Great win by the Utah Jazz last night. It's fun to see the team play good team ball like they did against Memphis. The Jazz had 26 assists on 42 made baskets and 6 players had 3 or more assists. It is obvious this team really likes each other off the court, so it is surprising to see them play such selfish basketball at times. Off the court, they stick up for each other when the fan base wants a guy traded. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson talked about how the other guy got snubbed for the All-Star game. Jamaal Tinsley never plays, but he's the most positive, encouraging vet on the team. When Matt Harpring foolishly brought up a starting point guard controversy on twitter, Earl Watson immediately shot it down. These are awesome guys in the locker room. Unfortunately, team chemistry isn't the most important thing in producing wins although it certainly helps. And i don't think great team chemistry will, or should, keep the Jazz from making trades to better the team. But it is super refreshing to see that the teammates on your favorite team are friends and care about each other.
One thing I love about twitter is that you can get a decent feel of how Jazz fans are feeling about their team by scanning the comments. Two nights ago, the Jazz were one of the worst 5 teams in the NBA. Tonight, Jazz fans are talking about an easy win tonight in NO and about how huge this win will be for the playoff tiebreakers over Memphis. I just want to mention that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of an issue. The Jazz aren't as bad as the team that lost to Toronto at home, but they also aren't as good as the team we saw play last night. Look at the averages and don't get too high or too low about the team. Or do, if that's what you want to do. It's just that I've had an ulcer before and I don't want each of my Jazz friends getting one.
I have mentioned this before in comment threads, but I feel the need to again express my concern over the make up of this team. You see, I'm a huge Oakland Raiders fan. And they are currently lost as a franchise. And a good reason they are lost is because they mortgaged their future to be competitive in the present. After beating the Cleveland Browns this past season, the Raiders found themselves with a 4-2 record and without a quality starting quarterback after Jason Campbell broke his collarbone. The Raiders were left with what was a likely, or at least possible playoff team (for the first time in like 9 years) and a decision of how to land a quarterback. Instead of signing a decent qb and making a run for it, or else cashing in the chips and trying for the next year, the Raiders traded a first and second round pick (the equivalent of two lottery picks in the NBA) for Carson Palmer. In essence, if the Raiders made the playoffs, great, but if they didn't, they would also have no top 18 pick to heal their battle wounds. As you probably know, the Raiders did miss the playoffs and sacrificed their future in order to not really get ahead in the present anyways. It was a poor trade made by a poorly run organization, but I can't help but think that the Jazz are doing a similar thing right now on a smaller scale. The Jazz are not only keeping their veterans, but they are signing more of them and giving them too many minutes and touches for the sake of winning now. It's the playoffs or bust, because if the Jazz proceed like this and still miss the playoffs, they will have become the Oakland Raiders, only instead of draft picks, they will have sacrificed minutes for young guys, time to evaluate the players they don't know about yet, and the opportunity to show trust in their future cornerstones. Don't be the Oakland Raiders, Jazz. I beg of you.
[Ed Note: Removed a picture of Carson Palmer]
What Does Carson Palmer have to Do With the Utah Jazz? More than I want him to.
I also realized something that troubles me about this team while watching the Thunder Game Friday night: almost nobody is playing the right part. Take a minute and think of the ideal situation for each and every Jazz player and ask yourself if they are being utilized in that way right now. For me, Earl Watson is the only Jazz guy playing the right part: a backup point guard who brings toughness and energy to the team for 20 minutes a night. Paul Millsap is a very good starting power forward, but he could be the best sixth man in the game. Al Jefferson is an above average center, but you aren't going to be an above average team if he is taking the most shots. Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks are all brilliant basketball players held back by youthful mistakes, but there's no arguing that they need more minutes. I feel confident that no one is sure of Gordon Hayward's role, including Gordon Hayward and the front office.
Right now we are watching a potentially great film like The Dark Knight. The problem is that Michael Caine is playing the Joker, Gary Oldham is playing Harvey Dent and Heath Ledger is playing Alfred. And no one has cast the role of Batman yet.
I'm a big fan of the movie Remember the Titans. It's a well made and well acted movie about high school football in the 60's with some moments of inspiration, truth, morals, and only a small dash of cheesiness. But mostly I find a lot of the lessons in the movie to be applicable to life and especially sports. There's a scene where the defense is getting killed by an athletic running back who is too fast for the linebacker (Ryan Gosling). So the defensive coach subs in the athletic running back who has been benched for fumbling issues (Donald Faison) to guard the running back, even though he has never practiced with the defense. The defensive coach tells the worried running back to forget about plays or schemes and focus on nothing else but guarding the opposing running back. And just like what happens in Hollywood, the running back causes fumbles and gets an interception and leads his team back to victory.
I thought about this scene a few weeks ago when Roddy Beaubois was absolutely torturing Devin Harris and Earl Watson. Why couldn't Tyrone Corbin grab Alec Burks and say, "I don't want you to worry about anything else for the next 10 minutes. Just go stop Roddy Beaubois. Don't even let him get the ball and if he does, don't let him get into the paint." Would it have worked? Maybe not. But it would have been as good as what we were getting. And it would have shown faith in Alec Burks. And it would have allowed Coach Corbin a chance to see if Alec Burks could play lock down defense, or at least give the effort. There was nothing to lose because we were clearly going to lose that game at the rate we were going.
The way I see it, that is the way the Jazz have handled the young guys. They've given them one thing or one move to work on for a game and then added to it. It is how the coaches should teach every Jazz man. "Paul, all I want you to do is get every rebound you can. Al, you can only shoot as many shots outside of 5 feet as you have assists. Enes, don't dribble the ball in the paint one time this game. Jeremy, go show us what happens when you shoot a couple 15 footers." What one piece of advice on their game, would you give to a Jazz man right now?
In light of Tyrone Corbin taking the team to a civil rights museum in Memphis yesterday, I leave you with another scene from Remember the Titans.