"It’s just part of the business, man," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said before his team practiced Thursday morning. "It’s hard to see the guys go, especially the good guys.
"The main thing is to see them continue to play NBA basketball. I’m happy they have the opportunity to continue their careers. It’s unfortunate they aren’t with us, but it’s part of the business."
Portland opened its preseason Wednesday night, when Phoenix defeated the Trail Blazers 104-98. Williams had nine points and seven assists in 26 minutes. Matthews finished with four points, and Watson did not play.
The "reunion" aspect of the Utah-Portland game will be a common thread throughout the season for the Jazz, who also watched Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Randy Foye move to new teams last summer.
Jefferson signed with Charlotte, Millsap and Carroll signed with Atlanta, and Foye was traded to Denver.
In addition, former Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek is now the head coach in Phoenix.
Jazz center Enes Kanter admits playing against friends can be difficult, but he quickly added, "When you are on the court, it doesn’t matter. You try to beat them."
the Jazz received solid production from Favors and Kanter in their win over Golden State.
Favors finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes. Kanter, who is coming off shoulder surgery, had 10 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes in his first game since April.
Favors finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes. Kanter, who is coming off shoulder surgery, had 10 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes in his first game since April.
"I feel better," Kanter said. "My shoulder feels better. … "I’m not scared of any contact or anything. I don’t feel any pain. I’m still a little rusty, but I’ve been working on it with my coaches and my teammates, so it’s going to get there."
Corbin liked the way Favors and Kanter played together — something that will be critical to the Jazz’s development this season.
"It’s one thing we talked about the last two years," Corbin said. "We wanted those guys to get [comfortable] being on the floor together, and that time is now.
"They will continue their growth ... as go-to guys. We will go to them more. They play off each other very well. They’ve learned to read each other and that will continue."
After starting the Utah Jazz’s first preseason game this past Tuesday, Richard Jefferson didn’t even dress for Friday’s exhibition contest against Portland.
He’s not in Tyrone Corbin’s doghouse, however.
He'll certainly play and it's possible he could be back in the Jazz’s starting lineup Saturday when Utah hosts the Los Angeles Clippers.
By far the oldest player on the Jazz’s squad, the 33-year-old simply got a night off.
“He’s worked his butt off,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He’s earned it.”
Jefferson didn’t ask for any downtime.
“If Coach asked me to play in every single preseason game, I’d be ready and willing to go,” Jefferson said. “He’s given me the day (off). You just embrace it and you enjoy it and you try to get a little extra rest, because it’s a long season.”
With Jefferson on the bench, Alec Burks slid into the starting shooting guard role. Jeremy Evans also made a surprise start.
Jefferson pointed out that he didn’t completely get a paid vacation in the Gem State.
Before the game, he worked out like he normally would — shooting, running, etc.
“You keep your routine pretty similar,” Jefferson said. “It’s a night off in one sense, but you have other responsibilities.”
Jefferson said he’d observe his younger teammates on the bench and give them feedback.
Speaking of feedback and Jefferson, Corbin continues to speak highly of the veteran who’s about to enter his 13th NBA season.
Jefferson’s career seemed dead in the water last year in Golden State, when he played sparingly and only averaged three points. He’s been rejuvenated since being traded to the Jazz this offseason, along with Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush.
“He’s handling it very well,” Corbin said. “He came into camp in great shape.”
The fact that Jefferson has immersed himself into working hard in drills and participating in all of the two-a-day sessions as a seasoned veteran made an impression on the younger Jazz players, according to Corbin.
“He didn’t miss anything. He didn’t try to take himself out of anything, so he’s gained respect of the guys. … He can help share his experiences with the young guys.”
That, the coach added, will help him be a better mentor.
“This is a great experience for him to lead a young group,” Corbin said. “You have to do it on the floor because if you don’t do it on the floor the guys won’t respect you regardless of what you’ve done in the past.”
"I know everybody wants these expectations on me, just early on," Burke said. "I’m just going to ... try not to press to play up to them."
