Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Things Jazz fans should be thankful for

It's genocide day turkey day here in America, and one of the most gluttonous days of the year. (nothing says 'thanks' like your body physiologically shutting itself down so you do not eat anymore food) Anyway, so far this season the Jazz aren't one of the top 5 teams in the league (percentage-wise, the best teams are the LA Lakers, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns), but they Jazz very well could have been one of the bottom 5 teams if they felt sorry enough for themselves. There are a number of things the Jazz fans should be thankful for. Here they are:

1. Despite all the injuries/absences, the Jazz are still in it

Deron Williams approves

I felt as though the Jazz could hold then own in the chance that Deron Williams had to miss 6 weeks of action. Little did I know that he really WOULD be gone for almost that long. Even more upsetting was the fact that as a team, the Jazz lost quite a few players over that same time frame: Deron missed 13 games, Harpring missed 9, Collins more than 7, Okur missed 5, Boozer and Kover both missed 4 each, Brevin Knight and Andrei missed two games each as well. That's about 45 missed days of action, in only 16 games. The Jazz still managed to win 10 games and are only a win off of last year's pace. (Though, I thought that the Jazz would be 12-4 at this point in time this season, without Deron's injury)

Aside from shitting the bed against the Knicks, Wizards and Bobcats on the road, and the ridiculous loss to the Bulls (on our homecourt) the Jazz have played pretty well in every single game. Utah is 8-1 versus the Western Conference this season so far, and while we currently sit half a game out of 1st in our division, the Jazz are undefeated in games against division opponents this season. The Jazz are still in this, and if the playoffs started today we'd face off against Houston again. Don't tell me that wouldn't be a favorable match up?

2. The schedule

They suck, but we only played them half the time

This is an easy one as the Jazz have a record of 10-6 even though they were a walking M*A*S*H unit for most of the season. We Jazz fans should be thankful for the schedule makers and the schedule they gave us. Our first five games were comically easy -- especially when combined with the fact that we played clubs that were either not very good, or without key players in the first few games. (E.g. Denver without Carmelo Anthony due to a suspension, the Clippers without Baron Davis and Marcus Camby for one game, Portland without Greg Oden, etc).

Aside from the brutal 5 games in 7 nights Eastern Conference road trip (where the Jazz limped home going 1-4), the schedule has been pretty favorable early. Sure, this means that we have a brutal finishing schedule -- but I'd rather have it easy now when the team is trying to form an identity through all the injuries. If the Jazz had a brutal schedule now we may have 5 wins instead of 10.

3. Internal Development

Nov 17 2008 [AP Photo] Sap slaps Shaq

Regardless of who you play, you have to still be good enough to win games -- which the Jazz have been doing. The Jazz have been playing a kinds of crazy line-ups this season due to injuries -- and it's worked so far because of the internal development of the younger players. Paul Millsap, Ronnie Brewer, Ronnie Price and C.J. Miles have played in every game for Utah this season. They average between 21.8 mpg and 31.9 mpg -- and three of the four are averaging over 10 ppg. (Price is scoring the least, with only 7 ppg) Taking Deron Williams out of the equation (he's just as young as those guys), that's a pretty solid core of 4 young rotation guys.

Two or three seasons ago if you told me that Millsap would be using dribble spin moves in the lane to score on his man, Ronnie Brewer would be hitting threes, C.J. would be taking it strong to the rim, and our point guard (Price) would be dunking with two hands I'd call you crazy. Even our really young (in terms of NBA experience) guys aren't doing that bad. Morris Almond (for all of his flaws) is shooting 53.6 fg% in the NBA against NBA defenses, Kosta Koufos had a series of games where he was a shot blocking force and Fesenko (all of 18 minutes played total this season) showed that he can play -- in 12 minutes of action against Tim Duncan and the Spurs he had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and made all of his shots. We should be happy our kiddy corp. is doing so well. They are a big reason why the Jazz are winning.

4. Team play

Nov 11 2008 [Tom Mihalek AP Photo] AK and Booz win on the road

Without Deron Williams (out of 13 of the first 15 games), the Jazz have had to rely on each other more. This is no more apparent than the number of people who have played point guard for the Jazz so far this season: 5 (Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, Brevin Knight, C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirilenko). Everyone seems to be pretty pass-happy though, and the Jazz are still among the league leaders in some offensive statistics.

For example, the Jazz worked the ball around so much that they still managed to be shooting the ball extremely well, 48.4 fg% so far, which is good enough for 3rd best in the league. The team is working well within the system, and it shows, as the Jazz are leading the league in assists per game (24.9 apg), even without a guy who averaged over 10 apg a game. Utah's also tied for 4th best in the league in assist to turn over ratio. Moreover, the Jazz have 6 guys who are averaging over double digits in points per game this season -- with Deron being close to making it seven (he's currently averaging 8.7 ppg in only 3 games).

