really cool on NBA League Pass last night (even if it was in standard def); but I'm sure it was awesome in person. They even had a pretty hard track playing in the back ground when the Nuggets starters were introduced. Why don't they get rid of the Bulls' track and get our own? There are plenty of awesome songs out there in the world [you can turn down (not off) the volume in the video and listen to the song, they are almost exactly synched up, even to the part where the lights come back on after the introductions]; why piggy back on the home court advantage of another team, when we can build upon our own EXISTING culture of home court dominance?

Am I right, or am I right?

Boozer skies in for 2 of his game high 25
  • I said that Boozer, motivated by various reasons, would try harder on defense and he should aim for something like 25 and 12. -- He ended up with 25 and 14, and added a steal and a very key block

 

  • I said that Memo gets a double double when he plays Dirk like minutes, he had 13 and 10 in an off shooting night playing over 33 mins (Okur's MPG last season)

 

  • Lastly I said that Andrei's the same guy as the guy who was an All-Star, all he needed was minutes and he could get numbers like he used to (15.5/8/3/3/2) -- he played 35 minutes tonight and ended up with 16/6/3/2/2 . . . not too shabby.
Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Images  

Anyway, the Jazz (1-0) beat the Nuggets (0-1) -- Utah was without Deron, and Denver was without 'Melo. The Nuggets were down by 14 in the 3rd, but did not give up. It came down to free throws in the end, and Utah went 22-28 while Denver went 18-28. The Jazz starters went 0-5 from three while the Jazz bench went 2-3 (One by Andrei and one by Korver). Ronnie Brewer hit some jumpers tonight and still kept his FG% up . . . which if you've been following along, is another thing I told you all to look for this season. And lastly, I predicted this win.

Am I right, or am I right?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Utah Jazz 2008-2009 Season Preview!

Yes! It's finally here! The AllThatJazz season preview!
More balls than you normal Getty Images photo
Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Images 

This is so overdue, but this is so exhausting. Other blogs have already put their previews out. My excuse for this being so late is that this season preview is so chock-full of Awesome! that it needed this long to get it done. To simplify things, I've been leaking it out over the last month. But let's get down to the nitty gritty:

2008-2009 Season Forecast:

Anything less than 65 wins this season (including playoffs) is abject failure. That's it. It's year 4 in our rebuilding, by this time we should be serious contenders or break up. As fate would have it, this may be our last year with this group anyway . . . so there's no time like now to get it done. The Jazz will win their division and secure homecourt in the 1st round of the playoffs for the first time since Stockton and Malone were playing. The Jazz have their sights on the promised land -- and you should too if you have an honest appraisal of their roster.

Team Roster:

              Season Expectations: Bonus:
Brevin Knight is soooooo much better than Jason Hart it's not even funny 2 Brevin Knight 5'10 166 PG - link Top Transaction of the Off-Season
Boozer is hungry for more! 5 Carlos Boozer 6'9 266 PF C link  
Deron Williams will direct the Jazz deep in the playoffs 8 Deron Williams 6'3 207 PG SG link Star Player Spotlight
Ronnie Brewer is ready for the bigtime 9 Ronnie Brewer 6'7 227 SG SF link  
Mehmet Okur will kill you with his offensive moves 13 Mehmet Okur 6'11 263 C PF link  
Harpring will be ready for the playoffs 15 Matt Harpring 6'7 230 SF SG link  
Ronnie Price is full of fire 17 Ronnie Price 6'2 184 PG SG link Top Breakout Player?
Morris Almond is a pure scorer who needs to learn how to get other guys the ball more 22 Morris Almond 6'6 225 SG SF link  
Paul Millsap is playing for his next contract 24 Paul Millsap 6'8 250 PF SF link Top Breakout Player?
Kyle Korver is scorching the nets so far 26 Kyle Korver 6'7 212 SG SF link Top Breakout Player?
Collins is a veteran off the bench 31 Jarron Collins 6'11 249 C PF link Top Position Battle - Back up Center
CJ starting . . . but for how long? 34 C.J. Miles 6'6 227 SG SF link  
Koufos can score, and will do that frequently in the NBA DL 41 Kosta Koufos 7'0 265 C PF link Top Position Battle - Back up Center
Fes needs to keep playing big inside 44 Kyrylo Fesenko 7'1 300 C - link Top Position Battle - Back up Center
AK looks to have a solid season as a 6th man of the year candidate 47 Andrei Kirilenko 6'9 225 SF PF link X-Factor

Special Features:

Conclusion:

Sure, my concept of how well the team will do is far different from ESPN's first take, but hey, I pride myself on knowing my own team better than they do. We'll win our division, be a top 4 team in the West and finish the season with a combined 65 wins.

