The Jazz, though somewhat slow to honor former employees that are quite deserving of it, did a really great thing before the game on Monday night, requesting a moment of silence for Kevin McHale's daughter that died recently. I'm not sure if it was an NBA wide request, but I thought that it was a pretty decent thing to do. I also appreciate Jazz fans for taking it seriously and respectfully.
BZ to the Jazz organization and to Jazz fans.
The Jazz now sit with Miami and New York as the only teams that are undefeated at home. That's the good news. The bad news is that they seem to be inching ever closer to that first loss. The win over the Nuggets was not far from expectations, but for the Kings game to go down the way it did is a bit discouraging. The other good news is that after this short roadie, the schedule swings in their favor.
Maybe a more favorable schedule will help this team develop the identity that it has been lacking for the better part of 2 years. After the game on Monday, David Locke (in his Emptying the Noggin) he stated that:
Al Jefferson may have grabbed hold of this team tonight
I'm going to chalk this up to post-win kool-aid, because there just isn't enough evidence that any of the players are taking control of the team. Certainly, Al has had some really great moments of leadership, but there hasn't been any noticeable progression to confirm the statement Locke made. I will say that I hope he is right. It would certainly be a big deal for Al to do that and would probably help him to determine his own destiny with this team. It seems like both he and Millsap have had ample opportunities to do so, but just lack that ju ne sais quoi that will make a team rally behind a leader.
Part of the problem that Coach Ty is facing with the big man situation is that none of them are really forcing his hand. Most of all Derrick Favors. He and Millsap have both have stretches where they have played great, but nothing consistent enough to make it obvious that they are the one deserving of the minutes. Millsap was by far the best player on the first east coast road swing, but his recent slump has made that a distant memory. Favors has consistently been the Jazz best defensive big (Drtg 100, -53 pts allowed) so it makes sense that he be paired with Jefferson who has been the best offensive big. Ty is just having to feel things out. He's giving Millsap the benefit of the doubt, following a normal rotation through the first three quarters, but situational awareness dictates that he play Favors in the closely contested games. That's been the only difference. Its also the reason that the Jazz haven't been urgent in making any moves. You can bet that if one of these three showed some major improvement in the area that they are lacking (Jefferson PnR defense, Sap's defense, Favors' offense) the Jazz would know by now that they have to do something.
I love Paul Millsap. I love everything he stands for and everything he has become as a player, but I am not convinced that he can be the starting Power Forward on a championship team. There are certainly varying opinions about this on this site, but these are mine. He has been very effective about using his quickness and ball-handling to be a good scorer against much bigger players at his position and his seemingly very reliable 3pt shooting will only increase his worth, but against high caliber defensive teams he is often left in a position that is detrimental to the team. A trap that he can't escape, help defense that he can't dribble around, or an agile 7' that he can't do anything against. However, I do believe that he can be that special 6th man on a championship team. The kind that comes in and just shreds backup 3's and 4's. Take any of the fringe contenders in the league and replace their backup 4 with Millsap and they are immediately elevated to championship material.
All of this, then, begs the question, where does Ty fall in all of this? Is Favors lack of offensive growth a product of his shortcomings or the way in which he's used? I happen to believe its a bit of both. The old dump it into the post and let the big man go to work won't work with him. Probably never will. I find it extremely unimaginative to peg Favors as the same type of player as Big Al. I believe that the Jazz should do the same thing that teams do to them and pick and roll the defense to death with Favors. Of the 7 times he has been involved in the Pick and Roll, he has made two and been fouled twice. Four positive outcomes out of seven certainly seems worth gathering a greater sample size.