Defensively the Jazz have been working better as a unit as well -- finally being able to actually execute a good zone defense at times, and helping one another -- which has resulted in getting 9.1 steals per game (3rd best in the league). Imagine how much better it'll get with Deron stopping penetration, now that he's healthy again!

5. The Coaching staff

Scott Layden, Phil Johnson, Jerry Sloan and Tyrone Corbin on Jazz media day (photographed by Melissa Majrchzak for NBAE/Getty Images)

Not only are the coaches a huge reason why the Jazz have weathered the storm early, but they are a huge reason why the Jazz have been in games at all. Who developed our younger players? The coaches did. Who has been making smart substitutions this season? Again, the coaches. Remember a few games back when we actually saw Ronnie Brewer play in the 4ht quarter, and how amazed we all were? Now we see that every game, and it's normal for us. That's a coaching decision that has paid off. Another happened to be taking Andrei out of 'observer mode' as a starter, and put him in 'active mode' off the bench. Speaking of our bench . . .

6. The Bench

 Kyle Throws it down [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE Getty]

. . . our bench is awesome this season. Sure, injuries have taken a bite out of our bench recently (Millsap has to start, Brevin is hurt, Kyle is hurt, Harpring is playing again, etc), but our bench has a lot of firepower. We actually won our first 5 games of the season because our bench was so much better than the other teams' bench during that span: +57 points, +34 rebounds, +27 assists, +16 steals, -4 blocks. (again, in just 5 games) The disparity would be even larger had guys like Baron Davis or Marcus Camby started in their games.

In previous seasons our hope as fans would be that the bench doesn't lose too much ground during their time on the floor. Now we have the opposite expectation of hoping our bench extends the lead during games. This is further constructed by the belief that all of our early season challenges with injuries will only further season our bench guys. During the last 16 games we've had crunch time line ups made of up Ronnie Brewer and 4 bench guys. This is the silver lining of having so many injuries though, our bench guys are stepping up and can contribute.

7. Defense

Brevin Knight makes life hard on other PGs

If you ever listen to our head coach Jerry Sloan you would come away with an integral understanding that the Jazz never ever *ever* play defense. This may very well be the case in Jerry's eyes, but when compared to the rest of the league the Jazz do not look too shabby on defense. Utah is allowing 95.9 ppg (even with all the injuries), which is good enough for 11th best in the entire league. We're doing better than noted defensive clubs like the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls and under-rated Dallas. (At least when Avery was there) Furthermore, teams are shooting 45.3 fg% against the Jazz . . . while only being 17th best in the league, it's still better than a lot of clubs out there.

Lastly, the Jazz are very stingy when it actually comes to letting the other team get a number of possessions. The Jazz have shown a better tenacity for the ball than I can remember (thanks to, early on, Brevin, Brewer, AK and 'Sap getting a lot of minutes -- the Jazz force 16 turn overs per game, that's tied for 4th best in the league). If you keep this in the perspective of how many actual possessions this is, this is a greater feat than other teams that play a quicker pace (like the Nuggets, who are 3rd with 16.4 turn overs forced per game -- but play a game with way more total possessions).

8. Andrei is playing great

Oct 9 2008 [Steve C Wilson AP Photo] AK blocks Matt Barnes

Can you imagine how poorly we'd be floundering if it wasn't for his all-around (dare I hint at a performance that's near all-star level) game this year? Sure, statistically he's achieving stats that ARE comparable to what he used to net as an All-Star, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that the coaches will notice this, and put him on the team. For the record, though, he is playing 30.1 mpg and shooting pretty well (save for from deep -- but everyone's had this problem with Deron out so long). He's giving the Jazz 13.3 ppg (48.3 fg%, 82.7 ft% on an average of 6 fta per game, tops on the team); 6.1 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.4 bpg. He's down from his 14/9/3/2/2 first week of the season, but it's still pretty good. Statistically, he's having the 4th best season of his career -- and he's doing it off the bench!

I've actually been more impressed with the stuff that he does that does not get much notice in boxscores. Specifically with the second unit he is always pointing and directing players to where they are supposed to be. It's a level of command and control that he deserves (as being the longest tenured player on the team) and finally gets, as the leader of the 2nd unit. It makes him happy, and he plays better when he's happy. He's had 15 points and above 8 times this season so far; last season he had 15 points or more 23 times the entire season including playoffs. Getting the ball in scoring position also fuels him on defense. Remember back when he had two blocks on Shaq with the game still in the balance? That happened in a game where he shot 50 fg%, nailed all of his free throws and finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds & 3 steals to go with his blocks.

