Sunday, December 5, 2010

you're better off without him

(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:

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.

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