Burke entered the game with a set of plays given to him by coach Tyrone Corbin. How many plays, Corbin wouldn’t reveal, but he said Burke "did a good job of mixing those plays plus pushing the tempo."
The Jazz invited high expectations of Burke when they sacrificed two first-round picks to move up five spots on draft night to select the consensus national college player of the year with the ninth overall pick. Generally acknowledged as the best point guard in the draft, he was considered to be likely out of the Jazz’s range.
When Corbin and general manager Dennis Lindsey first spoke of the acquisition they gushed, as smitten as if they had just been invited to a Sadie Hawkins dance.
Those were the good days, before Burke floundered with a 1-of-19 performance on 3-pointers at the Orlando Pro Summer League and before the reality of NBA competition truly set in. But it’s also what growth looks like.
It may not have been encapsulated better than on a sequence of plays in the third quarter, when Burke crossed over Lillard and made a 21-foot fade-away jumper over a fully extended Lillard.
21 foot fade away is the best shot they can get?
On the Jazz’s next possession, Burke overdribbled and was trapped in the corner by a hyperactive Lillard. Lillard poked and pushed, forcing Burke to turn the ball over. It was one of just two turnovers for Burke, who added five assists — a ratio the Jazz will gladly take.
On Tuesday, in 101-78 win over Golden State to open the preseason, Burke finished with 12 points in an efficient debut.
Lillard gave Burke far more trouble than any matchup the Warriors presented.
"Heck of a player," Burke said. "You can’t take anything away from his scoring ability. He’s a really good scorer, a really good distributor."
The Jazz led early against the Blazers, but a 12-2 run late in the first quarter gave Portland an edge it wouldn’t budge from.
Former Jazz guard Mo Williams added 11 points and seven assists in 22 minutes off the bench. Williams, who started 46 games at point guard last season in Utah, serves as the Blazers’ sixth man after signing a two-year free agent contract worth $5.6 million in August.
That performance, however, was of passing interest. All eyes are now on the new point guard, not the old one — who has another big matchup to worry about on Saturday, when Paul leads the Los Angeles Clippers into EnergySolutions Arena.
"I love it that way," Burke said. "It’s going to make me better. That’s what I expected coming into this league, night in and night out playing against some of the best guards in the world."
Great setting tonight in Boise. Nothing ever runs as smoothly when we leave NBA arenas but it is great to have people who wouldn’t regularly see the NBA game get a chance to see it. It usually costs the home team a bunch of money because they can’t sell as many tickets but I would say it is worth it.
The Lillard/Aldridge combo was too much for the Jazz to handle. Jeremy Evans got the start for the Jazz at power forward and Aldridge is a tough match-up. Early in the game the Blazers went to the post with Aldridge and the Jazz doubled to help but the Blazers were able to get looks out of the rotations. Then Lillard and Aldridge got the pick and roll game going and the Jazz didn’t have an answer to stop it.
Jeremy had a really tough time with Aldridge but Aldridge is a top 10 scorer each of the last two years so everyone has a tough time with him.
Richard Jefferson got the night off so Alec Burks got the start and it was clear that Alec seems much more comfortable playing as the scorer and ball handler of the second unit.
Might have been the match ups?
Gordon Hayward scored 20 points on 11 shot attempts. All 8 of his points in the 3rd quarter came from the free throw line.
That's what he needs to do to take it to another level!
Trey Burke struggled early in the game missing his first 5 but he impressively stayed in the game and hit 3 of his final 5. He made a conscience effort to distribute the ball early as he had 4 assists in the opening moments without a shot attempt.
Enes Kanter was very critical of himself after the game. Kanter said that he had to do a better job of staying focused and executing the plays correctly. The opening game was not a good game for Kanter and tonight I didn’t notice as many issues but clearly Kanter was not pleased with how he performed. Kanter needs to gain some confidence. It seems as though he may have been beaten down a bit in training camp and needs to get a boost of positive energy. Remember he hasn’t played for 6 months and was only cleared right before camp so I am sure he is physically wasted as he is trying to get through this portion of camp
LOL! Looks like he's one of the few guys that showed up to play to me.