9. Love him or hate him, Boozer is getting 20 and 10

Boozer had a wickedly quick spin move on this play to get open

Now that everyone is back on the "I Love AK" bandwagon, and no one is even talking (for better or worse) about Fesenko, it's Boozer's turn to be hated on again. He's injured right now, and has missed the last 4 games (games in which Millsap has occasionally produced some really crazy numbers), but day in and day out, Boozer has been a key component in 8 of our 10 wins. Forget that, Boozer has come to play (on offense mostly) every game. Here's his stat lines in losses:

  • 19 points, 18 rebounds;
  • 20 points, 7 rebounds;
  • 26 points, 15 rebounds;
  • 17 points, 9 rebounds (in the 5th game in 7 nights)

He's averaging 20.5 ppg and 12.3 rpg in our losses, so it's not like the losses are his fault. (per se) Dude is in a contract season, and we can't worry about what's happening this off-season right now. Right now wins are important, and Boozer's play so far has been quite positive. His defense still leaves something to be desired, but his numbers are hard to dismiss entirely. For those interested, Millsap's numbers in the last four games (all without Boozer) have been 15.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Clearly there is still a significant difference between the two, and we should be thankful that Booz has been so consistent so far this season.

10. Deron is finally healthy

Nov 26 2008 [Melissa Majchrzak NBAE Getty] Deron go to move is the step back jumper

Sure, his minutes may be graduated right now, and he may play less in the second game in a back to back set than normal, but he's back. For good. Having him on the floor really made our offense look 'back to normal'; and Brewer's sharp cuts near the basket are useful again with Deron's passing ability.

I'm thankful for him being back, as he elevates the team from being a 'good team' to being a championship contender.

There are many things we all can be thankful for, as Jazz fans, the best is yet to come for our team this year. (Even some of the talk heads at ESPN have already admitted in their chats that the Jazz are the team to watch for the 2nd half of the season, or alternatively, the team to watch in 2009, depending on the guy chatting)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Poll: What's the main problem so far this season?

Here's a new poll, you have until December to vote on it . . . it appears simple enough. What's the main problem so far for the Jazz this season? The usual suspects of not being healthy, not defending the perimeter, and not being at home are tempting answers -- but perhaps it's a problem with our offense missing 'gimmie' shots more than ever, or the fact that we're not running when we should run? We have some good athletes, but we often prefer to let the other team set their defense up before we attack them. I don't mind getting easy shots now and then, do you?

Personally, I voted for not making open shots. I don't expect the Jazz to shoot 60 fg%, but I do expect them to make more than half of their really wide open jumpers / layups. So far (and particularly on the road trip) this was not the case. What do you guys think?

You be the coach . . . what's the main problem so far this season?

Poll Result: 5 game East road trip

Watching this road trip was like watching the movie Platoon -- eventually, you know that the chaulk is going to get all kinds of messed up because everyone keeps getting killed. The Jazz lost to the Knicks, beat the Sixers, lost to the Wizards (with Deron Williams playing), lost to the Bobcats, and lost to the Cavaliers. It was pretty bad. Only three people were honest enough to pick the Jazz going 1-4 on this trip. The most of us picked the Jazz winning 3 of 2 . . . obviously the Wizards and Knicks games were very winnable, and let's not even talk about the Bobcats game . . .

5 Game record # of votes  
5 - 0   4  
4 - 1   2  
3 - 2 13  
2 - 3   3  
1 - 4 3 <-- What actually happened in real life
0 - 5   2  

YouTube Tuesdays! Ronnie Price Buzzer Beaters

Yes, I haven't posted in a while. It's going to be okay Jazz-er-oo's. We also had a poor road trip. That's also going to be fine. Why? Because we're slowly getting healthier, and Price is getting his shot back. (Something he struggled with as a starter) Here we can see him hitting two buzzer beaters in the game last Saturday vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Go Ronnie go!

Video posted by EjR2911, total run time of 0:57.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It took me a while to get to 101 posts . . . it took even less time to get from 101 to 201. I really have no life. The winner of the caption contest was Collethegoalie. He won by default. The prize is that he's gets to be named in my blog as the best commenter in the History of this blog. It was still funny though, I just hope more people try this time around . . .

Sam and Muggsy

Not-so-Jazzy nicknames . . . part deux

I really wanted to get at this sooner, as the first part was posted all the way back to August 4th, 2008. However, I'm glad that I waited for the season to start before I proposed these names -- it's better now that we've actually seen the guys play a bit. There are 15 guys on the roster, and in the first batch I did 5, so I should do the same for this batch, and leave 5 for a third article. (Math, it's cumulative -- like these nickname articles!) Just as a recap for Deron I had "The Dominator" (sorry Hasek); I couldn't think of anything more apt than AK-47; and Booz will be Booz forever, even though it's not that clever. Furthermore, in my rant against 'name based nicknames' I felt like Memo should actually deserve a nickname -- and came up with The Janissary. Read the first article if you don't get it, or read a history book. Brewer is left wanting for a better nickname though . . .

Today let's go over some of the newer Jazz players: Brevin Knight, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko and Ronnie Price.

Brevin Knight

Kosta Koufos

Kyrylo Fesenko

Morris Almond

Ronnie Price

Brevin can handle all types of situations

He stands tall like a Greek Statue

Planet of the Apes

Almond only passes the ball to the rim

Price is wild

Knight Rider

The Kolossus

The Violent Apelord


Point Break

Some obvious alternatives would be "The Dark Knight" or the political "Breverend Knight", a play on Reverend Wright -- that's too racy for Utah though, so it wont stick.

