When the Jazz first announced Corbin would replace Sloan last year, I approached the hire with an open mind. He seemed to be well-respected, he had paid his dues, and he felt like the right hire. After a little over a year on the job, however, I can't help but wonder if the time has come to question the move. I have been frustrated by a number of aspects of Corbin's coaching this season, but my frustrations finally boiled over tonight with his handling of the Raja Bell situation (discussed more below).
Just so you know where I am coming from (and my bias), I am on the record on this site as being a proponent of playing the young guys more now to develop them for the future, even if it means sacrificing wins this season. And if that gets us a better draft pick, all the better. That said, my biggest frustration with Corbin this season has been his use of the young players. Going all the way back to benching Favors after only two starts, Corbin has shown a clear bias against the young players, while giving the vets more minutes than they deserve no matter how poorly they play. This is especially frustrating because Corbin has repeatedly said minutes are based on effort and results, yet CJ Miles, Josh Howard and Raja Bell continue to play big minutes while Burks barely gets off the bench, even though by almost any measure, Burks has been equal to or better than all three this season (see the "dating game" post on this site from a few weeks back for more on this). CJ has had long stretches this season where he didn't deserve minutes in the D league, yet Corbin continues to run him out there while Burks rides the pine.
Corbin has also said he wants the Jazz to be a defensive oriented team, yet again, he doesn't play his best defenders. Bell has the reputation of being a great defender, but those days are long gone. CJ has never shown any inclination to play much defense and although Howard is a good rebounder, his defense leaves much to be desired. Hayward and Burks, on the other hand, are the Jazz best two perimeter defenders. Despite this, Hayward was recently benched (though his minutes haven't changed much) and Burks rarely plays these days. Same for the bigs. While Kanter clearly isn't ready for 25-30 minutes a night, his defense and rebounding alone should merit 15-20. And Favors has really been coming on of late on both ends of the floor, yet his minutes have remained consistent in the 15-20 range, even though he is a much better defender than Millsap and has been solid offensively as well.
That leads to another frustration with Corbin - he doesn't seem to understand that Millsap and Jefferson aren't a great combination, nor are Favors and Kanter at this point. Neither Millsap nor Jefferson is a great defender or rebounder, yet they play the bulk of their minutes together. On the other hand, Kanter and Favors tend to struggle offensively when they play together, yet they play most of their minutes together as well. Favors length and athleticism on defense would complement Big Al very nicely, as would Millsap's offensive prowess complement Kanter coming off the bench. Plus, Millsap has proven over his career that he is a much more effective player when he plays 24-28 minutes a game instead of 32-35, but despite this, Corbin refuses to make the obvious move of starting Favors in place of Millsap. Such a move would solve several issues confronting the Jazz, but for whatever reason Corbin refuses to revisit starting Favors.
Now for the Raja Bell situation. As John Hollinger tweeted today (and Amar posted on this site), Bell has a PER under 10 this season, yet is still starting over two lottery picks having better seasons than him. Despite this, Bell whines about his minutes to the point he gets sent home last week and has to have a meeting with KOC and Corbin today. I felt this was a perfect opportunity for Corbin to show the team he runs the show, not the players, and that playing time will be based on performance, not age or tenure. So what does Corbin do? He plays Bell MORE minutes, bringing him back in with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter, and not giving Burks a single minute! What kind of message does this send to the team? That if you whine and complain about lack of PT, that Corbin will play you more, even if you don't deserve it? I tweeted Locke about this and, being the Jazz mouthpiece that he is, he DM'd me back that Corbin sent the message that the Jazz were playing to win. I found this laughable considering Stuckey was lighting Bell up all night and Bell was invisible offensively as well.
I can't help but wonder what Favors thinks when he listens to Corbin talk about how important defense and rebounding are, yet he loses minutes to Millsap even though Millsap is a much worse defender and rebounder, while also struggling offensively for much of the past month? What does Burks think when he hears Corbin tell the team minutes are earned by hard work and performance, yet he gets benched so Bell can play more minutes after complaining to Corbin about his lack of playing time? And finally, I'm left to wonder, is Corbin the right man for the job or is he in over his head?
Anyway, I could go on and on about my frustrations with Corbin and his decision making this season, but it's late, I'm tired and I am curious what others think about the job he has done this season and if he coaching with the best interests of the Jazz in mind, or his own?