Friday, December 16, 2011

stomach aches

(this post brought to you by the only band full of people that never made it that finally made it.)

last night, among all the josh howard / andrei kirilenko chatter, prolific jazz tweeter clintonite33 mentioned that J-Ho isn't much of a security blanket if you're talking about injuries as compared to AK.  just last year, howard only played in 57 games while The Russian Back Tattoo played in 68.

jazz fans are, i think, pretty spoiled by their history when it comes to resilient players.  after all, the mailman had ten seasons with the jazz where he didn't miss a single game, and another seven where he missed two or less.  with all the complaining that we hear from SLC about players missing too many games, i thought it would be interesting to see how many games players are actually missing.

to make it more interesting (and to avoid my data being skewed by DNP-CD guys), i only compared the number of games played by each team's top six players.  the top six players were selected by the number of minutes each played throughout the entire 2010-2011 season, and placed within a team based on where the player was under contract at the close of the regular season.  for example, deron williams' numbers are based on his entire season's play, and is listed as a nets player rather than a jazz player.

the relevant information is entered into an excel spreadsheet, which is linked below.  all info was gathered from Basketball Reference.  the categories of data are as follows (auto-calculate equations in parentheses):

  • Games Played:  the number of games the player actually played in during the season.
  • Games Missed:  the number of games the player did not appear in (82 games minus Games Played).
  • Games Started:  the number of games the player started.
  • MPG:  the number of active playing time minutes the player averaged per game.
for each team, the top six players have their stats averaged; each category of stat was summed and divided by six.  so, the jazz's top six players averaged just over 73 games played last year, or almost missing 9 games each to injury (AK's missing 14 games--five more than the rest of the best guys--isn't so far removed from the mean here).

further, each team's top-six-players-average stats is has been averaged in with rest of the team's division (each division has its own tab), each division averaged against the rest of the conference, and a league-wide average is available as well.  finally, note that the first tab on the spreadsheet only refers to teams that made the playoffs last year; each conference's playoff teams have been averaged together as well.


the link to the spreadsheet is here.

this is a lot of data, but answering the question as to whether AK is a big wuss compared to the rest of the league is pretty easy.  on the "TOTAL" tab, note that the league-wide average for top players missing games due to injury is 10.383 games missed.  kirilenko is a little softer than the the average, having missed 14 games (but still in a much better spot than josh howard).  compared to the eastern conference only (13.233 games missed per season), AK's not looking too shabby.

while it's nice to know that andrei is a softie in the west but an average miss-16-percent-of-my-games guy in the east, the rest of the numbers here provide some interesting points.

note on the "Playoff Teams" tab that only three teams averaged higher than 10 missed games per season from their top six players.  chicago had a tough season with noah, boozer, and thomas all missing a bunch of games, but the heat and dallas each have a wild outlier in haslem and butler, respectively.  taking haslem out of the heat's equation and only looking at the remaining 5 players, MIA's numbers move to only 5.6 games missed per season.  similarly, if you drop butler from dallas' numbers, the team's average drops to 4.2 games missed per each of the remaining 5 players.  excluding the lakers' freak show of invincible players, that 4.2 number for dallas would easily be good enough for best in the post-season.  it's little wonder, from this perspective, that they were able to put together a championship run, as the best players on the team didn't have to fiddle with alternate line-ups all season.

also interesting to consider that, in what is arguably the last year of the recent era of the west having generally better teams than the east, the western conference has a slight advantage in top-six players being available per game, 73.044 to 68.767.  and, within the western conference, the division with the best star-availability sent the most teams to the playoffs: the southwest division's top-six players missed an average of only 7.533 games all year, easily the lowest in the league, and sent four teams (DAL, NOH, MEM, SAS) to the post season.

something that i found strange was that, excluding CHI, MIA, and DAL's above-ten-games departure from the other playoff teams, having a healthy core that missed under 10 games a year didn't necessarily translate to making the playoffs (or even being on the cusp of making them).  the jazz, for example, averaged only 8.333 missed games per player, the same number as portland, yet finished 11th in the west.  detroit's squad averaged a missed 9.167 games and didn't make it out of the regular season.  golden state's guys missed 7.333 games each, and phoenix--old as balls, nash/hill/carter phoenix--led the league in available talent at only 4.167 games missed yet neither of the pacific division teams earned a playoff berth.

on the other side of the coin, missing a bunch of games from your core was pretty much a guarantee that your team was going to enjoy a lengthy summer break.  toronto, whose dismal record was bested only by sad, sad cleveland, missed an average of 30.333 games per each of the squad's heaviest hitters.  the closest western conference number to approach the raptors part-time team was the clippers, with 18 games missed by each of the team's best (impressive, considering that blake griffen played all 82 games), which was enough to earn them dead last in the pacific division, and ahead of only SAC and MIN in the west.

the last thing that struck me up front is most apparent on the "Playoff Teams" tab.  dallas, while en route to their championship, leaned heavier on its bench for minutes than any other playoff team.  this is apparent from the "games started" column; dallas's top six (by minutes played) guys only started 48.833 games each during the regular season, the lowest average number of games started by any playoff squad.  the number is also good enough for second most bench-reliant starpower in the west, behind only sacramento.  whether or not this is something actually worth noting is beyond my limited analytics skillset, but it does seem interesting.

stern, cp3, and the united states

(today's entry fueled by badger legion)

during my final semester of law school at the illustrious seton hall university, i took a class called "advanced topics in sports law."  our adjunct professor was this big-time sports attorney in manhattan; the dude knew everything there is to know about the NBA from a technical standpoint (and from a fan perspective, also) but wasn't the most effective educator.

anyhow, for those of you familiar with ABA requirements of law schools, this class satisfied an "advanced writing requirement;" in other words, what would be a journal note or a publishable-quality article on a legal topic.  about five weeks before the semester began, the NBA bought the new orleans hornets, which piqued my legal curiosity.  four months later, i had a zillion endnotes and a few thousand words on the razor's edge the NBA owners are walking between collusion and "investing" with their ownership of the hornets.

this is the article i wrote.  for those of you in the legal field, you'll note that there are no hard conclusions other than that what the league is doing with NOH has a high potential for illegality.  stern's citation of "basketball reasons" when blocking the initial CP3 trade to LAL goes, i think, to my point.  if you're not into legal stuff, the piece is going to be pretty boring--even if you are, it's still pretty dry.  but i think it might be a point worth considering.  enjoy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

any number can play

(today's entry powered by a song from the only post-more betterness NUFAN album i can still stomach.)

2010-2011 Utah Jazz Projected Stats (rookies listed with projected 2011-2012 stats)


2011-2012 Utah Jazz Projected Stats (rookies listed with college stats)
2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks Stats (unedited)

2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks Stats (rookies listed with college stats)

This blog's namesake tweeted this morning with a question:

, i would like to know what Jazz fans are expecting this year in terms of wins. out of 66 games, how many wins?

Among the various answers were a few suggesting that the jazz simply don't have the roster to make much of an impact. I thought such negativity was, while probably grounded in an affinity for reality, a little big of a drag given all the hype coming out of training camp so far. So I thought I'd do a little number crunching. I should preface what you're about to read with a couple of things: (1) my big statistical assumption isn't very scientific in its premises, and (2) I don't have a great brain for statistics anyway.

