Sunday, October 5, 2008

Things to look for this season: Kyrylo Fesenko

If the only news you get is from the major news outlets in Salt Lake City you get the impression that NBA MVP Kosta Koufos (tentative) is not only the best draft pick EVAR, but also a lovely boy scout! The articles I read leave me to believe that some reporters are crushing a little bit on him . . . I understand the need and utility of a fluff piece (most of my stuff is just that). But even I can't stand it. That's not to say that I have issue with Kosta Koufos -- it just appears that way because in a preview of Fesenko's next season all I've done in rant about the new guy. It's just that fluff pieces, saying 'sir' and shooting three pointers when you are over 7 feet tall HARDLY qualifies as helping the Jazz out on the glass; with blocks; and with interior defense and intimidation.

How is a 7 foot tall teen with pimples/boy scout/three point shooter who calls everyone 'sir' going to be a force in the paint and help out our anemic defense of our basket? It's almost as if winning the paint is less important than winning some magical award for having 'morally upright' kids on the team who help old ladies cross the street.

Melissa Majchrzak -- now picture yourself floating in water, surrounded by seahorses . . .

That's not going to help us block shots in the playoffs, or play defense against other bigs without fouling them. We don't need another soft guy to come off the bench to replace Boozer or Memo. We need someone hard and mean. Someone who eats old ladies who try to cross the street. Someone -- at this stage -- that I don't think Mr.Polite Koufos is, or will be. Don't get me wrong, I want Kosta to succeed, I want him to be a legit NBA player. I think Kosta is going to be a solid NBA player. I also want the Jazz to have someone come off the bench, and actually play like a 7 footer who bangs, blocks shots and gives hard fouls. You know, things that we don't have on this team right now. I don't think that Kosta fills our greatest need.

Somehow this pictures reminds me of that scene from Napoleon Dynamite where Deb is photographing Uncle Rico . . . audio here  

Alas, no one seems to say anything good about Fesenko, so perhaps he's not going to be that guy either -- which would suck, seeing how at this part of the season, last season, everyone was on the Fes bandwaggon. (How quickly people turn on you . . . not unlike how Boozer was loved then hated, then loved, and now hated again)

So, in a world where we must temper our feelings for Fes, while our projections for Kosta run with wild abandon what do I see Kyrylo doing this season?

  1. Make the best of his time on the floor with the Jazz: Fes isn't going to play in 70 games this season unless something amazing happens (like Jarron Collins goes all Bison Dele on the Jazz, or Fes levels up into an NBA player at some point), so he's going to have to really bring it when he is playing with the big boys. I can imagine how someone who has trouble self-motivating can slack off in the D-league, he still put up good stats (10 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg, 2 apg) for someone they just pulled off of the hard streets of Kiev. His NBA career is only 9 games long, and he's only played more than 10 minutes in any given game on three different occasions. His season averages are horrible because he played three times this season: once in November, then during a stretch of 6 games in December (the worst month of the season for our entire team), and then in a back-to-back set all the way in March. There isn't much continuity there, especially how he'd get into the game for 4 minutes there, or 36 seconds there ... all the while dropping his averages down. If you look at the four games where he played at least 8 minutes you get a chance to see some good in Fes. First of all, when he plays extended minutes the Jazz usually win (3 wins, 1 loss), in addition to that, he seems to play better when he actually has some time to settle down into a game. During those four games (Nov 30 vs. Lakers, a win; Dec 15 vs. Seattle, a win; Dec 17 vs. Atlanta, a loss; Dec 21 vs. Orlando, a win) he averaged 4.3 rpg (2.3 offensive), 0.75 bpg, 0.5 apg and 3.5 fpg in a little over 12 mpg. He also chipped in 2 ppg, but he hardly shoots, and that's not what he's in there for. Fes can be effective, against Bynum he had 7 boards (4 offensive) and threw it down a few times.
  2. Corner the market on a skill: Fes isn't going to be better than Memo or Kosta at jump shooting. He's not going to be better than Jarron at flopping, or knowing the playbook (he hasn't been here for 73 seasons like Jarron has). Fes has to develop that one (or more) skill that sets him apart from the other guys on the roster. He has to be so proficient with it that the Jazz coaches feel good with him on the floor, instead of on the bench. That skill is going to have to be dominating the paint. Fesenko has the size, strength and agility to dispel the common ideas of European bigmen. While he may lack it in the girth department, he does have Shaq-like size. He can run the floor and play physical basketball. He can rebound and block shots. He just needs to keep working on this part of his game to the point where even old man Jer (who always comments on peoples' conditioning . . . hey, Shaq sucked at conditioning Jerry, he has 4 rings and you have none, sometimes talent requires playing time) has to play him. No one needs Fesenko to be David Robinson on offense, just as long as he can catch the ball and dunk it then he'll be okay. (And last time I checked, Fes and catch the ball and dunk it, ask the Lakers about that) Conditioning is good and great, but we're looking for a guy to lumber up and down the floor for 12 mpg as a backup to Memo/Booz (who'll play most of the mins at the 5 this season). I'd rather have the guy who barely makes it through 12 mins, but actually does something in that time than the guy who plays 12, has the conditioning to play 22, but does nothing in that time.
  3. Want it more: Often a big guy gets conscripted into playing basketball just because of his height. (see: Eaton, Mark) After a while he either loves the game and wants to be better, or he's just happy to make money doing something like this. Kyrylo needs to want it more, or at least, show that he does. (He may want it, but may not show it for a variety of reasons, but we don't need to go into psychology here) Who he is, and his future with the jazz may very well boil down to what happens this season, especially in relation to the wunderkid Kosta Koufos. Fesenko has to want it more, as he has an uphill battle against him where he not only has to beat out Koufos, but also a conditioning obsessed Coach (you know, Adam Keefe plays 27 mpg while Chris Morris sits) and a media that idolizes his competition as well.