Sunday, December 26, 2010
so what's what? the jazz are currently tied with the lakers, who looked like a bunch of chumps yesterday against miami. i can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing; if the lakers are "looking like chumps" but still have the exact same record overall as the jazz AND the jazz are, by most accounts, playing very well but are horrendously inconsistent, it doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence. allow me to rephrase: the lakers look like shit and are 21-9. the jazz look pretty good and are 21-9. care to hazard a guess at who is more likely to really turn it on in a couple of months?
further, L.A. actually has a better conference record than utah. for the sake of conversation (or monologue, as the case may be) consider this. if both the lake show and the jazz continue playing exactly on pace as they've been on through the 1/4 mark, the two teams likely end up 4 and 5 in the west because OKC is picking up steam. that means neither the jazz or L.A. have an automatic homecourt bid. in the event of a tiebreaker situation come april based on the 4 and 5 seeds, guess who would lose home court advantage? the lakers, since they can win at home and don't have to rely on absurd come-from-behind road win streaks to stay competitive in their division.
that aside, i still stand by my thoughts from a few weeks ago that the upcoming months should be relatively easy on the jazz, despite the fact that they don't have much in the way of homestands (unless you count the next 6-of-10, including three consecutive, at ESA, as a "homestand"). we've only got eight back-to-backs left, and don't see three consecutive teams above .500 until the end of march. if the jazz continue to improve their play execution and the new guys get better about knowing when to switch on D, i see a few 7 or 8+ win streaks in store for jerry's kids.
and the cherry on top? i will personally be attending F O U R, possibly five, of the next 12 games. not too shabby for a kid who lives in newark!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
not much to update, as things have been pretty ho-hum in the NBA lately oh wait that's a lie. the jazz got embarrassed - like george castanza "i was in the pool" embarrassed - by CP3 and the hornets on friday night. the silver lining there? hayward put up a few points and pulled down a few boards. which, by the way, makes me wonder why sloan DNP'd his ass last night in the good land.
the heat are finally looking like what people were afraid of, except they barely are eking out wins against the wizards playing without their ROTY candidate or the recently traded gilbert arenas.
speaking of arenas, i'm holding out on commentary regarding this orlando/DC/phx mashup until i have some time to process what it means for the west. probably nothing, since the suns are playing like los collegians right now.
sadly this post has reached its end; time to stuff christmas cards - don't be jealous.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
i know we've had a weird relationship. we normally only see each other a handful of times every year, but for a few years there we were so close to forming something permanent. you might remember some of the stupid things we said to each other and the nothing-if-not-memorable fights we've had.
now we've moved on from each other, besides the occasional bump into each other in houston or salt lake. for our part, things are going pretty well. but things for you have probably been better. don't be too broken up about it, you had some good times in the past and if you stick to what you know, you'll find a happy future with all of the fish in the sea.
look, let me be honest here. i know we really hurt you once or twice. and i'm not going to apologize for that; we did what we had to do. but we can let the past be the past. there is, however, something you can do to help us start over.
you have an important date with somebody that really has it out for us tonight. i heard that you've changed your "performance" from rowdy to lay down and take it, but maybe you could really show this newcomer how an experienced pro throws down. now that you don't run in the same circles as clowns and a-holes anymore, this is your shot to show the world that you're bent but not broken, that you still have standards. you are going to have to put in a little work though.
i get it. i'm asking a lot. but given that we've been through so much, i'd take it as a personal favor if you could do this one thing for me. after all, even though we don't live in the same building, we still work in the same office. and i really want nothing more than for you to regain some of your old self-confidence.
the utah jazz
Saturday, December 11, 2010
people familiar with my lazy, intarw3bs-friendly low-caps typing may note that the title of today's entry is actually capitalized. i do that generally when i'm quoting or trying to make a point about the importance of a particular proper noun. like, andrei loves The Filet O' Fish (there's only one), or how george the president/war monkey was really more of a marionette for The Man (thanks pat bagley).
jerry sloan is, for those of us in/from utah, not just a coach. he's The Coach. because he's so simplistic yet sage; hard-nosed yet honorable; obvious yet ominous (these examples are alliterative yet algoddamn stupid). while deron's role as on-the-floor coach is increasing (and, as last night's post-game shows, his willingness to bask in this role is getting moderately narcissistic), jerry's role is simple: coach the team, expect hard work and wins.
turns out, he's coaching us, too. don't believe me? think of some of the things sloan has talked about recently:
- on boozer: sloan pointed out several times early this season that fans should get over it because there's nothing we can do now except wait for this team to gel. anybody noticed any talk on the uj360 boards about boozer that haven't effectively ended with "it doesn't matter that boozer's gone, we're doing fine anyway"?