My thought was to compare the production numbers (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and minutes per game of each player, along with age and size) of the currently posted Jazz roster against the Dallas Mavericks championship-winning team from last year. I didn't include Elson or Fes, but I did include Kirilenko rather than speculating that Josh Howard joins the team.

What you see above are four matrices/images representing individual averages of each player of the team; two of the images are for the 2011-2012 Jazz roster as it stands right now, and two are for the 2010-2011 Mavs. In order to even attempt a realistic comparison, there is one key point you need to keep in mind. The Jazz, as they stand now, are made up of four rookies (if you exclude Trey Gilder's 7 games played last year, which I have). I couldn't very well include their college stats without making a crazy impact on the team's averages. So you see, for the Jazz, one spreadsheet labeled "WITH MODIFIED ROOKIE STATS" that represents what I anticipate each of the rookies to bring to the table this year in combination with the actual 2010-2011 numbers each player put up (except where otherwise noted); the other spreadsheet, "WITH ROOKIE COLLEGE STATS," shows the numbers each of the four rookies put up in their senior year of college along with the otherwise unedited '10-'11 stats (again, except where otherwise noted.

The two Dallas spreadsheets are my attempt at finding a reference for the Jazz's numbers. The first Dallas image, "ACTUAL STATS," shows the real numbers the Mavs players put up last year. The second, "WITH ROOKIE COLLEGE STATS," shows how last year's Mavs would have stacked up had Dallas' only rookie, Dominique Jones, put up his college numbers.

In short, the only spreadsheets that I'll actually be comparing are the Jazz "MODIFIED" matrix and the Dallas "ACTUAL" matrix. But how do I adjust for rookie performance, you ask? Good question.

For the sake of comparison, I’m going to start by using the same ratio of productivity change from Dominique Jones. Jones’ college averages are represented in the Dallas matrix labeled “WITH ROOKIE COLLEGE STATS,” and his actual numbers are in the Dallas matrix labeled “WITH ACTUAL STATS.” Jones, like all other rookies in these spreadsheets, has his numbers contained within a red box.

In order to explain the ratios I’m using for the Jazz rookies, let’s compare Jones’ college averages with his rookie year production straight up:





Jones scored 12.17% as many points per game with Dallas as he had in college, pulled in 25.93% as many boards, dished 31.43% as many assists, stole 20% of passes, blocked half the shots, and played 20.55% as many minutes in his rookie year with Big D as he had throughout college. For the sake of comparison, let’s run the same numbers on Derrick Favors:






I realize that I’d need a much bigger sample to compare these two sets of numbers. But simply to provide something of a control, in order to make a very rough, finger-in-the-wind estimate, I’ve averaged the two percentage drops in each category and applied them to this year’s Jazz rookies (excluding Kanter, as I’m just using his Euroleague numbers, and including Trey Gilder, who might as well be a rookie). So, the average drops are as follows:







So, if we extrapolate this (almost useless) set of percentages against, say, Alec Burks’ college numbers, we wind up with the numbers you see in the Jazz’s “WITH MODIFIED ROOKIE STATS” matrix:





So that's my very unprofessional attempt at accounting for rookies. Take it for what it's worth.

What does all of this mean? The most ego-inflating numbers to compare are the average total points per game scored by last year's champs (142.4) versus the projected Jazz total points per game (151.6). But that's not a very useful yardstick to judge the potential of this year's Jazz team.

The average Mavericks player last year scored 7.28 points in 19.04 minutes of play, 0.382 points per minute. At five players for 48 minutes, that puts the Mavs at 91.76 points per game last year. This number doesn't reflect the Mavs actual regular season average of 100.2 points per game because not all players included in my mock-up roster were on the Mavs team for the entire season (at least, that's my best educated guess on the discrepancy).

The average Jazzman, after adjusting for my guess as to rookie performance, put up 8.92 points in 21.99 minutes of play. That's .406 points per minute played, considerably higher than the respective Mavericks number. If each Utah player was playing with those kinds of numbers for a full 48, that's 97.44 points per game--almost six points per game higher than last year's league champs.

The picture gets more complex when looking at individual box scores.
  • REBOUNDS: The average Jazz player last season (after the rookie index) had 0.155 rebounds per playing minute, for a team total of about 37.12 per game. The average Mavericks player had 0.168 rebounds per playing minute, for a team total of about 40.38 per game.
  • ASSISTS: The average Jazz player last season (after the rookie index) had 0.091 assists per playing minute, for a team total of about 21.94 total per game. The average Mavericks player had 0.089 assists per playing minute, for a team total of about 21.35 per game.
  • STEALS: The average Jazz player last season (after the rookie index) had 0.031 steals per playing minute, for a team total of about 7.47 total per game. The average Mavericks player had 0.030 steals per playing minute, for a team total of about 7.21 per game.
  • BLOCKS: The average Jazz player last season (after the rookie index) had 0.022 blocks per playing minute, for a team total of about 5.29 total per game. The average Mavericks player had 0.018 blocks per playing minute, for a team total of about 4.41 per game.
The Jazz only fall behind the Mavericks in rebounds; all other categories favor the Jazz. And the assist margin is pretty low, considering these numbers don't include any numbers from Deron Williams.

My biggest take-away? Even if you can think of some reason why the Mavs numbers here are lower than they should be, you could modify the Jazz's numbers to reflect only the final few weeks of the season for Gordon and Favors to reflect their increased productivity late in the season. Or you could plug only the first-half-of-the-season numbers for last year's players; do you recall that at this time last year, the Jazz were third in the West? I suppose my conclusion is that the Jazz obviously don't have the kind of perennial all-star firepower you get with guys like Dirk and The Jet. But the numbers don't lie: this year's Jazz team has the potential to knock off last year's best squad.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lakers schedule

what with all the "lakers get preferred treatment" shit we jazz fans love to talk, i figured i'd take a look at their schedule the same way i broke down ours yesterday:


NORTHWEST (18 games total)

Oklahoma City Thunder: 1 @ OKC (2/23) 2 @ LAL (3/29, 4/22)

Denver Nuggets: 2 @ DEN (1/1, 2/3) 2 @ LAL (12/31, 4/13)

Portland Trailblazers: 2 @ POR (1/5, 3/23) 1 @ LAL (2/20)

Utah Jazz: 2 @ UTAH (1/11, 2/4) 2 @ LAL (12/27, 3/18)

Minnesota Timberwolves: 2 @ MIN (1/29, 3/9) 2 @ LAL (2/29, 3/16)

Total Northwest: 9 Games played away 9 Games played at home

  • The Lakers play the exact schedule against OKC as the Jazz, 1 game away and 2 at home.
  • The Jazz play DEN twice in Colorado and once in SLC; LAL plays DEN twice in each city.
  • The Jazz play POR twice each home and away; LAL plays POR twice in Oregon and once in L.A.
  • LAL plays MIN twice at home and twice away; UTA plays them once in Minnesota and once at the ESA.