Favors got 3 offensive fouls on picks. All of his 4 fouls were avoidable. He needs to learn how to stay on the floor. Not a good offensive night for Derrick. He made one very nice moved from the left mid block when he straightened up and drove with the left hand and came up the reverse side for a layup.
Again people keep putting it all on Ty but he's had foul problems. Might make more sense off the bench if it continues as much as everyone thinks he is the savior of the franchise.
None of the non-roster players stood out tonight. Justin Holliday got the first run off the bench as the back-up 2 he does some nice things defensively and then Machado, Clark, Harris, Jones and Hudson got the final stretch.
Ian Clark needs to be really open to get a shot off.
That doesn't sound good for a little guy that is supposed to be a scorer and shooter and has partially guaranteed money.
The biggest loss here in the big picture is the loss of Jeff Hornacek.
Hornacek pulled double duty as an assistant coach and as a "on his own time" player development coach. He has worked specifically with helping players fix their shots or put themselves into rhythm to be effective on offense off the ball. His list of students is long, going from DeShawn Stevenson and Andrei Kirilenko to sharp shooters like Kyle Korver and Randy Foye (both had career years under Jeff). Most importantly for Jazz fans, Jeff has become integral to the development of Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. After all, they weren't getting better from all the playing time they were getting in games, it was Hornacek's work put in beyond practices and shoot arounds that made the difference for them. He even helped Derrick Favors on his free throws. And he's gone, and in the hearts of Jazz fans no adequate replacement has been found.
I love Jeff but who knows what they've got exactly. Lowe has been a head coach in the league a couple times. Sanders played in the league. Corbin was a heck of a player for a long time.
On the players side of things, last season alone these players averaged starting in 64.4 games and playing 25.4 mpg for Head Coach. Tyrone Corbin. If you add up the playing time numbers for some of his favorites over the last few years you see a significant removal of experience and potential on court playing time that could have gone to some of the younger players who are actually sill on the roster today. I'm not the head coach, but I know that if I was then Favors wouldn't have made the Rookie / Soph game just because Tiago Splitter was injured, and our guy was an injury replacement. I probably would have looked forward a little bit more than Tyrone did.
Is it all on Ty? Obviously things have changed with Lindsey running the show.
1. What significant Moves were made during the off-season?
The Jazz made a number of good-faith moves this off-season in order to show the fanbase that they are serious. GM Dennis Lindsey was hyperactive on draft night as the Jazz made three trades: the first for Michigan Wolverines superstar Trey Burke; the second for the French combine wonder Gobert; and the last for Brazilian pass first lead guard Raul Neto (not listed above because he's not playing in the NBA this year). In addition to that, the front office bolstered the good Karma with the fans by bringing in two Hall of Famers back to the franchise in Sloan and Malone. Sloan's role is not as defined as we'd want
What does that mean? We want him as the head coach again? Sounds like he's a huge part of the whole thought process who cares how it is defined?
, but Mychal and Amar found out about Sloan way back last May at the NBA Draft Combine. Malone's work with two raw, former #3 picks is the more overt addition
, and it appears to be paying dividends already. Kanter and Favors are both running the floor better, and learning some of the tricks of the trade. The Jumbotron upgrades were long overdue, fans are happy.
More: All of SB Nation's NBA previews to date
Fans are going to be even more happy with the more they see from Burke as the season goes on. The Jazz sent Trey Burke (and Alec Burks) to study under John Stockton for a bit this off-season as well, and if you watched the first pre-season game you could see some signature Stockton in the off the break, off the dribble, one handed passes that resulted in Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans finishes.
Nice! The patented Stockton pass!
He's my pick for Rookie of the year.
Still isn't shooting good.