The Ice Man, My big fat Greek draft pick, Ko-Ko, Souvlaki -- I can't really get a good Greek thing except for the one you see above.

"Fes", "Fess", "K-Fes", anything that references his name somehow, that's the key to nicknames -- because we know that Karl Malone's name obviously leads one to the word "mailman".

Mo-Al, Almond Joy, other dumb shit like that

"Ronnie P", "The Price is Right" is more of a slogan, than a nickname. His boyhood idol was none other than Utah Jazz great Pistol Pete.

Most players so far are calling him Brev' which is fine, but I think the Knight Rider is cool, because he's calm and collected, and for long stretches you can ride with him as your PG -- as the Jazz did winning their first 5 games of the season without Deron Williams suiting up.

I like the Ice Man, not in a paleolithic point of view, or a guy who sells ice, but a guy who is cool, calm and not rattled by anything. His interview skills indicate much about his personality that would fit the name Ice Man -- a confident skilled individual. That's fine and good, but I want a huge, imposing structure that blocks shots (which he does well) and is a wonder -- and Greek. So yeah.

There is something distinctly simian about this guy. While Kosta is rational, logical and hard working I look at Fesenko who is more wild, physically talented (he's bigger, stronger and faster than Kosta) and still has a higher upside. If anyone can be the true Vanilla Gorilla it should be Fesenko -- especially when you look at his heritage. Also the Violent Ape Lord appears to be his Ukraine league team logo.

There's no other way than to describe his game the way his team mates Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer have . . . hence the name sticks.

He's a point guard who is adrenalin filled and able to break games open with his exciting plays and energy. We saw it in the playoffs against Houston and the Lakers.

Like the movie Point Break, he's had complex relationships with guys who he is directly competing with. Jason Hart was his "guardian angel" and he had to beat him out for the playing time (twice!). Right now Brevin Knight stands against him. In the movie Keanu had to work through his issues of idolatry and duty in much the same way.

What do you guys think?

Kosta Koufos signs off his interviews like an an Anchorman from the 1950's

Kosta Koufos is a helluva player. He is going to have a good future in the NBA, he's also really really young. He's 19 years old. He's a rookie. And there is not much playing time coming his way. Due to the stars aligning in a specific way (resulting in the three other centers on the roster to be out of action right now) he got a chance to start the game, but also play 21 minutes of action. He finished with only 6 points (3-8 shooting), but added 5 rebounds (that's what LaMarcus averages over the last 5 games) 2 blocks, 1 assist and 1 steal. That's AMAZING, if you ask me! (Especially as he was playing against Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert) Kosta had a good game, and I was more impressed with what he did that did not show up on the boxscore. He blocked shots after the foul was called on another defender -- which is a legal move, and prevents the chance of a three point play. He also played good man defense on Elton Brand inside and on the perimeter. He also did a good job of denying the pass, especially on one sequence where the Sixers were inbounding under their own basket.

All of that is great, but Kosta's old school interview is the main reason for this blog post. Dude is out of a time machine. It's great entertainment. The absolute best part is how he 'signed off' of this interview like some snazzy anchorman. He gives very solid answers and is very poised. [Anchorman picture is used here, even though he represents the 1970s, not the 1950s]

Kosta Koufos has his post career employment all lined up

If I was answering these questions as a 19 year old I would have said things just a little differently:

Craig Bolerjack: Did you get any sleep last night? (in reference to getting the notice the night before that he'll start today)

Kosta Koufos: Definitely, it's just a game of basketball . . .

19 year old Amar: I tried man, but I was so excited that I couldn't! Usually my room mate is Morris Almond, but because so many guys were out we all had our own hotel rooms tonight. So I was up all night playing video games and I talked with my girlfriend on the phone for 4 hours. [to the camera] Hey baby! Did you see me on TV today?

CB: How did you feel the first few minutes? A little wide-eyed out there? Elton Brand is the guy you're banging against?

KK: Elton Brand is a tremendous player, I just wanted to play hard.

19yroA: I puked right before the game and I puked again a halftime. It was like Steaming Willie Beaman from Any Given Sunday, but without any of the steam. Or stuff in my stomach. I also puked a bit on CJ Miles by accident. Seriously . . . Elton Brand? I'm only 19, two years ago I had a lunch period and study hall.

CB: [How was it for you to have Deron back?]

KK: Deron Williams is probably one of the better point guards in the NBA. He's a great leader. I learned a lot today.

19yoA: Let me tell you, that even though he didn't shoot well, we don't win without him. I sure as hell would have been crapping my pants *and* puking all over the place if Deron wasn't playing.

CB: [Asks about experience, and not having Mehmet Okur around]

KK: Memo's family is in my prayers . . . he's been a good role model for me, I've learned a lot from him and he just takes care of me.