PACIFIC (14 games total)

Phoenix Suns: 2 @ PHX (2/19, 4/7) 2 @ LAL (1/10, 2/17)

Golden State Warriors: 2 @ GSW (3/27, 4/18) 2 @ LAL (1/6, 4/1)

L.A. Clippers: 2 @ LAC (1/14, 4/4) 1 @ LAL (1/25)

Sacramento Kings: 2 @ SAC (12/26, 4/26) 1 @ LAL (3/2)

Total Pacific: 8 Games played away 6 Games played at home

  • UTA plays PHX once in Phoenix and twice in Utah; LAL gets them twice at home and away.
  • Both UTA and LAL play GSW two-and-two.
  • UTA plays LAC once in in L.A. and twice in SLC; LAL plays them twice "away" and once "at home" but it's the same arena so what difference does it make?
  • The Jazz play SAC twice home and twice away; LAL gets the Kings twice in Sac-town and once with Jack Nicholson.

SOUTHWEST (16 games total)

San Antonio Spurs: 2 @ SAS (4/11, 4/20) 1 @ LAL (4/17)

Dallas Mavericks: 2 @ DAL (2/22, 3/21) 2 @ LAL (1/16, 4/15)

New Orleans Hornets: 2 @ NOH (3/14, 4/9) 1 @ LAL (3/31)

Memphis Grizzlies: 2 @ MEM (3/13, 3/25) 1 @ LAL (1/8)

Houston Rockets: 1 @ HOU (3/20) 2 @ LAL (1/3, 4/6)

Total Southwest: 9 Games played away 7 Games played at home

  • UTA and SAS each play two games in the other's city., while SAS plays LA twice in Texas and once in SoCal.
  • Two-and-two for the UTA/DAL and LAL/DAL matchups.
  • The Jazz play twice in New Orleans and once in SLC, just like how the Lakers play NOH twice in LA the state and once in L.A. the city.
  • UTA/MEM matchup is two in Memphis and one in Salt Lake; LAL/MEM is the same story, with the Lakeshow playing the Grizzlies three times, only once at home.
  • UTA plays HOU twice in Texas and once in Utah; LAL plays HOU once in Texas and twice in California.

WESTERN CONFERENCE TOTAL (of 48 games):

26 Games played away, 22 Games played at home


ATLANTIC (7 games total)

Boston Celtics: 1 @ BOS (2/9) 1 @ LAL (3/11)

New York Knicks: 1 @ NYK (2/10) 1 @ LAL (12/29)

Philadelphia 76ers: 1 @ PHI (2/6) 0 @ LAL

New Jersey Nets: 0 @ NJN 1 @ LAL (4/3)

Toronto Raptors: 1 @ TOR (2/12) 0 @ LAL

Total Atlantic: 4 Games played away 3 Games played at home

  • LAL gets Beantown twice, one game on each end of the country. The Jazz play them once in Boston.
  • LAL also gets the Knicks twice, while the Jazz only play them once away.
  • UTA plays the 76ers twice, one-and-one. The Lakers only get them once in Philly.
  • The Jazz also get two shots at D-Will and the Nets, while LAL only see them once in L.A.
  • UTA plays TOR once in Utah; LAL plays TOR once in Canada.

CENTRAL (5 games total)

Chicago Bulls: 0 @ CHI 1 @ LAL (12/25)

Indiana Pacers: 0 @ IND 1 @ LAL (1/22)

Milwaukee Bucks: 1 @MIL (1/28) 0 @ LAL

Detroit Pistons: 1 @ DET (3/6) 0 @ LAL

Cleveland Cavaliers: 0 @ CLE 1 @ LAL (1/13)

Total Central: 2 Games played away 3 Games played at home

  • UTA plays CHI once in Chicago; LAL plays them once at home.
  • UTA plays IND once in Indiana; LAL plays them once at home.
  • UTA plays MIL once at home; LAL plays them once in Milwaukee.
  • UTA plays DET once in Utah; LAL plays DET once in Detroit.
  • UTA plays CLE twice; LAL plays them once at home.

SOUTHEAST (6 games total)

Miami Heat: 1 @ MIA (1/19) 1 @ LAL (3/4)

Orlando Magic: 1 @ ORL (1/20) 0 @ LAL

Atlanta Hawks: 0 @ATL 1 @ LAL (2/14)

Charlotte Bobcats: 0 @ CHA 1 @ LAL (1/31)

Washington Wizards: 1 @ WAS (3/7) 0 @ LAL

Total Southeast: 3 Games played away 3 Games played at home

  • UTA plays MIA once in SLC; LAL plays them twice.
  • UTA plays ORL once in SLC; LAL plays them once in Florida.
  • UTA plays ATL once in Georgia; LAL plays them once in Califas.
  • UTA plays CHA once in Charlotte; LAL plays them once in L.A.
  • UTA plays WAS once in Utah; LAL plays them once in D.C.

EASTERN CONFERENCE TOTAL (of 18 games):

9 Games played away, 9 Games played at home


So what's the takeaway here? The Western Conference matchups are almost identical, while the Jazz have a notably easier time against the East. I'm sure those whose lives revolve around abhorring the Lakers can point to the back-to-backs or home/away game balance late in the season. But putting the Jazz against the Lakers this way--actual matchups--doesn't show the much-speculated special golden toilet the NBA supposedly reserves for LAL to shart all over the rest of the league.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jazz 2011-2012 Schedule

I think I've seen the schedule broken down a million different ways already (view the official schedule here), but not like this:

NORTHWEST (13 games total)

Oklahoma City Thunder: 1 @ OKC (2/14) 2 @ UTA (2/10, 3/20)

Denver Nuggets: 2 @ DEN (12/28, 1/15) 1 @ UTA (3/23)

Portland Trailblazers 2 @ POR (4/2, 4/18) 2 @ UTA (1/30, 4/26)

Minnesota Timberwolves: 1 @ MIN (2/22) 2 @ UTA (1/21, 3/15)

Total Northwest: 6 Games played away 7 Games played at home

PACIFIC (18 games total)

L.A. Lakers: 2 @ LAL (12/17, 3/18) 2 @ UTA (1/11, 2/4)

Phoenix Suns: 1 @ PHX (3/14) 2 @ UTA (4/4, 4/24)

Golden State Warriors: 2 @ GSW (1/7, 2/2) 2 @ UTA (3/17, 4/6)

L.A. Clippers: 1 @ LAC (3/31) 2 @ UTA (1/17, 2/1)

Sacramento Kings: 2 @ SAC (2/28, 3/22) 2 @ UTA (1/28, 3/30)

Total Pacific: 8 Games played away 10 Games played at home

SOUTHWEST (17 games total)

San Antonio Spurs: 2 @ SAS (12/31, 4/8) 2 @ UTA (2/20, 4/9)

Dallas Mavericks: 2 @ DAL (1/27, 3/3) 2 @ UTA (1/19, 4/16)

New Orleans Hornets: 2 @ NOH (2/13, 4/13) 1 @ UTA (1/2)

Memphis Grizzlies: 2 @ MEM (2/12, 4/14) 1 @ UTA (1/6)

Houston Rockets: 2 @ HOU (2/19, 4/11) 1 @ UTA (2/29)

