Utah Jazz Blog: Falling Back to Earth
By John English, Jan. 8, 2007
1. One of the big changes made since their hot streak was putting Derek Fisher in the starting lineup. Jerry Sloan tried with CJ Miles and Ronnie Brewer, but never one patient with youngsters, he benched them both and put his veteran point guard into the 2 spot. It shouldn’t be surprising that Fisher’s numbers actually got worse. Fisher is known for last-second shots, but in the flow of the game he’s better as a distributor. Playing as a 6’1” shooting guard, he didn’t fare much better on defense of the league’s elite 2’s, but he also struggled in his own game. When Fisher comes in off the bench, he usually takes the point while the bigger Deron Williams slides to the two spot. This plays into Fisher’s strengths better. Williams is proving he can hit the outside shot and makes those pay who assume otherwise. Sloan seemed to realize this and put Gordan Giricek in the starting line-up against Denver. The Jazz won. Having Fisher come off the bench means Dee Brown will rack up more DNPs, but the Jazz’s record is much better with Dee Brown shooting the breeze with Rafael Araujo while they watch the game.
2. Teams are figuring out Carlos Boozer. Boozer makes his living hiding under the basket and making lay-ups. He’s an undersized power forward in today’s NBA at 6’8” but he plays big and is having an All-Star caliber year. Teams started throwing zone defenses at the Jazz and Boozer found himself the subject of more and more double-teams. He needs to improve his passing to be able to clear up the middle down low.
3. The underachieving Andrei Kirilenko. AK47’s numbers have been off all season, but they seem to be taking their toll on him. The Jazz went 5-0 when he went down with injury, and he’s been expressing more frustration at not getting his touches. It’s not just his points that are down. His rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-point shooting have all dropped off from last year. For the first time since his sophomore year, Andrei’s playing primarily the small forward position. When Boozer missed most of the last two years, Andrei moved to the 4 while Matt Harpring started at the 3. This allowed Andrei to play down near the basket on defense and be more disruptive. Andrei’s specialty is help defense. Three out of four of his blocks are on players who beat their own guy and think they now have an open shot. Now that Boozer’s back and entrenched at his position, Andrei’s job on offense is setting screens and moving without the ball on offense, and on defense, he tends to cover the taller two-guards. Spending most of his time on the perimeter doesn’t permit him as many ball-swatting opportunities, and it’s easier to steal a ball from a 4-man dribbling down low than a 2-guard at the top of the key. The Jazz need him to worry less about his shot and worry more about getting things done on defense.
4. Too much youth? The Jazz pushed the youth movement ever since Stockton and Malone left town, but now that they’re playoff-caliber, they’re finding themselves making too many rookie mistakes. Williams, in his second year, is playing like a vet, but 19-year-old second-year man Miles, and the three rookies (Brewer, Brown, and Paul Millsap) have been getting shorter and shorter hooks when they mistakes on the floor. Millsap should still make the All-Star rookie squad this year, but he needs to continue fighting for boards and letting the offense come to him. Meanwhile Jazz VP Kevin O’Connor said they are looking to add another veteran to the roster.
The pieces are there for the Jazz to return to dominating form. When you talk about Western Conference teams built to go deep in the playoffs, you talk about the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Suns, but next in the conversation has to come the Jazz. They have wins over every team they’ve played in the West. Williams is a future All-Star, Boozer may be this year, Mehmet Okur has proven to be one of the best centers in the West, AK is still one of the top shot-blockers in the game, Fisher and Harpring are heady vets, Collins is still good for screens and hard fouls on otherwise easy baskets, and the sky’s the limit for Brewer and Millsap. Talent-wise and potential-wise they’re comparable to the Clippers. So why are the Jazz doing as well as they are? Simple. They have the future 2007 Coach of the Year on their side: Jerry Sloan.
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The Jazz played well and it's still early in the season. Okur and Williams had off games, but Harpring and AK played above average. I would like to see the rookies given a chance to "play out" of their slumps.
I wouldn't mind sacrificing a couple of rookies to get Maggette, though. He would be a big help on both offense and defense, and against a team like Dallas that would have been a huge mismatch to our advantage.
Yeah, I gonna get flamed for sayin' it but: I AM SOOOO OVER KIRILENKO.
I don't necessarily think it's a case of being over Kirilenko; but the man is certainly underachieving.
To my mind, that is why he's demanding more in-game touches, because, no matter how much you practise it is only in the game that you 'play' and get things together, as it were. Certainly, it's the frustration talking, if nothing else.
Personally, I'd like to see Kirilenko playing at the 2 and Harpring play at the 3. It would give Kirilenko a bit more space and the Jazz won't lose anything in speed [as they have none anyway :)) putting Matt at SF with his tenacity would be good.
Alternately, Sloan could try playing Milsap at the 3. He's been shown to be effective as a scorer, when given the opportunity, and with both him and Boozer, it would shore up the interior defense, which has, of late, been leaking like a sieve. Has anyone else noticed the degree to which our rebounding numbers have been plummeting?
AK has arrived at a point where a 11-point performance with barely any rebounds and other stats is considered a good game. I just hope he's still recuperating and will be back in form come playoff time.