[Note by Basketball John, 11/06/09 6:38 AM MST - Thanks to prezofdeath for doing this. If you didn't know, he's a Blazers fan ]
What's new in Utah? Nothin' at all.
As the 2009 season kicks off, what is Jerry Sloan thinking about?
Defense. As usual.
The man who earned four NBA All-Defensive First Team selections and two Second Team selections during his playing career described his Jazz a couple weeks ago as "an offensive-thinking team," who need to buckle down and play some D.
"Nobody wants to hear about defense," Sloan said. "But you need it to win."
As a Portland Trail Blazers fan, it seems I find Coach Nate McMillan saying the same thing every year. Know the feeling? Look no further than this headline that ran last October in the Salt Lake Tribune:
Utah Jazz: For coach Jerry Sloan it is - always - about defense
Posted: 12:57 PM- BOISE, Idaho -- From the very first meeting on the very first morning of training camp, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, a charter member of the NBA's all-defensive team during his playing days, started the season by talking about a subject close to his heart.
Can they deliver this year?
Though it may be the cliché answer pertaining to what the team needs to work on, as the 2009-2010 season kicks off, I see the Jazz, a team that yielded 108.9 points per 100 possessions last year (good enough for 10th in the league), honestly looking to improve.
The question is, can they actually do it?
A rocky start has left the Jazz 24th in the league in defensive efficiency, though I think it's safe to say that if the team keeps playing like it did tonight, a game in which they held a decent Spurs offense (11th in PPG, 4th in Offensive Efficiency so far this year) to 22 points in the first quarter and never looked back, the Jazz just might develop into the team that Sloan wants them to be.
Speaking of defense, how about Jerry Sloan playing defense for Carlos Boozer? Even though I'm not a huge Carlos Boozer fan, it's great to see a coach sticking up for his guy on Tuesday and then Thursday have that guy come out and drop 27 points and grab 14 rebounds.
Can Sloan can keep this group playing together as a team, rather than a group of individuals stuck with each other on a 4700 sq. ft. rectangle? Can rotations be an invisible non-issue this year?
I sure hope so; words can't describe how great it would be to see the Northwest Division spit out three solid playoff teams that present a threat to the pundits' Lakers and Spurs.