Total Southwest: 10 Games played away 7 Games played at home

WESTERN CONFERENCE TOTAL (of 48 games):

24 Games played away 24 Games played at home

ATLANTIC (7 games total)

Boston Celtics: 1 @ BOS (3/28) 0 @ UTA

New York Knicks: 1 @ NYK (2/6) 0 @ UTA

Philadelphia 76ers: 1 @ PHI (3/9) 1 @ UTA (12/30)

New Jersey Nets: 1 @ NJN (3/26) 1 @ UTA (1/14)

Toronto Raptors: 0 @ TOR 1 @ UTA (1/25)

Total Atlantic: 4 Games played away 3 Games played at home

CENTRAL (6 games total)

Chicago Bulls: 1 @ CHI (3/10) 0 @ UTA

Indiana Pacers: 1 @ IND (2/7) 0 @ UTA

Milwaukee Bucks: 0 @MIL 1 @ UTA (1/3)

Detroit Pistons: 0 @ DET 1 @ UTA (3/12)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 1 @ CLE (3/5) 1 @ UTA (1/10)

Total Central: 3 Games played away 3 Games played at home

SOUTHEAST (5 games total)

Miami Heat: 0 @ MIA 1 @ UTA (3/2)

Orlando Magic: 0 @ ORL 1 @ UTA (4/21)

Atlanta Hawks: 1 @ATL (3/25) 0 @ UTA

Charlotte Bobcats: 1 @ CHA (3/7) 0 @ UTA

Washington Wizards: 0 @ WAS 1 @ UTA (2/17)

Total Southeast: 2 Games played away 3 Games played at home

EASTERN CONFERENCE TOTAL (of 18 games):

9 Games played away 9 Games played at home




The only thing that strikes me as odd is the relatively small number of intra-division games on the schedule. But as I'm unwilling to do this for the entire league, that may not be an anomaly.

Monday, December 5, 2011

wore out the soles of my lockout boots



(Today’s entry brought to you by an obscure reference to one of the least tolerant front men ever to own his own punk rock record label)

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week, the NBA lockout is all but over. Preseason ball begins with an absolutely riveting DC/Philly matchup on December 16. Jazz fans get to wait until 8:00 P.M. MST on Monday, December 19, to catch a glimpse of what the season might hold under Coach Ty and his three-headed dog (see below) against Portland. We see the Blazers again in SLC on the 21st, and that’s it for the “pre-season.”

Fun fact about Portland, I went to the Blazers-Nets match-up last year in Newark and yelled at Wes to go back to the Jazz. He totally looked at me and shook his head either in disgust or, more likely, indicating his approval to do exactly that.

Much like most of the former NBPA itself, I haven’t been doing much actual basketball-related work since the Mavs slapped the Lakers and the Heat around a few months ago. Fact is, I don’t know enough about the subtleties of the game to have been making serious predictions about where I thought the Jazz would be at the (delayed) start of the season. If you’re like my cousin, you probably don’t need to read any further. But if you’re in my shoes, having been moderately confused by the lockout because both sides were dominated by maddening asshattery, and letting that confusion glaze over your desire to make contingency after contingency for predicting how a new CBA might affect the Yutah Yazz, let’s work things out together.

First things first: Enes Kanter. Hard to think of a good nickname for a guy whose name rhymes with “penis.”

Second, the Jazz court is a little front-heavy right now. Evans, Favors, Hayward, Jefferson, AK, CJ, and Millsap are all currently tagged as forwards on the Utah roster and will be battling for minutes. At the 5, we have Elson, Fes, Dong-Joke and Memo (along with Al “Duality of Man” Jefferson), leaving the backcourt with 5 guards (Raja, Harris, Ronnie and Earl, and draft pickup Alec Burks) to the frontcourt’s 11. Obviously not all these players are under contract, and it seems inevitable that Memo, barring his having implanted T-1000 ankles and knees over the offseason, will get paid to walk under the new CBA’s one-time amnesty provision. In order to get the team down to 11-13 players, obviously some of these guys aren't going to be suiting up once regular season play begins on Christmas.

The obvious-according-to-the-internet solution is trading Paul Millsap. He had a monster year in 2010-2011 and would be an asset to nearly any team that doesn't habitually spend over the salary cap, and the Jazz could theoretically live without him. It's hard to think of a better trading piece than Millsap, and the Jazz are still in need of a real 2-guard (or, at the very least, more than one shooting guard on the roster--AK doesn't count).

Yet losing Millsap creates a big problem for the Jazz, particularly if they decide to drop Memo and let Fes go. That would leave the Jazz with: (A) a rookie and Francisco Elson, who last season was looking only about a half-step faster than a 54-year-old Mark Eaton, at center; (B) Jefferson and Favors at power forward; and (C) Evans, AK, CJ, and Gordon Hayward scrambling for small forward minutes. True, CJ, Hayward, and AK can all play a 2-guard in a pinch (Miles in particular), but there's no sense in getting dogged down in the 2-3 position logjam the Jazz have allowed to build up. More important is that without Millsap, the Jazz have a shaky pair of players at 5, neither of whom can spread the floor (prove me wrong, Johnson Kanter), and only two other true big men even available in Jefferson and Favors. Millsap might be considered undersized for a power forward, but at 17 points and 8 boards a game, he seems to be working out most of the time.

Given the size of the Denver (current roster lists 11 players over 6'8") Lakers (current roster lists 8 players over 6'8"), the Mavericks (7 players over 6'8"), Portland (7 players over 6'8"), and OKC (7 players over 6'8"), the Jazz would be rolling some serious Western Conference dice by dropping Paul to pick up another guard. As the roster currently stands, the Jazz employ 10 players standing at or above 6'8". Losing Memo, Fes and Millsap drops us down to 7 bigs, one of which is Gordon Hayward, who might actually be 6'8" only when he wears platforms. So what are the Jazz to do? Trust in Rigby and O'Connor? They generally--generally--make the right moves. But I'd like to see a starting 5 with Millsap, Favors, and Jefferson and perhaps a flash of all the lessons Ty Corbin has learned from losing games to Phil Jackson's triangle offense.

Also, I just got my autographed Millsap jersey framed. They can't trade him before I even hang the damn thing up.

My third point should be some ruminations on what to do with the stack of small forward/shooting guards we have that don't really have a handle on playing either position consistently well, but I think I'm just going to say this: I have been a stalwart AK defender since Deron Williams made everyone realize exactly how much money was getting pumped into the skinny Russian. And as recently as a few weeks ago I was hoping the Jazz would lock him back up for another 4 years at a much more reasonable salary. But now I'm rethinking that strategy. Evans has way more energy and Hayward strikes me as having the potential (read: work ethic) to show Andrei a thing or two about consistency. Losing AK frees up a spot to bring in a pure shooting guard. It seems foolish not to do it, or at least to sign him to anything longer than a year or two. I will miss his intense love for the filet-o-fish once he's gone though. C'est la vie.