Utah Jazz 2008-2009 Playing time and Rotation:

One of the greatest strengths for the Utah Jazz this season is the versatility of the roster. Even Jerry Sloan has seen it and he's fiddled with a variety of line-ups, everything from the very small (5'10 Brevin Knight, 6'1 Ronnie Price and 6'5 C.J. Miles as the 1, 2 and 3) to the very large (6'8 Paul Millsap at small forward, 7'1 Kosta Koufos at the four, and 7'1 Kyrylo Fesenko in the middle). In all only two players out of our total 15 man roster are an exclusivists in that they only play one position. Brevin Knight is a pure point guard who does not have the offensive range, or size to play shooting guard. Similarly, Kyrylo Fesenko is too big to play power forward, and he would be a liability on defense trying to guard people like Amare and David West one on one. Everyone else can play at least two spots -- and as a result, gives Jerry Sloan and the rest of the Jazz Brass a lot of chances to fiddle away. Here's a visual representation of the five different positions, and the guys who could conceivably play there during the course of any given game:

Point Guard Shooting Guard Small Forward Power Forward Center
Deron Williams Ronnie Brewer Andrei Kirilenko Carlos Boozer Mehmet Okur
Ronnie Price Kyle Korver Matt Harpring Paul Millsap Jarron Collins
Brevin Knight C.J. Miles C.J. Miles Andrei Kirilenko Kyrylo Fesenko
Andrei Kirilenko Morris Almond Kyle Kover Mehmet Okur Kosta Koufos
C.J. Miles Andrei Kirilenko Morris Almond Kosta Koufos Carlos Boozer
  Deron Williams Paul Millsap    
  Ronnie Price      
  Matt Harpring      

Unfortunately, the game is only 48 minutes long, and you can only play a maximum of 12 total guys in any given game. You would think, then, that there is a maximum total of 48 minutes available for each position, and thus -- 240 minutes per game to dish out. The math makes sense so far but gets more complicated when you look at the actual MPG from the team last season. Basically, the math does not add up. This is because not every player plays in every game. For example there are 48 minutes to give out at center . . . and last year our centers averaged 33.2 mpg (Okur), 10.0 mpg (Collins), and 7.8 mpg (Fesenko). That adds up to 51 minutes, which is 3 minutes over. Further muddying the waters is that Carlos played some five last season as well. As you can see, trying to reverse engineer a playing time chart based on the MPG played last season is not as easy as one would have previously thought.

I first tried to construct a playing time chart based upon the 240 minutes total theory, but that basically would result in some very upset players (we can't reasonably expect to give Matt Harpring DNP's all season long). Last season if you added up all of the MPG averages for all players (making up for Brevin Knight by using Jason Hart's time) the total was 277.9 mpg. That 37.9 extra mpg makes up for how some players do not play in every game, and how other players end up getting injured and so forth. However, that was for a total roster of 14 people -- and this season we have a full 15 man roster. In order to get what the new total should be I found the average playing time of what we had previously (278/14) and added that to 278. Thus, when I constructed my playing time chart I made it out of a total 298 minutes, and not 240. What do I end up with? (All the MPG for last season was rounded up or down accordingly)

  2007-2008 MPG Proposed 2008-2009 MPG + / - Justification?
Point Guard        
D. Williams 37 37 0

He doesn't need to play any more or any less, though our depth allows for him to play less this season.

R. Price 10 10 0

Price will play in more games this season than Knight, and this, will average less MPG as his mins will fluctuate.

B. Knight 23 10.5 -12.5

Knight will be playing nearly 13 mpg less than he did last season with the LA Clippers, and he will be playing in less games as the 3rd string PG. However, the games he will be playing in will be games where he plays more mpg as they will be games where Deron is out of.

Shooting Guard        
R. Brewer 28 29 +1

Brewer needs more playing time, but it's hard to get more.

K. Korver 22 21 -1

Kyle is playing great right now, but for us to be a really good team, he may have to just play better with less time, as we need defense.

M. Almond 4 9 +6

Almond is going to spend most of the season with the Flash again, and not see significant burn during the season. That said, he's going to play more MPG in the NBA this year.