- on The Dick-cision: sloan said in his day, guys wouldn't abandon their team for money, but now the money is a lot bigger and he doesn't know how he'd handle being in the lyin' king's shoes. as much as i think lebron's summer me-first party was a joke, the dude has been annointed as the future of the nba since he was 18. i thought, when i was 18, that by the time i was almost 28 (i.e., now), i'd either have a mountain bike world championship or three gold records. suppose everybody else told me i'd have those things also along the way. don't think i'd be jumping at every chance to make my world-domination dreams come true? don't think you would have done the same? don't think sloan knows exactly what he's talking about? he's not george costanza's old man sending back soup at a deli.
- on derek fisher: every time somebody asks him about fans booing fisher, he says he doesn't get it. he gets it. but he knows (a) for all of our perceived justifications, it's still classless - not that "classless" and "i'm moving to new york to help my daughter oh wait i'm resigning FURTHER from new york" are mutually exclusive; and (b) it just pisses kobe off and that don't help nobody.
- on the jazz when they play half-heart ball: nearly always the same two part answer - players get paid to play 48 minutes, and the fans expect effort. see, he's calling out his whole team publicly (singling out players in an interview is less effective, which is why he usually lists four guys in a row that need work), and he's calling out his fan base to demand more effort in the future. remember the handful of games last season at ESA that ended in boos (not "Booze;" maybe booze for some) as the jazz headed towards the locker room? think they would have been as loud if we didn't have a coach effectively telling the fans every other day for 20 years that they are entitled to wins at home?
next time you watch jerry's comments from shootaround or see him getting interviewed before he calls it a night (before that awful "nba league pass goodnight" screen robs you of Big T's insightful postgame), listen carefully to what he says and remember it the next night the jazz play at home. you might find Jerry's Kids playing a little harder in the paint or setting tougher screens, and the fans, including you, appreciating it a little bit more.
oh david bowie and queen, who knew that when you got together you'd create a masterpiece larger than all of you put together could seem capable of. "under pressure" has universal appeal; it's been covered by dozens, featured in one of the best skateboard video segments of all time, sampled by vanilla ice, and generally inspired millions.
"under pressure" also is a fitting description for the jazz as they travel to dallas today in an attempt that can best be summarized as "redemption." last week's loss to Big D was embarrassing. it was worse than embarrassing. the jazz were supposed to deliver one of the best early-season games, seeing as how the matchup was between the hottest two teams in the nba who, if the western conference standings stay static until april (they will not), are likely to meet in the post season. but they jazz flailed. they flubbed. they barely showed up for the fourth quarter, and felt like passing to the first row rather than each other. think the jazz don't have vengeance on their minds? i'd wager everybody on the team had a bag of chips for their shoulders on last night's flight to texas, and i'm not talking 'bout nacho cheesier.
the problem is everybody knows it, including that dirk nahootski guy (apparently he's from poland now?) and the rest of a team sloan described as actually two great teams in their starters and their bench. the jazz have a great team and one great bench player (CJ) along with several medicre and a few not good bench players. last year, we played in dallas twice, winning one of those matchups. our bench had 45 - FORTY FIVE - points in that game, including almost-double-doubles by AK and paul. more generally, boozer put up 17, memo put in 15, ronnie brewer had 19, wes matthews added 10, and korver poured in 17 points in fifteen minutes. not to mention we won every quarter (26-18, 24-22, 33-22) except the fourth.
last night's bench had 30, 26 of which came from CJ.
i hope the Big Tulip, watson, and RP ate their wheaties this morning; we're going to need more than just CJ.