Fourth and finally, as a reward for making it to the bottom of my insufferable nonsense, I remind you that the Jazz are hosting a free scrimmage at the ESA on Saturday, 12/17. I'ma be there, come and tell me how wrong I am and I'll either buy you a beer for being a good sport or pour mine all over your girlfriend. Unless you're a woman with a girlfriend (that link is totally SFW), then I'll illustrate my serious commitment to supporting your ability to live your own life. Just kidding, I'll pour my drink over anyone if they insist.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

drafts and draughts

i suppose my nearly 3-month vacation needs to come to an end here, and what better day to get back into the swing of things than draft day? of course, since i have been either stuck in a library or packing up an apartment for a 2200-mile, cross-country move for the last three months, i'm a little out of the loop on what's going on with the draft. with that in mind, i'm going to give my naive-guy take on this jimmer fellow, and continue by rambling about various jazz/nba thoughts that have occurred to me since the regular season ended.

1. i''m still undecided on this jimmer business. i still think he's too small, and he hasn't shown the kind of all-around brilliance (or, in some cases, even better-than-averageness) that is required of a 1 or 2 guard-off-the-bench utah jazz utility player. i certainly don't think he'll be starting at anytime soon, but for the sake of 2-guard matchups: hornacek was only good for 13.7 ppg, 1.9 spg, 6.6 apg, while shooting 47.8% from the field and 77.6% from the stripe his senior year, and was listed at 6'3" and 190 pounds. jimmer is listed at 6'2" but most analysts say he's really closer to 6', and posting at 195 pounds; this year, he was good for 28.9 ppg, 1.3 spg, 4.3 apg, and shot 45.2%/89.4%.

it would be a fool's errand to try and make much more of a comparison between hornacek and jimmer; they're different players from different times, and even if fredette lands at ESA, they would be players on very different teams. but much like jordan needed pippen and steve kerr (at least for three rings), the jazz played to their highest potential with karl and stockton being aided by jeff "insatiable" hornacek (utah media might be too high-brown to play off the innuendo of hornacek's real nickname, i am not).

after all of the clamoring about a lack of outside shooting threats for the jazz this year, maybe having jimmer in the mix would re-open the paint so al jefferson can get nasty in there again. hell, if utah had jimmer and a healthy memo . . . let me put that combo on the likelihood shelf next to "very spicy" curry from bombay house that doesn't melt your o-ring the next day and my next job as fighter jet/megan fox test pilot. anyway, i guess i've softened on jimmer a bit from my intense distaste during the NCAA tournament. i do still remain convinced that most utah residents highly over-rate his game, particularly those utahns who are members of a singular religious organization. but what do i, and every draft analyst saying there's no way jimmer goes in the top ten of a weak draft class, really know that "rise and shout, the cougars are out" doesn't tell you anyway?

2. i think everybody i know under age 35 who had jazz season tickets last year decided not to renew this season (with one possible pseudo-mohawked exception). i get it, but it's still a bummer.

3. for all the NBA fans who spent the last 12 months whining about lebron and miami, kudos to you for jumping on the bandwagon with the rest of us. for the portion of them who are jazz fans, it would be counter-larry-h-millerish to back james' method of departure from cleveland as well as the idea that a large-market franchise should be able to just dump a zillion dollars into three of the league's superstars when a "small market teams can't afford this ludicrous payroll and play .500 ball, let alone win a playoff series" lockout was 14 months away

the problem for jazz fans was really watching the heat play dallas in the finals. it strikes me that, besides, LA, dallas is public enemy number one for anyone bearing The Note on the sleeve and/or soul. and it's a complicated hatred: it's easy to hate LA, and you don't need to explain it; you can hate san antonio but you have to respect how crisp tim, tony, and manu's game was when they were winning championships; it's hard to really hate a portland team featuring wesley matthews; kevin garnett probably deserved to win a title or two and boston is LA's timeless hoops nemesis. i could keep going with every team above .500 for the last ten years but you get it. so why do we (and by we i refer to myself and my immediate circle of friends) hate dallas so much? is it just mark cuban? is it dirk's normal tendency to disappear in the playoffs? jason terry's morale-and-dream-crushing clutch shooting? jason kidd's constant stench of adult diapers and ben-gay? the simple fact that they play in texas?

whatever it is1, jazz fans were faced with the difficult prospect of rooting for either the base, classless, and vile miami heat, or our conference rival mavs. while most of us probably settled on "rooting against miami" and therefore pussying out of actually backing a team, i "lucked out" in having a close friend who is inexplicably both from salt lake and a mavericks supporter and thus was actually backing dallas through this series. i say "lucked out" because i was able to avoid falling into the following highly offensive trap that victimized many of jerry's kids.

jazz fans, or really any fans of any western conference team that has a problem with dallas, spent an entire season criticizing the heat, and then lots of them decided it would be better to root for miami in the finals rather than, as i've heard it put, root for a team the jazz will have to go through to get to the finals in the next few years. this is absurd for a few reasons.
(A) the jazz aren't going to the finals in the next few years, barring a miracle. you know it, i know it. stop pretending it's not on my aforementioned shelf.
(B) if you actually think the jazz have a shot at a ring in the next five years, would it really be wise to simultaneously hope that the miami heat - with all of its money, star players, and access to medianoche sandwiches - start off its first year of the superfriends with an NBA title? yeah, you're right to think "oh. oops."
(C) most importantly, if you "gave up" on being disgusted by the heat in order to avoid backing the best team in your own conference, you're lying to yourself. you love lebron. you wanted to root for miami all season, but knew how embarrassing it would be to admit to your friends and yourself that you have no moral code whatsoever and were just waiting for any opportunity to make your shifting allegiance to what amounts to the NBA's version of a fully functional death star seem like a natural result of a tough call; your lesser-of-two evils facade didn't fool anyone. congratulations on being a total douche, at least the people who didn't care about the questionable ethics behind "the decision" were up front about it last summer. you, however, are a shark. nothing more, nothing less.

4. after all is said and done, i still love deron williams. or at least my dislike for melo is so intense that i'm wishing deron - via picking up dwight howard next year and crushing the knicks for a few seasons - the very best.

5. 11 more days and i am back in cutthroat country.


1. jazz fans hate dallas because they beat us when it counts. remember the williams-boozer years of "beat great teams, struggle against level opponents, get blown out by cellar dwellars"? dallas was always one of those teams that was about as good as the jazz through that stretch, yet we couldn't close out important games against them. also, they play in texas.

Monday, April 4, 2011

our friend brian

today, along with the past several days, has seen quite a bit of twitter-based banter regarding the salt lake tribune sports writer brian t. smith. see, smith has been saying some things about the relationship problems between certain members of the jazz team and its staff. what's problematic for many of my fellow jazz-twatters is that his reporting and quotes from people like al jefferson or tyrone corbin haven't always been that parallel (at least to us not fortunate enough to have been blessed with the savvy and insight into the subtle meanings of facial expressions worn by pro athletes via our degree in journalism).

with my snot-nosed zing on this writer's ability to infer personality mismatches based on guys looking tired at the end of the season, i've decided to compile as much brian smith stuff as possible over the last few weeks. the twitter posts aren't linked to directly but are all available by scrolling through mr. smith's twitter account, which is linked above and again here or by entering his twitter user name (tribjazz).