And that's coming from the position of someone who abjectly focused a few months of his life on all the struggles he will have making the transition from the NCAA to the NBA.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
At the end of this season when national observers look at this team, and look beyond the presumption of a weak bench, they will see a team that really defended well. This Jazz team is going to buck the trend over the last few seasons of getting progressively worse on defense with each successive year. Instead of anchoring our paint with a disinterested post scorer and a tweener this Jazz team has four guys who could average a block a game or more in Favors, Kanter, Gobert, and Biedrins. Five, if you add in human Saturn V rocket Jeremy Evans (12'7 max reach!) if he ever gets on the floor. Many shots will be contested inside, some will be blocked, but the majority will be changed -- and thus the Jazz will finally get some stops.
Can they play smaller though? The league has gotten smaller. Have to be able to match-up.
It's impossible to think of a team as a defensive minded club without solid team defense against perimeter opponents. The Jazz suffered greatly in previous seasons when trying to stop pick and rolls with Jefferson and Mo Williams or Devin Harris. This year we expect to see a more mobile set of bigs showing and slowing the depredations of those Russell Westbrook / Tony Parker types. Our wings appear more defensive minded as well, with "hustle" guys gone, and actual three and D prototypes brought back in with Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush now in the fold. They'll work well with Gordon Hayward (criminally under-estimated on defense) and Marvin Williams in forming a core of athletic wings who all had distance on their shot, and defense on their minds.
All big question marks there outside G.
Ultimately the main point of attack will always been against point guards. Rookie Trey Burke isn't going to make anyone think he's Rajon Rondo; but Corbin will be forced to use combo guard Alec Burks (6'6, crazy wingspan) against the bigger or quicker points. He isn't as amazing on defense as you'd want from a 'stopper', and I don't think Burks is a stopper, but he's a game changer for sure -- doing everything from getting to the line, making ultra-acrobatic finishes, hitting shot clock beating threes, and to executing game saving chase down blocks on the road (think Tayshaun Prince vs Reggie Miller -- but against opposing point guards like Ricky Rubio).
Burks, Hayward, Rush/Williams/Jefferson, Favors, and Kanter/Gobert aren't going to scare a lot of teams on paper -- but their cumulative length and non-aversion to defense will greatly improve the Jazz defensive rating as a team. The team can capitalize on this if they slow down the pace like those Mike Fratello Cleveland Cavaliers did in the Terrell Brandon days. But we'll see what this team does on the court. Fans like a faster pace. But thankfully we fans don't run this team.
The most overt strength this season will be the Jazz' youthful vigor and athleticism. No more shackled to the bench, and none of them having had any serious injuries, this youth brigade will excite with their enthusiasm on the court and frantic activity. Trey is 20, Rudy is 21, Enes is 21, Ian is 22, Alec is 22, Derrick is 22, Gordon is 23, Jeremy is 25 -- and if these players get the majority of the minutes then this team automatically becomes a League Pass Must Watch team in a hurry. Even if they are a grind it out, defense first team like those late 90s Cavs or current era Grizzlies they'll still be worth watching because of the activity.
Why with all that youth and athleticism why would you slow it down? Play D and push the ball. Got to think that's where they will have a chance of competing.
And that youth and activity leads to probably the least obvious strength this team may have. This team have just have the audacity and naivete to beat teams they have no right to be in games against. The last few seasons when our franchise started and promoted browbeaten veterans no other team wanted, career losers, we were out of a lot of games before halftime. These guys, supported by vets like Rush, Williams, Jefferson and Lucas III, could stay in a lot of games they should stay in based upon inexperience and youthful vigor.
Depth has been the key to them being competitive the last couple years with their 2nd unit outplaying most teams. Now you're expecting Lucas, Marvin and Jefferson to do this?
We've seen it time and time again, like when the Toronto Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls back on December 8th, 1996. That Bulls team would win 69 regular season games and the NBA title, but on that night guys like Damon Stoudamire, Walt Williams, Sharone Wright, Popeye Jones, and Doug Christie gave it their all. Sometimes being too young to know better can get you a win.