yet hope remains, at least in terms of opportunity and who is likely to get more up for tonight's game. i mentioned last week that the jazz have it pretty easy for the next couple of months, generally speaking. after tonight, utah has 46 games to play before they have to play three games in a row against teams currently about .500 (OKC-new orleans-dallas late in march). but given our so-so home performance so far this season, this is the jazz's chance to break open the easiest half-season they've faced in recent memory with a huge win on the road against arguably the best team in the NBA. i'm guessing the players know that, and i'm hoping they can use that anticipation to their advantage.
dallas is on game three of a 6-game homestand, and should be feeling pretty complacent tonight after spanking my neighbors (the nets) last night and having a ho-hum contest against starting-to-streak-but-still-9-and-13 milwaukee on monday. the jazz like to get up for big games on the road, and this is the best time to do it.
Monday, December 6, 2010
d-will, with his first western conference player of the month award.* fantastic. more importantly, he's one of five all-star (or at least all-star-caliber) players on the team. i'm not going to get into deron's stats; you know 'em. everybody knows 'em. and i'm not even talking about memo, because he's out (OBVI).
stats are 2010-11 season average for: points per game - rebounds per game - assists per game - efficiency rating - turnovers per game
- paul millsap: 18.4 - 8.4 - 2.6 - +23.33(!) - 1.4
- andrei kirilenko: 11.9 - 5.0 - 2.8 - +14.1 - 1.8
- al jefferson: 16.9 - 8.7 - 1.7 - +19.81 - 1.2
- raja bell: 8.0 - 2.7 - 1.2 - +7.60 - 0.8(!)
now look at our defensive numbers in terms of points allowed. the jazz sit in a respectable 8th place league-wide with 96.71 - without dropping the above three games (the ranking would probably go up if i didn't include the golden state game, but then we're talking apples and oranges).
that puts the jazz's average scoring differential at +4.29 based on the actual record (7th in the league), and +7.502 (6th) factoring in my dropped three games.
second, look at our starting five's performance per game. in multiple categories, we have not one but two guys in the top 25 players in the west.
- scoring: d-will in 11th with 21.6; paul millsap in 21st with 18.4
- double-doubles: deron in 7th with 11; al in 15th with 8
- efficiency: deron in 7th with +24.6; paul in 12th with +23.3
- rebounds: big al in 18th with 8.7; paul in 21st with 8.4
- steals: deron in 21st with 1.43; millsap in 22nd with 1.24
know what happens when you get one recockulously good player on the court with four other players at/near the top of their positions relative to the rest of the league? dynasty. don't believe me? look at the last twenty years of championship-winners, paying attention to the multiple-season champs. you'll see an MVP listed, and perhaps you'll remember some of their supporting cast.
hi, we're the utah jazz and we're as stacked as the '90s bulls, deep as the early 2000's spurs, and as long as the current-champ lakers.
quick note: the NBA is buying the hornets. sure, they COULD keep trying to make pro hoops work in the Big Easy. but why bother when you could ship them up to seattle and dress them in sonics gear? oh wait, because "somebody" tipped the media off to a gambling ref to stir up 24-7 ESPN coverage while he quietly punched every single shawn kemp fan in washington state directly in the penis. one of my friends here at law school is from seattle and we talked about this friday night. me: "come on man, don't you want to see the NBA back home?" friend: "honestly, i don't want to know that our championship banners are hanging from somebody else's rafters. plus, knowing how it feels to have the league steal your team, i wouldn't wish that on anybody."
in either event, unless a buyer willing to keep the team (not to mention CP3) in nahlins shows up asap, that franchise is eff-you-cee-kayed. p.s. whenever i order a dish featuring my favorite delicious crustacean, i pronounce it like this: "i'll have the detlef schrempf scampi."
final note: if you really care about the jazz, you'd already be a member of this facebook group.
*also congratulations to dwight howard; you are a beast of a man, particularly when 10 of the 17 games you played in oct/nov were against sub-.500 teams. how'd you fare against better teams, say the one lead by your POTM companion? let's see, below 50% from the field, 14 points, and nine boards. you did pick up 3 blocks; too bad they were more than offset by your six turnovers and five personal fouls. just for fun, how did utah's center do in that game? 10-16 on 21 points, 8 boards, 3 fouls, 5 TOs and 1 block. big al = bizzaro-dwight?
