Anyway, here’s a few thoughts from the game:
1. Wesley Matthews rocks. He does absolutely everything: he squares up nicely for open 3’s, he hits jumpers, he posts up, he drives to the hoop, he shoots free throws. He sets screens, he runs decoy routes, he stands and waits his turn for the cut through the middle, he cuts hard and fast (without lingering when it’s clear his cut didn’t create a scoring opportunity). He goes after rebounds, he keeps his hands active, he bumps his man, he’s tenacious and aggressive on D the entire game—even when his team’s up by 35.
It reminds me a bit of Jaron Collins (don’t scream, please). The reason the Human Tree played 8 years for the Jazz and made millions of dollars was because he always did exactly what Sloan asked. He never bitched. He never freelanced. He just did exactly what he was asked to do every time. That’s what the Jazz have again in OMSW. Except OMSW is athletic, has court vision, hoops instincts, and skills.
2. Smart CJ is awesome. I gave up on him about a month and a half ago. Dumb CJ had overtaken Smart CJ, and I was done with him. But Smart CJ’s been back, and WOW! Every shot was square to the basket, with his feet set. He drove to the hoop when he got the opening. He went in with authority when no help came, he pulled out a few nifty floaters when the help was late, and he dropped in some sweet passes when the help was on time. It wasn’t the 19 points and 4 assists that blew me away—it was the intelligence of his play that brought it about.
3. Boozer is extraneous. I’m going to write about him specifically later, but here’s the sad truth: the Jazz just don’t need him. He doesn’t add anything. I know he’s played really well this year—I know his rebounding, in particular, is good for the team. I know his scoring and efficiency help the team hum. But the truth is whether he’s playing or not, it doesn’t matter. Millsap has all the goods. We saw it for half of last season, we saw it a few times this season when Boozer sat out, and we saw it tonight. The Jazz don’t miss Boozer’s play when he’s gone.
4. Sloan is a brilliant coach. The best instance was when Deron got a steal and drove in for a fast-break layup with the foul (This is when he hung out with a couple 1st row dudes for a bit). It was a 3-on-2 break. Deron led it, and two guys ran on either side, just behind. What was so brilliant was the spacing. The defenders actually did a good job getting back and putting themselves in position to kill the break. But they couldn’t because of the spacing. The trailers of the break were just far enough away to make it impossible. Right when the fast break reached its kill point, the defenders had to make a choice: 1) commit to cutting off a pass to the wings, leaving D-Will open for the layup, or 2) commit to stopping D-Will, leaving the wings wide open for the pass and easy dunk. And, of course, the defenders couldn’t decide, leaning to cutting off the pass, but not completely, so Deron go the layup and the foul.
That fast break dies if the spacing wasn’t perfect. But all the Jazzmen knew exactly what speed and spacing to run the break, and because of that it was unstoppable. That’s Sloan’s coaching.
Seriously, the biggest difference between the Jazz and the Hornets were 1) spacing on offense, 2) the precise timing and positioning to the weak-side screens and cuts, and 3) the passing angles the players settled into. Jazz were perfect for 3 quarters and shot nearly 70%. The Hornets were hopeless, and couldn’t even break 60 after the same 3 quarters. That’s Sloan’s coaching.
5. Fess is the funniest damn player I’ve ever seen. Whether he’s pulling off a Hakeem shake-n-shimmy jump hook in the post, bouncing the ball off his shoe before dunking it in, blocking a shot in such a bizarre spot that you swear he actually mistimed the swat so badly he accidentally got it, or threatening to Jack up an open 20-footer, watching him play is HIGH COMEDY. It’s even better when he plays well, too. And he played really well. This is why I wanted Boozer traded earlier this year—because the only way to see what Fess and the KOOF can become is to get them meaningful playing time, and that can’t happen with Memo, Boozer, Millsap, and AK all needing 32 minutes per game.
Fess has the potential to be awesome. And I’m talking about a a kind of awesome heretofore unknown in the NBA (and no, Booch, that doesn’t mean it’s the kind of awesome the puts him in even the top 5 players on the Jazz—it’s a totally different kind of awesome).
The thing that cracked me up most about Fess was the timeouts. I remember reading in Booch’s post how funny Fess was in the timeouts. I was looking forward to see him dance to himself to the Jazz dancers’ beat while Sloan was drawing up a play. But it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because at every single timeout the other Jazzmen escorted Fess to the middle seat on the bench, where Phil Johnson knelt right in front of Fess’s face, staring at him, while Jerry knelt just a bit to the side, drawing the play right on a clipboard being held right under Fess’s eyes. And even then, KK had to snap his fingers in Fess’s face a couple of times and redirect the big doof to what Sloan was saying. Like I said, it’s a kind of awesome never before unleashed on the NBA. You should have heard the cheers when Fess’s free throws hit the rim.
6. A lineup of Yatta, OJ, Ronnie P., Fess, and Millsap is really bad.
7. Ronnie has become a really good backup PG. I thought he was lousy early in the year. He just couldn’t run the offense, couldn’t make plays happen. He was a great energy guy, but not a great PG. Boy has that changed. The offense didn’t sputter at all when Deron sat. Ronnie directed the guys into good, easy jumpers and layups.
8. The ladies really like KK. I sat right by a lady who looked like she was in her 80’s, wearing a pink #26 jersey and going crazy every time KK got the ball around the 3-point line. It’s too bad he went 0-2 from 3, or I might have seen a brand new kind of Korgasm right before my eyes.
9. Deron rocks and the crowd loves Deron.
10. The crowd loves the team. ESA had a lot of empty seats. But the crowd loved the game. It didn’t matter how much the Jazz led, they wanted more and went crazy every time Deron pulled out some razzle-dazzle. It reminded me of what it was like in ‘98-’99, watching my Utes kick the crap out of the rest of the WAC during their March-Madness glory years. It didn’t matter if they were winning by 40, the crowd loved it and wanted more. That’s what it was like tonight.
11. My kids needed Jazz shirts. Oldest two, both boys, have been begging me for some Jazz shirts, so I finally got them some. Classy Jazz-note T’s for the two boys. A KK jersey for my 2-year-old girl. Not pink, though. They didn’t have any of those in her size.
12. I can’t believe how much the Classic-Jazz-Note logo has come back. It’s everywhere—T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, shorts. It seems no doubt that it’s coming back. I just hope the team doesn’t mess with anything else on the uniform besides the logo. I think they’re beautifully understated and classy right now—kind of like a classic Penn State or New York Yankees kind of feel. No goofy graphics. No trendy, loud colors. Just simplicity in design and quiet, confident colors.