19yoA: Why did the Jazz draft me just so I can fly around the country checking into hotel rooms and watching NBA games from the front row / aka the Bench? You have to be a little selfish at times, and I want to play now when I'm young and injury free. [turns to camera] Hey Mom! Did you see me on TV? I'm on TV! Teeeeeveeeeee! Woooo!

BLOCKED! Click here for the full interview
Click on either image for the actual interview, including the classy sign off.

Kosta had a great game, and his is unnaturally poised for his age -- and that's a great thing to have. He's not a man child like Fesenko is -- he's the ice to Fesenko's fire. Today the iceman cometh.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Memo's dad is in the ICU; Deron may make a go of it tonight

We've all heard by now that Mehmet Okur has been excused by the Jazz brass, and has flown to Turkey to take care of a family crisis. It doesn't take much interneting skill to figure out what happened. One only has to go to Memo's official website to get the straight dope:

Mehmet returns home to Turkey and is greeted by his dad back in 2005

"Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur's father Abdullah Okur has been sick for a long time now. His condition got worse about two weeks ago as he was taken into intensive care.  However a few days ago he showed strong enough signs of recovering and that the doctors moved him to a normal hospital room. Yesterday his condition all of a sudden deteriorated and he was immediately taken back into intensive care once again. Memo was informed of his condition and today spoke with both coach Jerry Sloan and general manager Kevin O'Connor both of whom said that he should immediately go to be with his family. Memo is going to be on the first flight to Istanbul. " (via, 2008)

This is saddening news, and I hope that the Okur family is able to have the peace and time needed to properly resolve this situation -- family IS bigger than work. And I wish that Mehmet comes back to the USA soon, but only after he knows it's the right time to do so. (e.g. Don't leave your dad in the ICU to go and rush back to play against the Charlotte Bobcats or Sacramento Kings or anything silly like that.)

It's easy to be selfish as a Jazz fan and be upset that another one of your starters can't play every game, the prospect of being down two is bad enough. Compounding things, Kyrylo Fesenko has VISA issues that needed to be resolved (somehow, in Toronto), so he's not going to be there to bang against Dalembert and Brand either. Collins is still hurt as well. [Better hope that Kosta is a big fan of Disney movies, because he has his perfect Disney movie chance now to shine!]

As a result of this new development, or by some magical hotel rest, 1320 KFan has reported (and it was confirmed by the Deseret News here; and the Salt Lake Tribune here) that Deron Williams is expected to play tonight.

Now I just check SLC Dunk and see that I had no reason to blog any of this has Basketball John already explained everything! (Early bird gets the worm I guess)

Free Darko is Carlito's Way "Bigtime"

I love reading FreeDarko. They write some really great stuff. (I still read their live-blog of the NBA draft and it's been months since they posted that) They were recently interviewed on There really isn't much to say, but I do agree that the distinction between print and web is getting increasingly small now. Free Darko is bigtime . . . and have been for a while. If you didn't get the Carlito's Way reference, watch a movie sometime. [Btw, I'm not suggesting the FD is going to get pushed down a stairwell, it's just the best quote I can think of off the top of my head that involves the word "bigtime"]

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jerry Sloan 1k

I couldn't get the exact green hue correct

Jerry Sloan has won a lot of games in his career as a coach, 1094 to be exact. He started coaching at the age of 37 for the Chicago Bulls (whom he played for as a younger man, and had success there). He coached there for almost three seasons (he was fired in his 3rd season) and came to Utah a few years later as an assistant under Frank Layden. Frank left coaching in the middle of the 1988-1989 season, and since then it's been Jerry's show to run. And he's run it quite well. He's had 12 seasons of 50+ wins, which is ridiculous.

I'm not great at photoshop, but I'm pretty good at giving an effort . . .  

Two nights ago he got his 1000th win with the Utah Jazz . . . and this is a big thing.

Most Coaching wins: Wins with one Franchise:    
Lenny Wilkens 1,332   Jerry Sloan* Utah Jazz 1,000
Don Nelson* 1,282   Red Auerbach Boston Celtics 795
Pat Riley 1,210   Gregg Popovich* San Antonio Spurs 633
Jerry Sloan* 1,094   Red Holtzman New York Knicks 613
Larry Brown* 1,012   John MacLeod Phoenix Suns 579
Source: Source: SLC Trib    

* Active coaches

I remember when Lenny Wilkens passed Red Auerbach's record, and that record seemed like a record that would never be broken. I had no clue that at least four other (back then) active coaches would surpass Red some time down the line. Sloan's record (for wins with one franchise) appears as imposing, but who's to know what'll happen in the next few decades in this league? But let's forget about a future that may never happen, let's focus on the present -- right now Sloan has reached a milestone that is amazing, and possibly, a record that'll last for a very long time. Congrats, Jerry -- you earned it, even if you don't like personal awards.