Small Forward      

C.J. Miles 12 16 +4

C.J. is starting for now, and needs to make the best of his time on the floor -- lest others take it from him.

Andrei Kirilenko 31 37 +6

I have my reasons, you can read about them here if you wish.

Matt Harpring 18 13.5 -4.5

This is justified by his MPG trends over the last 4 seasons compounded by his cumulative injury history.

Power Forward      

Carlos Boozer 35 35 0

Boozer seems to do well in this amount of playing time, though in a contract year he may want more, though . . .

Paul Millsap 21 23 +2

. . . Paul Millsap is also in a contract year. There are only so many minutes to go around at the PF, so expect Boozer to be the back-up Center for us this season.

Center      

Mehmet Okur 33 35 +2

Memo plays better when he plays more, need empirical proof? Read this take.

Jarron Collins 10 6 -4

Collins needs zero MPG, but it's not going to happen. Too bad!

Kyrylo Fesenko 8 11 +3

The only way that he's going to be the defensive big that we need is if he gets some time actually playing against guys like Bynum, Dwight, Yao and Oden. Nearly a quarter of every game he plays in should feature him getting said experience.

Kosta Koufos n/a 5 +5

His job this year will be to play well in Orem, playing more MPG than Almond did in the NBA as a rookie will just be the icing on top.

This does cause some problems when trying to understand how any random, given game will go. The way I look at it, a random game somewhere after the all-star break will feature Morris Almond (Flash), Kosta Koufos (Flash) and CJ Miles on the IR. Harpring will be back, and playing minutes for us (you know, because he's Matt Harpring). So this is how I could reasonably accept the playing time to be divided:

PG SG SF PF C  
D. Williams 37 R. Brewer 29 A. Kirilenko 35 C. Boozer 25 M. Okur 35
R. Price 7 K. Korver 19 M. Harpring 10 P. Millsap 21 C. Boozer 10
B. Knight 4     K. Korver 3 A. Kirilenko 2 K. Fesenko 3
                   
Totals 48   48   48   48   48

Sure, this is playing 11 guys like Jarron Collins gets the DNP-CD . . . but I can see Price picking up two fouls in the 1st half making Knight need to get off the bench. Similarly, Okur could sit at the end of the first half letting Fes get some burn. I think it is important to stress that Jerry Sloan will like to keep 3 PGs on the active roster for as many games as he can. Back when the Jazz only used to keep 12 people on the roster there were always three PGs signed. (Yeah, like back in the Stockton, Farmer, Les days when current Memphis Coach Mark Iavaroni used to start for the Jazz) Also, I think Sloan wants to have at least 5 bigs: three of which will be Boozer, Okur and Millsap. For this game I felt like he'd want to have the veteran Collins there, as he always seems to be on the active roster for games, and Fesenko -- as Koufos would be currently assigned to the Flash at this point in time. I would rather have Harpring be on the IR, and have CJ be active . . . but Harpring is going to play this season, even in my hypothetical scenarios.

This is way more than I ever wanted to type about this . . . it's not like Sloan is going to listen to me, and recognize the optimum playing times for certain players (i.e. Memo @ 35+, AK @ 37, etc.), and let them play that much time. So in a way this was completely pointless . . . but in another way, this is the essence of blogging. It's all very Taoist in that regard.

Utah Jazz Pre-Season 2008-2009: X Factor

The major X-Factor this season is not going to be guard play . . . or post defense . . . or bench production. All three of those things have normalized themselves, our guards are who they are, our post defense needs improvement and our bench is very productive. The whole issue of next off-season will not hang over the heads of this team all season long either -- as they will focus on the games at hand. If this does become a large factor it will actually serve as a positive motivation for the team to get it done this season, instead of just rely on the fact that they are all so young. (Eldest player on the team is Brevin Knight at 32)

The X-factor for this season is, bluntly, Andrei Kirilenko. I've written about him a lot ever since I started this blog (61 times as of this writing), and that is no doubt correlated to how complicated his situation is with our team.
More monkey dunks, less games of 8 points and 2 rebounds

I don't need to rehash everything here, we all know that he makes more money than he could ever justify on the court. We also know that he's pretty talented, and when given the minutes, he can do some amazing things -- things no one else on our team can do. Right now he's going to come off the bench for us (which may be good -- or bad).