This seasons' Jazz team will most likely finish with more wins that the '96 Raptors (Jazzfans hope), yet may still end up losing a lot of games this season. But they'll go down fighting with defense and activity. They'll give an effort. That was something sorely missing at times during the last few seasons.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Inexperience. The head coach is inexperienced. The projected starting point guard is inexperienced (just check out this info on rookie PG led teams). The top duo of Favors and Hayward have played less than 2,000 on the court together in their three years in Utah. The starting frontcourt has previously averaged 21.4 mpg and 14.4 mpg for their careers. This team isn't marketable. This team will be led by young guys who, according to the league perception, weren't good enough to play big minutes early in their careers (vs. the idea that a guy like DeMarcus Cousins is worth a billion dollars on the open market). There are going to be some calls that go against us this year, but that's not the big weakness.
The big weakness is this doom and gloom perception of inexperience. The team is projected to be really bad this year, almost purely as a product of this inexperience. If the players and coaches start reading all of this it could negatively affect their play, or, you know, help motivate them. After all, our roster is almost exclusively made up of people with chips on their shoulder at this point. But that, in itself, could be a problem. Especially when you mix having a chip on your shoulder with a very volatile group of known troublemakers in contract years.
Clearly Andris Biedrins is the Latvian Dennis Rodman, right? Oh. He's not? He's some external threat of some sort though, right? Okay, so personalities shouldn't be a problem this season at all.
Well, aside from some vets coming off of down or injury plagued seasons last year, and our back up point guard being kind of a chucker, there are no serious, damaging weaknesses this season beyond inexperience.
No weaknesses? No proven go to guys. No proven starters outside G who has played some of his best ball coming off the bench. No proven depth.
Tyrone Corbin will get better. Trey Burke will get better. Sure, guys like Favors and Gobert can get in foul trouble. Sure, Hayward doesn't have the most consistent shot in the world from day to day. And yea, sure, Kanter has only played 1952 total regular season minutes. But these are all problems of inexperience. We'll screw up some plays. We'll get unforced turnovers sometimes. Someone may, at the wrong time, take the wrong shot.
But these are problems that will all go away with more on court experience, and time together as a team. (Is there a reason for this massive experience deficit? Maybe, but we're not finger pointing here today)
4. What are the goals for this team?
Head Coach Corbin has put it out in the most clear terms: "Get better [and/or] be better."
I don't think wins are every something an honorable franchise tries to avoid, but this season the evaluation of this Jazz team -- at least internally -- will be an evaluation that does not immediately regard wins and losses. This should take the pressure off of Ty first and foremost as he should be then more free to a) accept young players making mistakes on the court and not pulling them, and b) being more liberated in trying different things on the court. When the pressure to win games was on the last few seasons (because, clearly, when you lose a Hall of Fame head coach in Jerry Sloan, and trade away your All-NBA point guard in Deron Williams, you know your franchise is in "win now" mode), Corbin couldn't do a) or b) at all, the margin of victory or loss was just too slim. Which sucked for him, of course, because he was forced into trying things out during the season down the homestretch that he had previously not tried at all before. (Like the "Big Lineup" of Millsap / Favors / Jefferson, or the "Small Lineup" or Burks / Foye / Hayward)
This season should be different as the main goal of this team isn't going to be about trying to squeak into the playoffs for a cut of that playoff money and two televised home games. The main goal is to improve.
And in this league you improve mostly by making mistakes, making adjustments, and then slowly moving towards on-court comfort and eventual mastery. We Jazz fans all remember Kobe Bryant shooting air-ball three pointers in the playoffs against the Jazz, and the eventual sweep of his Lakers. But Kobe stayed on the floor, kept shooting those shots, and eventually got better. Perhaps way better than we ever imagined. This is that season for our guys. We have to get on the floor, and we have to take those shots regardless of success.
All the "good teams" that build through the draft do this. They have one or two down years led by their accumulated youth, but then surge ahead. We all know no top tier free agent is going to take his talents to Salt Lake, so it's obvious the youth movement has to happen now or never. And that's really what is going to happen if you listen to all the interviews the brainstrust give to local media.
My individuals goals would be 2,000 minutes each for our F5 (Future Five): Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter. And plenty of no-risk in game and between game adjustments for Tyrone Corbin. I can't guess how many minutes need to go where beyond the necessary building blocks we've already drafted.