Sunday, December 5, 2010
i figure that, like most people i know, if i don't have a deadline for this thing, i'm never going to update it. so i'ma start out my weekly features with a short sunday-night spot i'm cleverly calling "weekender." you are totally reading the ORIGINAL EDITION right now of the VERY FIRST ISSUE. congrats, fanboy; now you have a story for your friends.
some friends and i, back when i was living in salt lake, used to watch AK47 during his absurdly awesome early years with the jazz. because we weren't really a playoff contender for a while there, andrei was more or less the most exciting part of the team.
not more or less. he was the only exciting part of the team.
but, being the classless bigots we were back then (oh, did you think of a funny joke to say about how i'm still classless and a bigot? you're so clever; your mom must be proud of your wit), part of our uinta cutthroat pale ale-induced party atmosphere revolved around yelling things in terrible russian accents whenever the long arm of AK* was making things happen. "ivan dunk!" "you no come into my house with that shit!" "borchem chilevik chem chilevik!" y'know, things of that nature. at some point, "andrei kirilenko loves filet-o-fish!" worked its way in there. and it stuck. "that one is for filet-o-fish!" "in soviet russia, filet-o-fish blocks you!"
little did we know, we actually had ESP. the deseret news ran an article back in march 2005 about andrei's home life, based almost entirely on an interview with his wife. turns out the dude is a pretty healthy eater: spinach salads, borscht, that sort of thing. but the man is human, and succcumbs to temptation, as we all do, from time to time. masha kirilenko: "well, sometimes he does have cravings for a filet o' fish sandwich."
*i hate this term, yet bolerjack uses it ALL THE TIME. some catchphrases shouldn't make the cut, buddy. however, i am apparently a fan of using LOTS OF CAPS to make a point.
“Didn’t you ask for them strawberries first?”
As a child with all of five years under my belt, you can imagine my surprise and awe when I turned around to see who had so politely reminded Bill at 8th Avenue Grocery (may its memory rest in peace) that my mother had, in fact, ordered the case of berries first. And despite the fact that the grocer had handed them to the newly minted All-NBA Second Defense Team standout from Louisiana Tech, who could have just as easily walked to the register and on with his life, Karl Malone reprimanded the store’s manager with a smile and handed the fruit to my astonished mother while she and I craned our necks and gaped, soaking in the moment.
The guy may have been a little green in terms of games played, but we knew we were in the presence of someone great. And he didn’t mind making sure that manners were observed, and that he wasn’t above anybody else waiting in line for strawberries. Well, maybe physically. But you get the point.
And that point has stuck with me ever since then. As I’ve watched the league erupt into a preening show for primadonnas, both players and brass, there has been one constant force on the hardwood that has stuck with being classy. They hang on to coaching staff when they make the playoffs instead of cleaning house because a team didn’t bring home any hardware. They groom players into all-stars instead of showering money onto already platinum-plated runner-ups. They push fundamentals and hard work. They’re the Utah Jazz, and everybody in the country knows that they do one thing and do it well.
They play basketball.
Since I’ve moved out to Newark, New Jersey, for law school (go Pirates), I’ve had everybody who finds out I’m from Utah ask me two things: (1) how many moms do you have, and (2) am I a Jazz fan. The answers, respectively, are (1) one, you jackass, and (2) can’t you see the jersey, hat, jacket, and keychain? I’m this close to getting a Stockton tattoo on my forehead just to make it slightly clearer.
But the Jazz thing always opens up a conversation I never get tired of. How long is Sloan sticking around?* Do you really think Jordan pushed off?** How good is Deron Williams?*** Think you can take the Lake-show down this year?**** Everybody knows our system, and they all respect it. The people I’m meeting now range from wealthy wide-eyed college grads to struggling 30-year men that work on the PATH train, and they share one thought with me. There’s not enough old-school tenacity or grit in the NBA, especially at MSG or The Rock. And, further, there’s a particularly dire lack of respect and loyalty running rampant through the country, which is exemplified by the shining temple of self-centeredness that is the NBA.
But, and there’s always the same but, it doesn’t seem like that in Utah.