Game 5 Recap: Utah 104, Oklahoma City 97

Game at a Glance:

The Jazz win despite repeatedly not taking the Thunder for real. The Jazz did not think much of the Thunder to start the game, and Jerry Sloan had to call a time out in the 1st quarter with the score 0 - 8 in favor of the road team. The Jazz plowed their way to a 58 - 29 half time lead (a 20+ - 2 run after that time out). After the half the Jazz started to turn the ball over and miss foul shots -- eventually the Thunder got back in it; then the Jazz finished them off. The game was not as close as the score indicated, it's quite easy to beat a team when only four guys show up (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Desmond Mason and Earl Watson) -- and those guys were hardly impact players. Jerry Sloan won his 1000th game with the Utah Jazz franchise, apparently, that's kind of a big thing.

[ Yahoo! Game Recap --'s boxscore --'s game highlights -- NBA TV Post-Game Interview with Jerry Sloan ]

Jazz Quartet -- Top Four Players of the Game:

Andrei Kirilenko Brevin Knight Carlos Boozer Kyle Korver
AK continues to do everything for the Jazz Brevin Knight had 11 assists off the bench and was a ballhawk on defense as usual Boozer had his dunks, but was also looking to pass tonight Kyle Korver can dunk
Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty Photographed by Melissa Majchrzak for NBAE/Getty

AK had a double double (16 and 12) tonight and added 2 assists and 2 blocks. He would have had more assists but Paul Millsap mishandled some easy ones. In my opinion he kind of started to 'force' things on offense after Desmond Mason started to score on the other end of the court -- with varied rates of success.

Brev' continues his solid play off the bench, he had 11 assists in 28 minutes of action last night. His jumper was off (1-4), but he made his free throws. He added 3 steals and had some really good outlet pass/assists to guys who were streaking. (Not in that Will Ferrell / Old School type of way though)

Carlos gets robbed of a double double for the nth game in a row, finishing with 21, 9, 5 assists and a steal and block each. He seems to really feast on bad teams, and continues to do so this season. He was looking to pass more and was robbed of a few assists because of the long arm deflections of the Thunder.

Kyle Korver had a game fit for his name. He shot 5-7 from the floor, and would have gone 4-5 from three on top of his made three had the threes not been negated by mental mistakes like guys getting caught for three in the key. He ended up with 13 points (5-7, 1-2, 2-3), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal off the bench.

Hon. Mention: This could be renamed the "Ronnie Brewer Award" if this keeps up. Ronnie gets just edged out by Korver tonight. Brewer had 2 more assists, but Korver had 2 more points while shooting 4 less times. Kyle also had a steal, and Brewer did not. Also, Korver had 3 other three pointers robbed from him tonight because of Millsap fouls or turn overs. (Three in the key, etc) When Deron comes back expect Ronnie to be in the Jazz Quartet quite a bit as the season goes on . . . but if Ronnie keeps getting edged out, I may retroactively change it to Jazz Quintet. (something I wouldn't want to do)

Digging Deeper:

This game was not close, what kept it close was a combination of the Thunder's lack of respect for the unsaid rules (scoring the ball on what should have been the last possession of the game, etc), their tenacity in the passing lanes (they got a lot of deflections and 10 steals), and their never say die attitude. They were down big at half, but stormed back to cut it to 15 going into the 4th quarter. The game did not look close, but the Thunder never gave up. So they get props from me. Early on it looked like our benchwarmers (Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos) may get some extended burn in this game, but they did not even get off the bench.

Kevin Durant only really scored on open jumpers . . . methinks that he's going to fit that Rashard Lewis mold in a few years if he doesn't diversify his game. He did have this nasty cross over that planted CJ on his butt, as Durant threw it down. Durant's team mates Desmond Mason and Earl Watson started cookin' in the 3rd quarter, when their team made their run, but the Jazz just got a lot of easy buckets down the stretch.

The Jazz did miss 10 free throws in the game, and were very sloppy in the 2nd half. Carlos Boozer had 6 turn overs and Paul Millsap had 5. A 16 rebound to 11 turn over ratio from your power forwards isn't going to get it done against teams with better bigs. (No disrespect intended to Johan Petro and Nick Collison, starters who ended the game with 8 points and 8 rebounds combined for Oklahoma City.)

Winning 5 games in a row is pretty special, starting the season undefeated is also pretty special -- doing both with our best player out is really special. Sloan has been going 9 deep all season long, and our bench has been producing: 42 points, 25 rebounds, 15 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocks last night. That's a key component of how the Jazz have been winning games. Credit goes to Jerry Sloan for picking up the 1k wins in SLC. He has to be doing something right to win all those games -- it's not like he just had Jordan, Shaq and Kobe get him all those wins.

Next Game: Friday November 9th, 2008 -- Utah Jazz @ New York Knicks [3:00 PM EST]

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Poll: How will the Jazz do on this 5 game Eastern Conference Road trip?

It's not going to be easy, as it's a hellish series of back to back games (x2), three games in four nights (x3), four games in five nights (x1), and five games in seven nights (x1). It's also going to happen without Deron Williams, as he's not yet ready to join the team. There are only a few options . . . we go 5-0, 4-1, 3-2, 2-3, 1-4 or 0-5. What do you think it will be -- vote to the right of this post!