The main reason why he's the X factor is because of escalation. Back in the 80s you were a contending team if you had two really good players (for example, the Jazz didn't start to win until they had Stockton and Malone). Then somewhere in the 90s you needed a third guy to be a good team -- and all these crops of "the big three" started to be talked about. Some teams still did well with two really good players (like Shaq and Kobe), while other teams needed that third guy to get them over the top. The last, best example of this would be the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Escalation now has changed things, and to be a good team you're going to need four good guys.

For example, a team like Orlando (three good guys in Dwight, Hedo and Rashard) can only advance so far in the playoffs because their three guys aren't the best three guys around. They would need a 4th guy to be as good. Moreover, the LA Lakers now sport line ups with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. The Detroit Pistons have been playing forever with Chauncey, Rip, Tay and 'Sheed. Houston has reloaded and are now Tracy, Yao, Ron and Battier/Rafer (they equal one good player).

Brewer is a nice player, but right now he's not at the same level as most of the guys I've listed -- he's not at an All-Star level. Andrei, on the other hand, has all the credentials to be a player at that level. He is a go-to-guy for his national team, he compliments the other three guys (Deron, Carlos and Memo) well, and he's BEEN just as good as an All-Star at times during his career (Like last season's victory over the Lakers when Memo and Booz were out and he had a triple double and nearly a 5x5 in the same game).

Four is the new three; just as three was the new two. We need that 4th guy to step up. And as a result, Andrei Kirilenko is our X-Factor this season. We need less 12 point, 4 assist games from him and more 16 point, 6 rebound, 5 assists games from him if the Jazz are going to be one of the top 5 teams at the end of the season -- instead of just at the beginning.

Things to look for this season: Deron Williams

I saved the best for last -- Deron Williams really is the best player on this Jazz team right now. It's his team, and everyone from the Jazz Brass to the most clueless fan knows that he's the face of the franchise. Most pre-season pundits have suggested that the Jazz will go only as far as Deron will take them. Duh! That's like saying the most obvious of proclamations . . . like Charles Barkley more than sufficiently nourished, or that Governor Sarah Palin is "Folksy". Right now Deron is on the shelf, but even if he misses an incomprehensible 6 weeks it's not going to hurt our team. When he comes back I fully expect him to continue his ascent up into the upper echelon of players in the league right now. He may never get the free reign to do everything that Chris Paul does -- but Chris Paul will never shoot as well, and so far, Chris Paul has a lot of catching up to do in this whole "winning" department. I don't need to say much else about our All-NBA team member and Gold medal winner, so, what three things should we look for this season from Deron Williams?

Maybe not the only trophy he holds this season?
  1. Come back strong from his injury: Modern sports medicine is such that players now return from injuries stronger than they were before them. This is especially going to be true in the case of Deron Williams and his minor ankle sprain. Why? More than anything else, I don't think we've ever such seen a demonstratively competitive player on our roster before. Stockton wanted to win, but rarely showed it. On the other hand, Malone was always intense and wanted to win, but he worked so hard in everything was there anything left at the end of the season I wonder? AK wants to win, but only leads through his play. Boozer is very demonstrative, but what do we really know about his desires for winning? Deron Williams flat out has the will to win. Larry H. Miller said that Deron is so fixated on any slight (real or imagined) that his entire concept of winning only exists if someone else LOSES at his expense. He doesn't want to win for the sake of winning. He wants to win for the sake of beating you. Babyfaced Chris Paul may win games, but Deron Williams wants to murder people on the court. That probably explains their head to head record against each other since college . . .
  2. Make the All-Star Team: Brandon Roy is a great player, he managed to hit two shots in a row last night after his team was down by 20. Brandon Roy was an All-Star last season. Maybe he will be this season as well, but one thing for sure, nothing is going to keep Deron Williams off the All-Star team this season. How can you be on an All-NBA Team, represent Team USA in the Olympics -- and NOT be an All-Star? Western Conference coaches found a way to do that last season. Deron Williams' play has made them all learn their lesson.
  3. Lead the Jazz to the promised land: Okay, this may be a little 'homer'-rific (definition #6 on that list), but I think that our team is really good this year. We're not perfect, and there are some serious holes that need to be fixed (somehow). We also will have to play against the best teams in the NBA that are not clad in shamrocks to win the West. It looks hard, but this is the most talented team from 1 to 15 that we've ever had. Our team is lead by Deron Williams, and flanked by three other All-Stars. We should be able to sleepwalk our way to 8 playoff wins this season. (Unless we face the Lakers in the 2nd round again, grrrr)

Things to look for this season: Carlos Boozer

Who has been an All-Star two years in a row for the Jazz? This guy has.