That's not even 30 minutes a guy. The goal is to lose and get one of the studs at the top of the next draft plain and simple regardless of how they want to say otherwise. No way Lucas is in the rotation otherwise. Could be ugly if they actually win some games!
The jury is still out on if minutes help development, but the jury is made out of joe sixpack and not learning theorists and organizational psychologists. For the educated it's obvious. But this is sports and the majority opinion likes to parrot the fables of hired propagandists. Regardless of if minutes advance development -- this season our young players should get minutes.
They should get the opportunities to lead a team either to success or failure. Many times high lottery picks are able to play well, and suffer early, on their way to greater career success. If our players can do that this year we'll be in good hands. If we play them, and success does not seem possible, and improvements are not happening -- then we've identified more things about our team. And that's the second goal.
The Jazz need to find out who they are. It's a mystery if you are on the bench, or pile up DNP-CDs.
Lindsey will use the D-League unlike O'Conner I'd guess. The young guys will be down there if they aren't in the rotation and they are healthy enough.
But if you run tests you can challenges your opinions through observation. This Jazz team is focused on improving, and identifying.
Wins will come and go, but it's the outlook of looking beyond this season that is long overdue
5. What is the biggest obstacle?
The last few seasons it appeared that the team did not have a unified direction. We are being told the head coach was pressured into a win-now situation (perhaps with the hope that he would fail and become a fall guy),
Why would they hire him to fail?
but we saw the head coach specifically doing things that didn't help him win games (promote players who did not play defense, consistently making the team play from behind for
he majority of the games). Furthermore, we are led to believe that the team was interested in developing young talent -- which is hard to believe then one-and-done mercenary veterans would join the team, start, get minutes, then leave the franchise. These minutes also left the franchise, instead of being invested in developing these young prospects. You would be hard pressed to find a team out there in 'win now mode' that did so many non-winning things; and hard pressed to find a team interested in developing youth that went out of their way to keep lottery picks on the bench, watching games instead of playing in them.
They were playing. They were in the rotation of a playoff contender. Lottery picks on crappy teams play a lot of minutes as we'll see this year Utah.
The casual observer is able to understand that "win now" and "prospect development" are opposite goals. Additionally, the astute observer is able to view the Jazz critically and see that they did not succeed in winning now, nor did they help themselves with prospect development. They tried to do two different things, and failed at both. And they did that three seasons in a row. ("Fool me once, shame on you . . . . fool me twice . . . uh . . . ")
Everyone but Favors has showed dramatic improvement and the Jazz were winning as much as you could hope for a team that didn't have any stars.
Many Jazz fans are putting their eggs in the Dennis Lindsey basket right now. We hope that the indecisiveness and inactivity the last few years were a product of tortoise-like Kevin O'Connor. The largest obstacle to this season would be a "fourth time is the charm" idea of trying to win now and develop talent. We hope for a unified sense or purpose and unified direction for the team this year.
It can all be derailed easily if one party puts their individuals goals ahead of the needs of the franchise. Tyrone Corbin's contract runs out at the end of the year, and he may feel like winning now will help his resume more than following directions to play rookies more now. A few veterans on the squad (by few I mean: Jefferson, Williams, Lucas III, Biedrins, Rush) are in contract years as well -- and for the most part, at least two of those guys think they are starter quality in the NBA still. Previously, Corbin would side with the veterans and play them the minutes. They may not stay with the franchise, but they would help him get wins now. They helped each other. This season is about Corbin falling into a long term relationship with the youth. If that marriage doesn't last, then this team could end up repeating the mistakes of previous seasons.
And Jazz fans will have a bad time.
I'm totally going out on a limb here and re-stating that the Jazz will win 30 +/- 5 games this year. My confidence in the youth is high. But you can have good players who play well, and still lose the game. After all, we saw the opposite last year. In science the opposite should also be just as likely. And I think we see that this year. We may lose a lot of close games. Hayward and Kanter and Favors could just be filling it -- but end up having to rely on a Richard Jefferson game winner (or loser) because he's left open.