~

march 27, twitter: Corbin on Jefferson['s technical foul and ejection]: "It's just unfortunate. That's out of his character. So we just want to make sure it's not an ongoing thing."

march 28, twitter: Jazz's Jefferson said he doesn't really remember what Corbin told him Sunday about ejection.

march 28, twitter: Jazz's Corbin said talk with Jefferson went well. Reinforced that Jefferson's actions before ejection aren't "who we are." ... Jazz's Corbin said he doesn't have a problem with Jefferson making light of their talk. Thinks it's just Jefferson's personality.

march 28, twitter: Biggest take from this mess: Jazz are not talking. Zero communication between players.

march 28, twitter: Jazz's Corbin is doing it. Millsap, Jefferson on bench with game on line. ... Jazz's Jefferson, Millsap on far end of Utah's bench in warmup clothes. ... Jazz's Jefferson with hands on hips standing at far end of huddle. Not involved in timeout discussion in any way. Millsap near him. ... Jazz's Corbin made no motion toward Jefferson, Millsap during pre-overtime break. Open seat b/w Sap, AJ and Watson. ... Get the feeling Jefferson's ejection, joking about private talk with Corbin hasn't helped his cause. ... Three open seats between Jazz's Jefferson and team. ... Jazz's Jefferson staring straight ahead. Corbin hasn't looked at him since Utah run started.

march 28, twitter: Jazz's Jefferson walked out without talking to media. ... Jazz PR person caught up with Jefferson, asked him to talk. Jefferson paused for a second, turned, walked away. ... Jazz's Jefferson has given three no comments and been ejected during last four games.

march 29, twitter: Relistening to Wizards-Jazz postgame tape. Second Jefferson-related question to Corbin was about inserting starters Millsap, Watson ... during overtime while keeping Jefferson on bench. Corbin gives reason for Watson (Price's foot), Millsap (Evans winded). ... Never addresses Jefferson, though. Also avoided Jefferson part of question that started postgame press conference.

march 29, twitter: Jazz's Corbin has made two major moves since taking over for Sloan. 1.) Moving Bell out of the starting lineup and inserting miles. ... 2.) Going young against Wizards, then keeping Jefferson on bench while reinserting Watson, Millsap. Both moves have either resulted in ... player involved either raising issue with media or not commenting after decision.

march 30, twitter: Jazz's Jefferson said he has no problem with Corbin. Communication's fine.

march 30, twitter: Jazz's Jefferson said he wasn't upset about not playing vs. Wizards when he walked out of arena without comment.

march 30, twitter: Asked if Jazz still hope to make playoffs, Jefferson wouldn't answer question.

april 3, twitter: Very interesting quote from Jazz's Corbin: "I don't want you to be happy when I take you out of the game or give you the minutes you want."

april 4, twitter: Jazz's Corbin, Jefferson had a brief talk before practice. Embraced and hugged after chat. Spoke on the side while team put up shots.

april 4, twitter: Hilarious conversation with Jazz's Jefferson, who was sincerely interested in why a beat writer would attend Utah's practice for ... a very brief, 15-minute media session. Jefferson knew writer had to wake up at 4 a.m. to make 6 a.m. flight from Sacramento to L.A. ... just so they could ask follow-up questions. He couldn't understand why anyone would want to do that, and why they'd do it just to ... ask more questions. Talk about the rigors of the biz followed. Jefferson laughed, smiled, joked. Said he got it. Still thought it was ... odd, though. Then he returned to his prepractice routine. Basketball bounces. Questions follow.

april 4, twitter: Best part of Jefferson's inquisitive chat. Walks up, puts hand on shoulder, says "Man, I got to ask you something." Seemed sincerely ... interested in why beat writers would live such a charming, glorious, sleepless life. Also found it funny.

~

that's a lot of information to digest. i'm working on finding quotes from corbin and jefferson right now, will insert those into my little "news feed" above later.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

maybe a bright spot

last night, i wanted to throw feces at the television. i wanted to jump up and down, shove my desk out the window, break mirrors. to quote from a movie that most people inexplicably still think is about MMA, “i wanted to breathe smoke.”

but there was one nice glimpse into the future of the team; a handful of rookies playing solid basketball for an entire quarter.

normally, this wouldn’t seem that impressive. but i think it’s fair to say that the last 10 weeks have put jazz fans in a position to appreciate the little things more. but it’s also possible that i am grasping to the only not terrible element from last night’s disaster and lying to myself that next season shows some promise.

i typically avoid asking directly for feedback from readers, but right now it’s hard not to question whether i’m thinking rationally about this. should hopes be raised for the future of the team based on hayward/favors/evans performance last night, or was it three kids playing mediocre basketball against a truly atrocious DC squad?

thoughts? questions? concerns?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

weekender 6

this hasn't quite been the keep-me-focused feature i'd hoped it to be back in november. but, as dave chappelle might have said 8 years ago when people still cared about him, "fuck it."

three quick things to wrap up the week.

first, i was bragging on facebook/twitter recently that HoD had acquired its first follower. guess who literally DOUBLED their subscribing readership in under 48 hours this week? JAMES PETERSON DID.

second, at this point, for the jazz to make the playoffs, miracles are required. it's like, now i watch games just in case dirk and the jet start making out at halfcourt and get so into it that they're both ejected from the stadium. and then the cheerleaders all make out in protest because they have serious opinions about gay rights, but nobody throws them out because we live in a world of double standards that generally benefit people like me (male, white, straight, no priors) and "any way you want it" starts playing while sideshow mel hands out drinks.

see? while that happening every night for the balance of the season is technically possible, it's still probably in the miracle neighborhood. (i just noticed that i didn't even include the jazz winning in that scenario; just two dudes getting ejected for necking and a party with girl-on-girl makeouts. in some ways, i question how i survive as an adult.)

third, normally i clean up my posts from here when i cross-post them to the UJ360 message boards. but i've noticed that the only cuss word that's seen any regular usage lately has been the F-bomb. i really need to expand my goddamn offensive vocabulary and shit. perhaps reading more tweets, written in anger, from LostTacoVendor will do the trick.

END TRANSMISSION

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the worst

it's only fitting to start posting entries titled after singles from lagwagon's "resolve," an album dedicated to the memory of derrick plourde. plourde had been a fixture of the southern california punk revival scene beginning with his involvement with lagwagon in 1991 and lasting through stints with the ataris, RKL, and significant contributions to lagwagon lead singer joey cape's side project bad astronaut.

in 2005, plourde shot himself in the chest.

the entirety of "resolve" is dedicated to the memory of the deceased drummer; how much he impacted the lives of those around him and those who simply heard his machine gun-fast, robot-accurate drumming. while plourde, or any of his bands (excluding perhaps the atari's flash-in-the-pan hit, covering a terrible don henley song), never really made it to the big time, much of the drum work he did on various records is seared into the identity of a generation of counter-culture youth from america's suburbs.

i should note that i'm not trying to make light of a guy who committed suicide here, but making an analogy of plourde to this season's jazz isn't terribly difficult.