Poll Result: What will happen first?

Wow, when I first put up this poll I had no idea what was going to happen first. Many visitors of the blog also did not know . . . up until 2 days ago when I had about 27 votes in one day. It's no surprise to see what DID happen first mirrored the popular vote in this poll.

    Votes % Notes:
Jerry Sloan has over 1k total coaching wins, 1k of them happening as the coach of the Utah Jazz

Jerry Sloan will win his 1000th game with the Utah Jazz.

25 56%

Jerry Sloan won his 1000th game with the Utah Jazz on November 7th, 2008.

Deron isn't quite ready yet

Deron will return to the court.

12 27%

Deron was recently told that while he is, indeed, ahead of schedule, only in the most optimistic of cases would he actually have been able to return to play after 2 weeks -- his current schedule aims for him to be on the court after 4-6 weeks from his initial injury.

C.J. is still playing in the 1st and 3rd quarters of games as a Starter

C.J. will return to the bench.

4 9%

C.J. Miles has started every game this season for the Utah Jazz, and his play has improved of late -- last game he scored 7 points (2-4 fg, 2-2 3pt, 1-2 ft), had 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 16 minutes of action.

Ronnie's dedication to improving his outside shooting has been a pleasant surprise

Ronnie Brewer will make 5 total three pointers.

2 4%

As of November 8th, 2008, Ronnie Brewer has gone 3-6 from three point range.

Bombs Away!

Memo will start to hit threes, at the expense of his (current) double double averages.

1 2%

As of November 8th, 2008, Mehmet Okur is averaging 15.2 ppg and 7.2 rpg. He has hit a total of 3 three pointers this season -- when he was not hitting threes, he was averaging a double double. When he started to hit threes (the last two games) he has averaged only 6.5 rpg -- but 19 ppg. So, technically, this is what happened first, though only one person voted for it.

This was fun, because I felt like any number of these possibilities was -- truly -- possible. The sure bet was Jerry Sloan though, and was a mortal lock after the Jazz beat Portland to go up 4-0.

Flashback Friday: The first 10 games of the last two seasons

Last season (2007-2008) the Utah Jazz won 54 games in the regular season, but only 6 in the post season, for a grand total of 60 wins. The Jazz also won 60 total wins the previous season (2006-2007) -- 51 in the regular season and 9 in the post season. I think that this club is ready to break the 60 total win barrier and do something special this season. The years where the Utah Jazz start off hot as usually the most successful seasons for the Jazz as well. That said, it has to start somewhere, so let's take a look at the first 10 games of the last two seasons: 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

  2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009
Opponent Win Record Opponent Win Record Opponent Win Record
1 Houston Rockets Yes 1-0   @ Golden State Warriors Yes 1-0   Denver Nuggets Yes 1-0
2 @ Phoenix Suns Yes 2-0   Houston Rockets   1-1   LA Clippers Yes 2-0
3 Golden State Warriors Yes 3-0   Golden State Warriors Yes 2-1   @ LA Clippers Yes 3-0
4 Detroit Pistons Yes 4-0   @ LA Lakers   2-2   Portland Trailblazers Yes 4-0
5 @ New Jersey Nets   4-1   Cleveland Cavaliers Yes 3-2   Oklahoma City Thunder Yes 5-0
6 @ Boston Celtics Yes 5-1   @ Seattle Supersonics Yes 4-2   @ New York Knicks ?  
7 @ Milwaukee Bucks Yes 6-1   Memphis Grizzlies Yes 5-2   @ Philadelphia 76ers ?  
8 @ LA Clippers Yes 7-1   Sacramento Kings Yes 6-2   @ Washington Wizards ?  
9 @ Seattle Supersonics Yes 8-1   @ Toronto Raptors Yes 7-2   @ Charlotte Bobcats ?  
10 Phoenix Suns Yes 9-1   @ Cleveland Cavaliers   7-3   @ Cleveland Cavaliers ?  

The last two seasons the Jazz started above .500 and went on to have pretty successful seasons (winning their Division, getting to (at the very least) the 2nd round of the playoffs). In 06-07 the Jazz beat some really good squads on their way to an amazing 9-1 record. (Phoenix twice, Houston, Detroit, etc) The next season the Jazz lost the games against harder opponents -- like the Lakers, the Rockets, and the Cavs on the road. This season how do you think the Jazz will fare?

The remaining games after tonight's game against Oklahoma (which we won, btw) appear to be 'easier' than having to face 5 Western powers in a row, though they comprise a really tough Eastern stretch where there are:

  • two sets of back to back games (Nov. 11th-12th; Nov. 14th-15th)
  • three different situations of 3 games in 4 nights (Nov. 9th, 11th & 12th; Nov. 11th, 12th & 14th; Nov. 12th, 14th & 15th)
  • 4 games in 5 nights (Nov. 11th, 12th, 14th & 15th)
  • and ultimately, 5 games in 7 nights.