Closing games will be one of the toughest things for them I'd imagine. Probably lose a lot of games down the stretch.
I've tried to look at the teams THIS team could be like, from the Sidney Lowe Vancouver Grizzlies, to the Glen Robinson Milwaukee Bucks. We hope we can be like those '04 Utah Jazz that almost made the playoffs. I just don't know. I do know that this team is going to be fun to watch, and will give me a lot of hope for the future.
BUT THE FUTURE IS NOW!
It's going to be a fun season, a season we can cheer for. A season of a unified direction, exciting young players, and a coach willing to try new things. If we win, we'll be there cheering. If we lose, we'll be there at the games cheering too, and I'll be at the draft. Ideally, it's win-win. Practically, it's win later. No matter what you call it, I call it Utah Jazz basketball. And after a summer of watching baseball, I'm ready for another year of hoops.
If the Jazz want to prove the experts wrong and have a Cinderella campaign, they have a model to follow right in their own history. Having covered the surprise squad of Kirilenko and Harpring myself, here are some things the Jazz need to do in order to repeat some auspicious history.
First thing is defense. That Jazz team had the 19th ranked offense in the NBA that year, but stayed in games because of its above-average defensive numbers. That’s quite amazing when you look at the list of mediocre big men who were shuttled in and out of the starting lineup all year.
The Jazz also led the league in rebound rate that year, and they hit the offensive glass at a rate that nobody since then has equaled. Seriously, their 34.1% offensive rebound rate is the best in the last 10 years. There are many paths to NBA success and some teams are good specifically because they get back on defense at the expense of offensive rebounds. But when you’re a below-average offensive team, squeezing some extra life out of a possession is very valuable.
They should be able to hit the offensive glass this season too.
Depending on inexperienced point guards like today’s Jazz, the 03-04 Jazz team actually didn’t get great play from its PGs – but they did get them to play within their limits and effectively. The team finished in the bottom third of the league for assist percentage and tied for second-worst in turnover percentage, but both Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez managed True Shooting percentages above 50%. That tells you that if Burke focuses on playing efficiently, this year’s Jazz can survive his rookie learning curve.
He's certainly not looked efficient thus far!
Perhaps the most important lesson the 2003-04 Jazz have for their current-day counterparts is offensive balance. Lacking a go-to scorer, that team depended on an offense-by-committee approach. An impressive 12 players scored at least 10 points per 36 minutes, and nobody took more than Harpring’s 13.2 FG attempts per game. While today’s Jazz would love for a natural scorer to emerge, they’re probably better suited for the equal opportunity approach. They appeared to get that on Tuesday, with seven players all finishing between eight and 14 points and with no one player accounting for any more than 13% of the team’s used possessions (Burke and Burks).
Probably true unless Kanter, Burks or Burke emerges as a go to guy at some point.
It was hardly a starless team, though. Kirilenko’s Win Shares were elite at 11.6. To put it in perspective, if you dropped his WS into last season, he’d be behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and James Harden. So the Jazz probably need someone to step up and lead them if they intend on another surprising year.
And the other star of that team, of course, was Jerry Sloan, who probably did the finest coaching work of his career that season. Despite his flaws, Sloan was able to get the most out of his entire roster: not just Kirilenko and Harpring, but also guys like Michael Ruffin and Aleksandar Radojevic. In a way it’s unfair that Ty Corbin will be judged against the bar of a Hall-of-Famer’s best season, but the reality is that he has more to work with than Sloan did 10 years ago and can answer a lot of questions by putting the puzzle together and surpassing some expectations.
Does he have more. Like it says AK was a star that year. With stars you can win.
There’s a good chance that Tuesday’s game has very little to do with the one I attended ten years ago, and that it winds up as merely a footnote to a bumpy season for the transitioning Jazz. But if we’re to remember the blowout of the Warriors as a harbinger of a team unexpectedly ahead of schedule, they can take some notes from the group I first covered. Defense, extra possessions through rebounding, balance, coaching and Burke playing within himself are probably the salient lessons coming out of the time machine from a decade ago.