the utah jazz came late to the NBA game, moving from new orleans to a state "where music is illegal" around the same time the larry bird entered the league. the franchise made a handful of brilliant moves in the 1980's, culminating a decade later with a pair of runs at a world championship. 13 seasons after utah's last shot at a title, the wheels fell off the car when sloan resigned and the front office traded an all-star point guard midseason. according to david locke (and reality), even before the moves, the team had been showing multiple signs of an major problems back in december. trading deron williams, then, wasn't really the initial death knell for the jazz season. it was more of the coup de grĂ¢ce.

for jazz fans, other than what seemed like a mild hiccup between the stockton/malone era and the deron williams years, there has always been light at the end of the tunnel; even with a mediocre season, the playoffs have been a virtual certainty for the salt lake city franchise. but now the all-too-real potential of having a regular season only team is starting to weigh heavily on many jazz fans, including yours truly.

when plourde left lagwagon, the band was able to move forward without missing much of a beat; the group's best-selling album (1999's "let's talk about feelings") was recorded with a new man behind the drum kit. arguably the best effort from the band after their 2000 hiatus was, in fact, the album dedicated to their fallen colleague.

while most jazz fans have stayed relatively upbeat about the future prospects of the team, i think it's fair to say that all of us have indulged in a bit of pitying ourselves and the organization. if the best thing we have to look forward to is reflecting on the glory years of a squad that never won a title, it's going to be a long and thankless road.

i think karl malone's attitude, that the team needs to look back at what worked on a fundamental level (grit and execution), is likely to be the saving grace next season, despite whatever moves are made by the front office personnel. sometimes, a now-irrelevant band channels an intensity of emotion lost after a career of never quite making it to the big time in order to cap its catalog with a masterpiece. but it wasn't solely the emotion that made resolve such an amazing record. it was a band that had honed its craft to perfection. it took reflection. it took work.

it's an old cliche that you never know what the future may bring. but occasionally, when fortune brings disaster, something amazing results. maybe the death of 25 years of reliably great jazz basketball will mark the birth of the next 25. but it's not going to come without some pain.

Monday, March 21, 2011

romantic junkie

today's short post brought to you by ALL. thou shalt go for greatness.

after last night's loss to houston, the balance of the jazz season reads like that most famous line from dante's divine comedy.

abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

despite the gloom and doom from some of the utah jazz 360 board's regulars, as recently as 12 hours ago i retained some illusion that the jazz would likely make the playoffs. all it would take was winning against inferior teams and a couple of upsets. the rockets win last night, however, dropped the jazz from being able to claw back into 8th tonight with a win against memphis straight into the 11th spot in the west.

not good.

it's still entirely possible, from a mathematical perspective, for the jazz to win and some of the lower western conference playoff seeds to slide enough for utah to make it to the postseason. but the probability is somewhere on par with me starting alongside jefferson next season (i did win a game of HORSE over the weekend with a kareem sky-hook 3 pointer, but you get my point). in short, barring a miracle, the jazz finish under .500 and get a couple of lotto picks should the draft go on as regularly scheduled.

(it's worth noting, however, that given the current state of CBA "negotiations" with the NFL that the draft will not take place for either league in a normal sense, if at all. you can bet your lunch that the NBA and the NBAPA are watching, enamored, with the progress of professional football's latest labor dispute. and given that the NFLPA pulled the trigger on decertification and filing a lawsuit against their employers within days of the previous bargaining agreement expiring that the NBAPA is going to follow suit should the tactic prove fruitful. in other words, this summer is likely to be a lot of waiting on motions and judgments rather than unionized labor discussions. because the draft is a subject of collective bargaining, it's unlikely that a "normal" draft is going to take place within either league.)

despite this considerable second-half-of-the-season implosion by the jazz, it seems important to point out that many of the moves jazz fans have been waiting for have finally come to fruition. the jazz have relatively youthful exuberance in the coaching staff while retaining a lot of the sloan/johnson work ethic. the front office was finally willing to make a big trade in order to better the (perhaps not immediate) future of the franchise. the team is sporting the length necessary to compete against LA's interior.

clearly there are enormous question marks remaining: what to do about the 2 guard vacuum? where is the jazz defense? what happened to the jazz's long-standing tradition of rebounding? will corbin remain committed to sloan's offense? what is AK's dollar value going forward? the list of worries is by no means short.

but i remain optimistic about the future of the organization. i would, frankly, rather see the jazz make the playoffs this year than pick up an extra draft pick. but that desire comes largely from an emotional perspective; just making the playoffs is enough to make having a pretty terrible spring (on several fronts) recede. now that jazz fans are faced with a near-concrete extension of their normal summer vacation, hope remains.

despite the recent string of close games ending in disappointment, the team is moving forward. the jazz will be able to start the off-season in the enviable position of having many assets available for improvement, as well as retaining several players who are exhibiting real grit and competitive spirit. i don't think anybody would argue that if jefferson's numbers continue next season, he's a lock for all-star weekend 2012. hayward is showing enormous promise as a tenacious defender, as well as being able to find open floorspace both during plays and when the offense breaks down. favors' potential is off the charts.

gail miller said at sloan's resignation press conference that no one player is bigger than the team. i think, as jazz fans, it's been implied often in the past that the team is supposed to be about a couple of players and everything else is a side dish. the best part about this season, and the brightest light on the future, is that the jazz brass has shown a renewed commitment to put the team ahead of the individual. i have little doubt that, once the on-the-floor play starts rolling consistently next season - and it almost certainly will - utah is back in the postseason hunt.

making smart offseason moves is obviously the key to being in the running for a championship. but given how dark the past weeks have been, having a little light at the end of this season's tunnel is comforting. it's a reminder that, despite the rough spots, this is a team that is easy to get behind.* while the team and fans might be reeling a bit now, the undisputed core of utah jazz basketball has always been competing and fighting.

it's hard not to respect that. and when it's happening, it's hard to lose games.

call me a sucker. but the jazz are my H and i'm always looking forward to the next fix.


* no homo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

fair, weathered fans

haha. oh fair weather fans. unbelievable. RT@My_Lo Yes Jazz fans this team is a disgrace.

just a short thought on the above sentiment from last night's twitter feed - i'm not going to write anything longer than a few paragraphs because i am still fuming about last night's game and the terrible, terrible officiating.

let's be honest here. the jazz have under a 50-50 shot at making the playoffs at this point, and even if they do, is this team capable of beating san antonio in seven games? in one game? allow me to slap you in the face with the same dead fish that caught my grill last night. the jazz aren't a good team right now. at their reality-best, this is a .500 team for the remainder of the season. frankly, i will be happy with .500 to close out.

before you get all "oh, there's potential!" on me, let me clue you in on the problem: the potential has been there for five years. the heart is there sometimes from some players. the start-to-finish execution, the killer instinct, is glaringly absent.

saying these things doesn't make me a fair-weather fan. look the term up in your merriam-webster and you'll see this:

1: loyal only during a time of success [a fair-weather friend]

i hate to break it to you, delusional jazz fans, but those of us who think the team is running out of W's haven't abandoned our loyalty. and it's incredibly pompous and narcissistic to consider yourselves "better" fans because you have no grasp on reality. i was throwing things in my apartment last night. i cried during sloan's press conference. hell, i own a kirilenko jersey. i love everything about this team to the point of alienating the people around me.