Sloan’s still around. Deron’s still around. AK (for the time being) is still around. Raja’s back. LHM may be gone (another man and memory I hope is enjoying a well-deserved rest), but his family is carrying the torch of Jazz hoops in a manner that should make him smile, wherever he is. We’re in the playoffs every year, and when our offense is clicking it’s the most beautiful thing to witness in sports. That beauty is rooted in simplicity and efficiency, and Jerry’s Kids have known it for twentysomething years.
Folks out here, just like back home in the land of Deseret, know that we have our problems. But that doesn’t stop me from selling them on an important point. I’m not trying to push people to abandon the Knicks, Sixers, Magic, or whoever they’ve grown up loving. But, just like Jazz fans, they all hate the Lakers and don’t have a real favorite out West. I figure this is the real reason I’m out here; not so much to learn the law, but to educate the masses on the perpetual W machine on 300 West. And they’re receptive to it.
I figure a lot of people trying out for this job want free seats to some games while having a public outlet to blab about stats and complain about inconsequential things. No doubt they have the same level of passion about the team that I do. But I figure I’ve got slightly different perspective from several of the other tryers-out. I’m selling the Jazz to a bunch of big-market fans, and I’m doing a pretty good job. Writing for the Jazzbots would have its perks in terms of swag, but really I want to have a connection with fans all over the country and keep a lifeline to the team itself (and its stalwarts) in Salt Lake. My goal as a Jazzbot is to talk about the organization in a big-picture sense; I like rattling off numbers as much as the next guy or gal, but I also believe in the short (pun intended) lesson my post-toddler self learned from Number 32 two and a half decades ago. Even though the Jazz might be a group of astronomical talent (with bankrolls to match), they’re still essentially people who happen to play great basketball. And they know it.
That humility (along with a few other reasons) is what I’ve always loved about the Jazz. It’s what my new friends in North Jersey love about the Jazz. And it’s what I want to keep as my touchstone when I talk with you as the cowhide globe floats home.
**Hell yes, I think he pushed off. Are you blind?
***First, it’s DARE-in, not Da-RON. Second, well-made jambalaya is good. The clam chowder at Market Street is good. Deron Williams is a freak of nature, like lightning striking twice, except he strikes constantly for 40 minutes about 100 times a year. He’s not good. He’s perfect.
****I don’t think. I know.
author's note: this was my original submission to be considered for a blogger at utahjazz360.com as a "jazzbot." because i couldn't show up personally for my interview at ESA, it was conducted over the phone. i alternated from whispered answers as i ran out of the library and then was winded (that 50-yard dash was tough!) for the next few minutes. keeping in line with my generation's propensity toward entitlement-fed narcissism, my responses to the interviewers' questions basically filled them in on how awesome i think i am and what great insights i'd have regarding the team and jazz/nba culture.
not surprisingly, i was not selected. but something tells me this unofficial jazz booster club is as conservative and anti-northeast as the rest of utah's elite - including jim matheson - which doesn't really bother me. the shoe fits, so i'm not going to complain when people wear it. but i have to figure there are deron williams/jazz/nba fans who remember when they fell in love with a team enough to have it literally overtake the rest of their life, who love punk rock music, who wish the midwestern/mountain west states could proportion their electoral votes, who love new york/new jersey, and/or are fans of education generally. thus, to satisfy these four people across the country - i'm looking at you, greg hetson - my foray continues.
(author's note: maybe i didn't get the jazzbots job. but i'm going to write anyway; it's better than studying.)
a night after the jazz embarrassed themselves against the mavericks, its former all-star power forward showed a little bit of the stuff that made him worth a gazillion dollars in chicago (it would be just bajillions, but i rank my pay scale on games played, and since he takes the square root of games in a season to determine how many games for which he will actually suit up, his cash-per-minute-actually-working income is up there with 16th century spanish conquistadores and warren buffet). boozer put up 25 points on 9 of 15 and pulled down 9 boards; not too shabby for a dude who literally can't answer his doorbell without hurting himself.
for jazz fans coming off a loss to a team almost certain to be in the top of the western conference playoff seeding, it might be a little disheartening to watch the nba and cleveland's original public enemy number one mop the rockets up all over the floor - where was all that heart and effort in april and may, buddy? but boozer's performance is misleading; depite the fact that he is still fitting into a system (if you can call chicago's offense a system compared to the elaborately scripted ballet that sloan runs every night) and will probably continue to have nights with these kind of numbers, consider this. chicago scrapped it out to a 119-116 lead over the hapless rockets, and they had to do it at home.