Boozer is in a special group -- no, I'm not talking about him being one of the very few people to average 20 and 10 over the last two seasons -- I'm talking about a productive player for the Utah Jazz that Jazz fans love to hate, and hate to love; yet the rest of the media and fans seem to think he's a pretty good player.

It's easy when you're a good player, and loved -- and thus any flaws in your game that you may or may not have are forgiven. Guys like John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Deron Williams fall neatly in this group.

It is also easy when you are a bad player, and hated -- and everyone knows that you are a "bad guy", or crappy. Guys like John Amaechi and lovable loser Greg Ostertag fit the bill.

There is this one other category, though, where fans don't really know what to make of them. They are very talented players . . . but somehow their flaws are not absolved like those of other players in higher regard. This group is filled with the Karl Malones and Carlos Boozers of the franchise. Take Malone for example . . . he's not loved all over the world, but no one doubts his abilities as a player. No one usually, except Jazz fans who are divided into thinking that he was "Awesome" or alternatively, "Not Awesome Enough". Stockton is a flawless God, while Malone is regarded as the guy who held him back in some circles. I find this ridiculous . . . because we've seen point guards on bad teams put up good numbers but not win shit (Andre Miller in Cleveland, for example) just like scorers on bad teams who put up good numbers and don't win (Like Carmelo Anthony in Denver). Stockton needed a guy who could put the ball in the basket, and Karl did that better than any other player in NBA history save for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

What does this have to do with Carlos Boozer? Well, for starters, Boozer is a high scoring power forward whose offensive contributions to our team wins games. His defense has been a shadow of what it was when he played in Cleveland though -- and more over, his contributions to the team as a whole, have been greatly reduced in some sort of NBA fan revisionism. Easily one can see that Carlos Boozer isn't perfect . . . but a lot of teams would still start him -- including our team. (Even if he isn't adored but all)

This looks to be a big year in the life of Carlos Boozer -- not only is it a make or break year for the team financially, but it's a year where he can opt out of his contract and demand a max salary. Does he deserve it? Probably not, but when teams are willing to pay Rashard Lewis $14.9 million dollars for less than 5.5 rpg (BTW, Lewis plays the 4 for Orlando apparently) one can imagine a guy who rebounds more than twice that amount per game would earn himself a considerably large contract. Double doubles pay the bills in the NBA. So what can we expect from C-Booz this year?

  1. Unless he gets a season ending injury, he's opting out: This is going to happen. Deron Williams even commented on it during the summer that it's purely a financial move by Boozer that he would do, if he was in his place. The only way that I see Booz not opting out is if he has a season ending injury that would limit his max asking price on the open market. Otherwise, he's going to have a contract year like no other in recent Utah Jazz history.
  2. He's going to score and rebound like crazy: We tend to focus on the negative as fans. Let's take a look at what Boozer has given us over the last two seasons: over 800 rebounds per season and over 1500 points per season. His career stats are 17 and 10, which is what Memo averaged for half a season, only in the games where he played over 35 mpg. It's hard to win the game if you don't have the ball. One of the most frequent ways a team gets the ball is through rebounds. Carlos rebounds. It's hard to win the game if you don't put the ball in the basket. Carlos has averaged 8.75 FGM and 3.5 FTM in the past two seasons, for a combined 21 points (at the very least average) every game. I can imagine that he's going to go a little nuts during a contract year and get something like 25 and 12 this season. It may be a lofty goal, but I can easily see him putting up the shots to get 25 for a season -- especially when money is on the line.
  3. Nothing increases the size of your next contract like winning: Yes, Boozer *may* be about the money (I don't know how true this is), and people everywhere doubt his sincerity . . . but if there is any season for him to be all about winning it is this season. If the Jazz get through the 2nd round it will be because of many reasons. One of the largest reasons would have to be Carlos Boozer, and a rediscovery of how to play interior defense. Yes, Boozer *can* play defense . . . we've seen how quickly he can move on offense, and his fundamentals . . . he used to block shots back in Cleveland in addition to being a good one on one post defender. Jerry Sloan has made it a point this season to stress defense, and you can see for yourself that Carlos is being more active on defense, and putting up more resistance to people scoring on him. For the Jazz it may mean the difference between 6 playoff wins and more than 8 playoff wins. For Carlos Boozer it may mean the difference between a big phat contract, and one that eclipses the Gross National Product of some developing nations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm sorry Portland fans . . .