That's brutal. If you have any Jazz guys on your fantasy team start them this week as there are 5 games -- but if you are just a Jazz fan, you do not relish the upcoming week.

Just because you are playing against the Eastern teams doesn't mean that they are just going to roll over. We're traditionally not that great on the road, and the schedule works against us here. Let's go over these teams and the games the Jazz will play against them in:

November 9th, 2008 @ New York Knicks
Nate Robinson has assumed the Barbosa role in D'Antoni's offense

New York (3-2) is a run an gun team that's nothing like the Eddie Curry / Zach Randolph disaster from last season. (101.6 ppg so far this season) Almost everyone on their team shoots threes -- 7 different guys on their roster has made at least one. Making things worse is the fact that we've been historically bad in Madison Square Garden over the years. This is not going to be as easy as we think to get a win here -- especially when we're going in there without Deron Williams. Nate Robinson has been playing very well this season, so far coming off the bench to average 16 ppg (48.4 fg%, 42.3 3pt%), 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg and 2.6 spg. Wilson Chandler has a surprisingly effective offensive game as well. There's no guarantee to say we'll win this one. 

November 11th, 2008 @ Philadelphia 76ers
Elton Brand has played well, but so far, Philly has few wins to show for it

Philly (2-4) is supposed to be really good, a top team in the East -- at least according to pre-season projections by "experts" . . . so far their offense looks horrible and their team isn't winning. That said, they are long and big inside (Brand, Dalembert, Marreese, etc) and have some youth and athleticism in the likes of Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young and this Iguodala guy. Boozer hates playing against guys with longer reaches than he has -- and all three of those big guys have than on Booz. Additionally, stronger slashers with good first steps routinely can burn Brewer and Kirilenko -- and Thaddeus and Andre Iguodala both fit the bill there. By the time they play the Jazz, they would have had a 5 day rest.

November 12th, 2008 @ Washington Wizards
Caron Butler is a middle class man's Paul Pierce

Washington (0-4) has been playing without Gilbert Arenas, and is still looking for their first win of the season. Tonight they play the Orlando Magic and could very well be down 0-5 by the time that they play the Jazz -- but that doesn't mean they still can't hurt us . . . they are a good outside shooting team, and the duo of Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison (two mobile and active players on offense) can score with ease. It's about this time of the road trip that fatigue could be setting in as this is the 2nd game in a back to back and the first 'three games in four nights' set of the season for the Jazz. Through some quirks of the scheduling, the Wizards will have three free days before the game against the Jazz, and be rested.

November 14th, 2008 @ Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte may not win many games, but they will try to win them all

Logic suggests that a game against Charlotte (2-3) would be a relative breather at this stage in the 5 game road trip, but the Bobcats are long and athletic -- and have nothing to lose. They beat the New Orleans Hornets last night, and that should show us how dangerous they can be on any given night, thanks to Coach Larry Brown. They will have played the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets this next week before they face off against the Jazz on Friday. We don't know what's going to happen with Gerald Wallace during that time period, but we know that they are strong defensively inside with Wallace (8.8 rpg, 2.4 spg, 1.0 bpg) and Okafor (11.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg). In addition there's this Jason Richardson (17.6 ppg, 1.2 3ptm/game) guy who is pretty dynamic and used to score on us at will back when he was playing for the Golden State Warriors. So far they are only scoring 90.4 ppg, and if there is one easy game during this road trip, this may very well be it. It's a 3rd game in four nights game, by the way.

November 15th, 2008 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is just too good for our wing players to handle

This game against the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-2, who have games against Chicago, Milwaukee and Denver this week before they tip off against the Jazz)  is another 'three games in four nights' set; the 2nd night of a back to back set; and the fourth game in five nights. And yes, if you're keeping track, 5th game in 7 nights total. It's a game against the talented, bruising and defensive minded Cleveland Cavaliers. They are really big inside with Zydrunas, Sideshow Bob and Ben Wallace; feature a plethora of smaller guards who don't have any consciences when it comes to attempting threes (Boobie Gibson, Delonte West, Mo Williams, Sasha Pavlovic, etc). Last, but not least, they have LeBron James. Also Boozer hardly ever plays well there. If we win this game, I will give up eating bacon for a month. And I love bacon.

I'd like to think the Jazz could end up with another 9-1 record, but I don't count on it . . . the schedule is the main opponent for the Jazz during this 5 game Eastern Conference road trip, and the main opponent the Jazz are going to face during our first 10 games of the season. I wouldn't be surprised for the Jazz to limp home after this trip with 3 losses. Then again . . . this is all speculative appraisals of the situation based on a world where Deron Williams does not suit up in any of these games. (And it looks like he's not going to suit up at all for a while now, according to the Deseret News.)

The Jazz have 5 more games -- all on this East trip -- how do you think they'll finish? Will the Jazz go 10-0 to start the season? 5-5? 6-4? What do you guys think?

N.B. All Images are photographed for NBAE/Getty Images