the last two times the jazz have beaten sub-.500 teams at home who managed to score over 100 points were on november 3rd and november 6th, against toronto (125-108) and the clippers (109-107), respectively. jefferson had 27 points and 6 boards against toronto, while millsap put up 21 and pulled down 6 as well. more importantly, millsap had a +20 rating and jefferson had a +18. boozer's efficiency rating last night? +2. both jazz played at least 8 minutes more than boozer did, and they weren't coming off six months of vacation and rest.
in a double-OT win against blake griffin and the clippers, jefferson had 18 points and 10 boards, while millsap had 25 and 13. the plus-minus numbers for both players were closer to boozer's last night (-1 for al and +3 for paul), but the two jazz big men combined for 5 assists and al blocked 3 shots. booze last night? 1 dime, 1 swat.
if i wasn't supposed to be prepping for an administrative law exam, i'd bust out the miller index to get a final pseudo-stat on how the three compare. but i think it's fair to say that while the bulls may rise to the top of the east to contend with boston, orlando, and miami (4 wins in a row including an impressive one against atlanta last night), the numbers don't lie. the jazz are certainly no worse off with jefferson in town and millsap starting; if anything, they're in a much better position now than they were last year. people have already talked about the length of the team; once memo comes back, should the starters be deron, ak, paul, al, and memo, the only dude on the floor at the tip under 6'8" would be williams. i think i could live with that.
more importantly, however, with the acquisition of al comes a player who is open to the team chemistry required under sloan and in family-centric/xenophobic utah. and, for a utah team desperate to get tougher on defense and clamp down on giveaways over the summer, #25 is already averaging 1.6 blocks per game, while committing only 1.2 turnovers and garnering 2.6 personal fouls. compare that to boozer's last season in salt lake: half a block, 2.7 turnovers and 3.5 fouls. in terms of ball sharing, boozer has the edge on assists, with a career average of 2.5 per game, while jefferson has 1.7 so far this season. but that number doesn't account for jefferson's continual evolution with the jazz.
- in the first preseason game against portland back on october 7th, al only picked up one assist.
- in the season opening loss to denver on october 27th, he had none.
- on november 9th, in the come-from-behind OT win on the road in miami, jefferson fed for 2 assists.
- in the blowout against the pacers on the first of december, jefferson had 3 assists
- in friday's loss to the mavericks, big al picked up 4 dimes.
boozer's career-high for assists in a game came in 2008 at 10. given how quickly al is adapting to the jazz and where his teammates will be on the floor at any given moment, and despite the fact that he's trying to "shoot first" when he gets the ball in the paint, i'm calling it right now: al has at least two triple-doubles this season, maybe as many as five if he realizes he'll be on sportscenter's highlight reel every other night. the jazz's absurdly soft schedule from december 13th through late march (i take back all the bad things i said about our early-season schedule) should help facilitate that. and, on the plus side, if jefferson can even average 5 dimes a night and still keep a double-double, millsap and kirilenko know how to distribute the ball so well while remaining potent scoring threats on their own that the jazz start to look like a feedback loop. as each player in the front court gets better, the entire team will benefit equally if not moreso than the individual. jefferson is the core of this formula, and so far his on-court growth has exceeded what i thought the happy but defenseless big man would provide.
oh, and he's playing with deron williams, who, despite saying he hates al jefferson after the win against the lakers, seems to be finding #25 an awful lot so far and palling around with him at practice. think boozer ever stayed late for a film session because he wanted to make sure deron and the team was happy with him? boozer LOVED sacrificing his time for his teammates, coach, and fans. wait, the internet doesn't have voice inflection. read that sentence again a la homer simpson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EUS5c-qHtk
p.s. my title is, as might be obvious, a nod to chris roe and the atari's classic single, "your boyfriend sucks." guess what, chi-town, he does! maybe no use for a name's "justified black eye" would be more appropriate; that suit booze wore while sitting on the bench because of a "strained oblique" sure looked great while we got knocked from 3rd to 5th on the last game of the season! but you needed the rest, so we understand. after all, no one gave karl malone shit when he missed those 10 games.