Thursday, October 16, 2008

Things to look for this season: Ronnie Price

There are many ways to start this off, and I will receive some level of criticism for what I'm about to say, but here it is: Ronnie Price looks like a goat to me. Maybe a baby goat. I don't know, maybe a cartoon goat. Or perhaps a ram, but without the horns. Tell me you don't see it, too!

Ronnie Price Ronnie Price as a goat
  Ronnie Price A happy smiling goat

Maybe it's just the facial hair . . .

Okay, before the nice men in the white coats come to take my Internet privileges away from me let me get to the serious stuff. First off, congratulations to Ronnie for getting married this off-season, I don't know who you got married to, so I can't 'tag' her. (Like I have with other Jazz player's wives so far: CeCe Boozer, Masha Kirilenko nee Lopatov, Yeliz Okur, etc) The first big thing to consider for this season (in terms of Ronnie Price) is that he's in a contract year. Much has already been made about the number of expiring contracts (or potentially expiring ones) this season (6, at my last count). The big names are Boozer and Okur, I don't know if both will opt out or not, but odds are that Boozer will. Millsap's rookie deal expires this year as well -- and what happens with Booz will really determine what happens with Millsap to some extent. Jarron Collins' contract expires as well, and depending on how well Kosta and Kyrylo develop this season Jarron could hopefully be gone. The last two guys are, because the universe likes co-incidences, Brevin Knight and Ronnie Price.

If you haven't been following Ronnie Price's career, this is pretty much his own version of Sisyphus' challenge. His entire career he's had to make a living by beating other guys out for playing time. He did it two years ago in Sacramento (beating Jason Hart out). He did it last year in Utah (again beating Jason Hart out). And he's basically going to have to do it a 3rd year in a row, having to attempt to beat out Jason Hart the guy they traded Jason Hart for (Brevin Knight). Brevin also being in a contract year makes this even 'better', in terms of entertainment value. They are in direct competition with each other for this season -- and the next ones too! The only way to make things a little bit harder for Price would be if his coach decides 'just for fun' (in that exaggerated East Indian accent that Russell Peters has sometimes) to stop playing him at point guard -- and have him fight for playing time against 4 shooting guards (Brewer, Korver, Miles and Almond). Sounds dumb, right? Sounds even better from Jerry's own mouth [Interview, around the 1:54 to 4:13 mark, via 1320 KFAN]. For the record though, he does compliment Price as well during that answer, and suggests that his versatility allows him to play alongside Knight for a really small, quick line-up.

Basically, then, all Ronnie Price has to do is beat out Knight, and his future here in Utah will be secure, well it should be, right Mo Williams? Price has some advantages though, as he's been here last season, won the job, and played in every playoff game. Furthermore, he's a popular guy (in that younger crew with Millsap, Brewer and Miles) and the Jazz went 43-18 in games that he played in. That's winning 70.5 % of those games -- good enough for a 58 win season over 82 games. Here are three things to look out for this season from Ronnie Price:

  1. Hustle every minute on the floor: Deron Williams plays so much point guard that there is very little time remaining for the other guys. There's going to be 8-12 minutes per game available by my estimation, and that's not nearly enough to play all three guys every game. What Price will do is hustle and play very hard in whatever time he has. Brevin Knight isn't going to jump up there and slam down alley-oops, or run back and block guys on fast breaks. Those are the types of plays that'll help get Price another contract with the Jazz -- especially if he plays within the offense and runs the team well.
  2. Be available (and healthy) to play in 80+ games: Knight gets injured every year. He's never played over 80 games and whatever slim window of playing time exists has to be maximized by Price. Price needs to be available every game to go in and give Deron a breather. Especially in the cases where Knight is going to be injured and unavailable to play. It sounds simple, but it makes sense. One easy way to distinguish himself from his competition is be healthy. Coach is going to go with the guys on the roster who can play. Sometimes it doesn't have to be complicated. Knight averages 59 games played a season over his career. There is a window of opportunity for Price here, even if it's not wide open.
  3. Eventually beat out Brevin Knight: I'm going to come out and say it -- there are going to be some situations all year where one of the two guys is going to get to play, and the other guy will sit. There will be situations where one guy is favored to play over the other (match-ups, etc). Also, there could be some times on the court where they both play at the same time. Out of all of those situations I think that the veteran leadership of Brevin Knight is going to be a stabilizing force for our team. I just can't bet against Ronnie Price. He's a smaller, scrappy guard who has three point range and has been in this situation before. Knight is smaller, scrappier, and much better than Jason Hart (the guy Price used to beat out each of those previous times), but I think Price has more fight in him. If Knight gets decked by Turiaf I see him on the floor for a while. Price got decked and was ready to fight. It's probably this fight that's going to win him the job sometime after the All-Star Break.
I just made a lewd joke, if this is your wife then you have permission to beat me up.

If he doesn't win, I'm sure he'll stick around next year as well, providing he doesn't ask for the bank to be broken for him. So we'll see his smiling goat face for seasons to come!

Ronnie: "That's right Kyle, you know what I'm thinking . . . time to double team the ball handler . . . "