. . . but right now, I'd say you're going to have to hold off on planning that championship parade this season. Your team looks like poop right now. You'll get better -- but you're not there right now.

Game on.

YouTube Tuesdays! We're Number Three!

LABallTalk's top team blog contest is over, and surprisingly . . . AllThatJazz is #3. I'm very surprised, especially since I voted only once, and that was for TrueBlueJazz, too funny.

Thanks to LaBallTalk for doing this, and validating my insomnia. (It was either blogging or picking up the Tuba, and my neighbors probably would not have enjoyed that night time activity)

And thanks to all the people who voted for mine, and all the other Jazz blogs!


Super Mario Bros. - Solo Tuba [1:36] -- uploaded by tubadylan

A little early but . . . NBADraft.net's 2010 Top 10

This is really premature, but as Jazz fans, we all know why we should be keeping an eye on this . . . Well, here is nbadraft.net's mock draft for 2010:

  1. John Wall, 6'4 PG
  2. Ricky Rubio, 6'4, PG
  3. Xavier Henry, 6'6, SG
  4. Jrue Holiday, 6'4, PG/SG
  5. Derrick Favors, 6'9, PF
  6. Gani Lawal, 6'9, PF
  7. Austin Daye, 6'10, SF
  8. Donatas Motiejunas, 7'1, PF
  9. Davin Ebanks, 6'8, SF
  10. Scotty Hopson, 6'6, SG

I'm pretty sure that David Stern would do whatever it takes to make sure that we don't get Ricky Rubio, even though he's a dead ringer for a former Jazz player that we may all know . . .

Who knows if any of those 10 guys will be true Lotto picks (i.e. the top 14 picked each year), or even if the Knicks will be in the lotto by then? (Thanks, guys . . . ) Even more surprising would be to guess what the Jazz would need in 2010.

Pete and Ricky

There's just so much up in the air that will "eventually" sort itself out after next off-season. (God willing) So it'll be much easier to forecast a drafting direction for future years after that's all taken care of. I do know that if Price and Knight get short contracts from the Jazz this following off-season that the Jazz may be in need of a PG to help Deron out time to time.

By 2010 if our shooting guard situation still necessitates the drafting of young SGs then our current crop of 3 young guys (CJ, Ronnie B and Mobe) must not have panned out. Even more startling would be if one of our three recent centers all end up as duds (Fesenko, Koufos and Tomic). I'm guessing we'll either be on the look out for a PF -- we can't honestly expect to have Boozer, Okur, Kirilenko and Millsap all on the roster by then, and will need to reload at the 4 for sure.

Though . . . it would be fun to see Ricky as a rookie playing with our 2nd unit throwing oops to Andrei, and making crazy passes to Korver . . .

AK admits that shooting % will suffer off the bench

Andrei Kirilenko, I suppose, is like a method actor (specifically the Meisner technique). He has to really live his role 24/7, he needs to really get into it, in order to do well in it. I guess this explains why he spends so much time having difficulty adjusting between roles depending on where Jerry uses him. For example, back in 2005-2006 -- the first Boozer hamstring injury season -- AK had a bad pre-season, but when he had to end up playing PF because Booz when down, AK was back to his DeShawn/Arroyo days and produced accordingly.

I guess warming up is very important to him, and the more time between the shoot-around and the pre-game warm up till he plays is really going to screw things up for him. Or at least, that's what he suggests will happen. I'm sure it's a give and take between what he is used to and what he needs to do until his familiar with being the 6th man on an NBA team at this stage in his career. Then again, fellow Russian Pavlov would state that you can teach an old dog some new tricks . . . so I think AK will be fine in time.

Andrei ponders his next move
  Photographed by Danny Chan LA for the Salt Lake Tribune

"Kirilenko did acknowledge that his shooting might suffer if he has to wait seven minutes to check into a game. 'It is harder, but what I can do?' he said. 'Just go and warm up a little big better. I'm trying to do the same routine every time.' " (Kirilenko, via R. Siler, 2008)

That's the essence of conditioning, and when it becomes second nature to him (you know, bringing back the whole Meisner issue of repetition) he'll be able to produce better. I understand that he needs to 'see' a lot of shots go up (and go in) in order to feel offensively confident. He's just going to have to visualize a bit more, instead of having the advantage of going into the game warmed up.