but i'm also tired of losing. i suppose that makes the players and management fair-weather also, because you can bet your condescending ass that they're tired of losing, too, and are wondering what they're doing wrong. maybe calling the team a "disgrace" is a little extreme, but My_Lo wasn't the only person tweeting things out of unbridled anger last night:

JazzInJersey: "penetration, getting it into your big man" fuck you TNT. i'm finally willing to call [a] win for the refs. fuck the fucking NBA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

solidarity!


tomorrow's game between the jazz and the nuggets is going to be televised on TNT all over the nation. kenny, chuck, and ernie are no doubt going to talk way too much about the recent movement of players from those two teams. despite our heated history, i think there are two things denver and utah fans can agree on right now:

1. shut up about the fucking trades, they have been consuming our lives ad naseum for what seems like eternity; and
2. carmelo anthony is a douche.

come to think of it, i'm pretty sure every man, woman, and child outside of NYC can get on board with that second point.

it's just especially sweet for jazz fans, being the first to know that "carmelo's people of utah" really was just one small faction of people that couldn't wait to get him out of the western conference.

moving, if not forward

to both of my loyal readers, i'd like to apologize for being MIA since the deron trade. i had a family emergency last week that required some last-minute flying around the country. as a result of spending about 48 hours in an airport/on an airplane in a 72 hour period, i've also contracted a particularly interesting set of symptoms that i wouldn't wish on anybody (not wearing a lakers uni).

i get that, as result of this, i'm a little late to the "what the fuck do we do now" party. so late, in fact, that the theme of the event has changed to "well, that could have been worse." we picked up two pretty solid talents, in addition to a couple of probable lotto picks, and "sent a message" to the NBA's top talent that management still holds the cards (most of the time). the jazz are playing as well as i think anybody could have anticipated given the past three weeks; even though they're not winning games, they're at least in games - monday's thriller against boston was a heartbreaker, but it was certainly more fun and encouraging to watch than the last boston-jazz game i saw.

so where does that leave jazz fans? not so very long ago, Jerry's Kids were in a real position to grab the #2 spot in the west; now, Ty's Tykes are two spots out of the Big Dance. bright spots?
  • big al is playing balls-out, all-star basketball. you know the numbers.
  • kirilenko, since jerry left, is shooting 69% from the field. he's also averaging 4 dimes and 4.8 boards, along with 15.6 points per game. compare those numbers to his season averages: .471 fg%, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 12.0 ppg. other than losing out on 3/4 of a rebound per game, Filet-O-Fish has improved his game since jerry left.
  • devin harris is, playing with the jazz, already having improvements in his game versus his career averages (jazz/career): .850/.806 ft%, 3.3/2.5 rpg, 7.3/5.0 apg, 16.7/13.2 ppg.
  • the jazz had 37 assists on 44 field goals against detroit on saturday night.
i posted recently that i'd spend the rest of the season focusing on who is going to show some heart and effort since it didn't seem like deron had enough. (god forgive me if we don't make the playoffs because i didn't knock on wood after thinking that.) the answer has been that our frontcourt has largely responded with heart and hustle. earl, ronnie, and devin haven't been slouching. our shooting guards, however . . . i'm going to re-read the bright spots i just pointed out and focus on that for a while.

what do we need to do in order to get raja to stop making stupid mistakes? how can CJ's game see some consistency? at this point, i'd take consistently mediocre over on fire then sucking balls. and that's pretty much it for the 2 guard spot.

what all this boils down to is this: while i was dealing with my family stuff over the weekend, i had a chance to talk at length with a former jazz-beat writer for one of SLC's big newspapers. it so happened that during our deron trade chatter, my brother-in-law, who lives in phoenix, mentioned that an arizona paper reported the jazz had almost moved paul millsap for robin lopez and pietrus.

if that trade rumor held any truth, i can't help but understand some of deron's grumblings a little better. the jazz were finally willing to make some big trades, potentially and/or successfully moving fan-favorites, all-stars, and team cornerstones. yet the one place the jazz are weakest right now - the 2 guard - remains woefully undertalented (i don't think raja is a very good ballplayer in his old age, frankly, and i already mentioned my thoughts on CJ's current game) and understaffed in comparison to the utah frontcourt.

so, KOC and mr. rigby, if you're looking to get this team moving, what are your plans to get its roster moving in the right direction?

i can only hope we don't have to wait until 2012 to find out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the vast spoils of jazz nation

not to imply that i have something beyond a man-crush on chris conley, but when it comes to a certain pop-punk/emo/post-genre outfit from princeton, NJ and their constant re-defining of their sound, i can only quote from the ubiquitous brokeback mountain: i can't quit you, saves the day.

after the all-star weekend and yesterday's news of 'melo going to the knicks, the pressing question for jazz fans is what to make of elite players and their ability to pressure the league. it doesn't take a genius to figure out that, despite deron william's proclamation that he doesn't want to follow in can'thony's shoes, mr. williams is already in a similar situation. he's contracted with a team that isn't a real championship threat. what's worse, at least from the 'melo perspective, is that the team "isn't willing" to "do what it takes" to win a championship: starting this summer, "what it takes" means signing three elite-level players at once.

deron seems a little less self-centered than anthony (i haven't seen denver pushing their small forward's philanthropic efforts), but the lid is off the jar now in terms of questioning whether d-will has ever heard the word "loyalty." unfortunately, of course, there is no real way to find out whether deron believes in his team as much as it believes in him.

well, that's not entirely true. everybody will know the answer to that question within the next 15 months.

i want to make it clear that this post isn't supposed to be about bashing deron williams. the guy is still a brilliant point guard, though the internal pressures within the organization (combined with a wrist injury) have clearly taken a toll on his game as of late. he's saying all the right things, he's generally playing hard, and he's mostly stopped his snide-if-not-poisoned blame-shifting: the last few comments i've heard from him about the team itself have been consistent with most thoughts held by the fans and the media, namely that the jazz need to make some big improvements and they need to do it right away.

no, rather than continue the speculation about where deron's head is, the burning question in my navy/green/gold soul this week is rooted to where other jazz fans are going to turn should miller/KOC/rigby decide to just push the Big Red Button on the whole team during the (inevitable) lockout and start from scratch. i mused recently on my visceral separation from the NBA and the jazz when i was a younger man, and recalled there that the jazz have already had to rebuild once in the last decade.

but if the emotions are too deep, and the desires too opposing to convince the front office that there is anything beyond a mediocre future for this team as it's currently comprised, jazz fans the nation - nay, the world - over are going to have to deal with something we have literally never even considered before. jazz nation will watch as its oligarchy ships out everything we've come to believe in in favor of a harsh reality wherein players work for paychecks and owners fear bottom lines.

that's not a world i believe in. i still assume, and even demand, that at least one team in the NBA can showcase players who play to win with what they've been given, and management finds 12 players who bring something to the table rather than 3 or 4 gods and a gang of sortas.

here's the rub: chris conley once sang that there's something sweet about seeing the world. but now that we've seen how bitter it can be, do we consider ourselves defenders of a flame of truth, or is old-school finally obsolete?