Coming off the bench isn't easy, that's why so few players are actually known for being effective at it -- like the Microwave was. He got hot at the touch of a button, instantly. I think that's a mental component that our friendly neighborhood Russian may not have. I guess like most things this season, we're just going to have to see how it turns out.

Utah Jazz Pre-Season 2008-2009: Position Battle

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the main battle is at the shooting guard spot. In this case conventional wisdom is wrong. There *is* no battle at shooting guard anymore, it's (1) Ronnie Brewer, (2) Kyle Korver, and (3) does it matter anymore as both of those guys average over 20 mpg? It kind of does, but only so far as we can understand that we have quality, depth and youth at the SG spot. That's no more the problem . . . the new problem is back up center. And it's a big problem. This has been the real position battle since draft night.

Why is it a big problem? Well, all of our other spots seem pretty good. In the absolute end of days situation, PG can be handled by D-Will, Ronnie Price, Brevin Knight, CJ Miles and Andrei Kirilenko. Also Brewer has okay handles. SG has a platoon of guys, and half of those guys can also play SF, which already has Andrei, Matt Harpring, and in some situations, Paul Millsap. We have the best PFs in the league.Center? After Memo (who is severely under-rated) we're looking at:

  • a guy who has gotten worse every year he's been in the league in Jarron Collins
  • someone who is applying for the job of 'the new Ostertag' in Fesenko
  • and a completely unproven 19 year old rookie who will be a player in this league, just not this season, in Kosta
Larry Curly and Moe
Got stronger, but still a girl compared to Shaq Owns Shaq Orlando Magic jersey from 5th grade Made a living flopping when defending Shaq

All three photos by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Images

Unless the Jazz go small a lot this season, and have Boozer play 10+ MPG at the 5 then one of these three guys is going to need to step up and manage to play up to par with the rest of our talented roster. Okur averages around 33 mpg, but essentially, it should be up to 35 at least -- you know, because he produced 18.7 and 11.2 when he played at least 35 mpg last season. This would (thankfully) leave us with only about a quarter of basketball action where one of these three ghastly ghouls would need to step out on the floor.

Making things even more sports movie cliche is the fact that all three of these guys (JC, KF and KK) all have something "to prove" this season. Jarron Collins is in a contract year (yeah, I know, sounds funny doesn't it?) and wants to prove to his coach, his teammates -- and to himself that he's not done yet. His contract expires and he wants to be getting another one.

Kyrylo Fesenko is the import that no one knew about and people fell in love with. The honeymoon was short with the media, and now all he does is get killed in print, on the Internet, and by his own coaches. He wants to prove that he wasn't a flash in the pan player who is going to never reach his potential. Especially with a younger, more scoring adept player breathing down his neck he wants to show everyone that he is the future at the 5 for the Jazz.

The last guy is Mr.Rookie, small town mom and apple pie (and souvlaki), Luke Skywalker on Tatooine boyscout who wants to prove that he belongs in the NBA 1 year out of having a designated homeroom, lunch period and recess.

It's insane that I think the Jazz are contenders this year when I look at our back up bigmen . . . not a bonafide player among them. Then I'm reminded that we used to roll with Greg Foster and an ancient Armond Gilliam in the paint in previous years.

Whomever wins this position battle is going to decide their fate with the Jazz -- yes, another incentive. If Collins wins he may finagle his way into another 2 year contract with the Jazz and eat up another roster spot. If Fesenko wins then he'll allow Koufos an entire year (if he needs it) to play in the NBA D-League while getting himself (Fes) the experience he needs playing 5 in the NBA to the point where he'll be a contributor when the playoffs come around for the 8-10 mpg that the Jazz will need out of him. If Kosta wins then he doesn't have to go to the NBA D league, which is kind of what you expect from your 1st round draft picks who play one of your most shallow positions.

Aside from what they expect, what do I expect from them? Well, you can check it out here (Jarron Collins, Kyrylo Fesenko, Kosta Koufos); but in short . . . I expect them to play to their strengths and in the case of the younger players -- I expect them to split time in SLC and Orem this season. Fes has done worse than I expected, but still hold out hope that he can win this position battle and contribute more than the other two guys could this season. Only time will tell if I'm right . . .