First of all, Happy Independence day to everyone who is celebrating this momentous, world changing event. For those who do not know, today is Independence day, the day that commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It's America's birthday. And people all over the United States have a day off. For us, this year, this makes it a three day weekend, as it falls on a Friday.
For me, personally, whenever this day comes around I remember two things, which kind of are the macrocosm/microcosm of what this day really is in the modern era.
Yeah. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm an immigrant, but feverish patriotism is something I like to be a spectator for, and not a part of. Me? I'll handle the BBQ or picnicking or going to the bench or whatever. My mom, on the other hand, is crazy about fireworks. So perhaps she's the Homer Simpson in the above clip.
Moving on from Homer, to trying not to be one, we have to look at the Utah Jazz. NBA Free Agency happens around Independence Day every year, and it's hard not to make the connections between a group of headstrong people who wish to be free from an oppressive yoke. And from the standpoint of the Utah Jazz -- there are some players they would wish to be rid of as well.
1. Richard Jefferson :
Richard Jefferson made $11,046,000 USD last year. He played in every game and started all but the last four, and finished the season with the third most minutes clocked on the team. He played more than Derrick Favors did. Jefferson was acquired in a three-team trade where he was put in specifically in a salary dump to help facilitate the Golden State Warriors poach Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets. With the Warriors the season before he played in only 56 games, started only one, and played 10.1 minutes per game (MPG). He played about a hundred minutes more in 2012-13 than Rudy Gobert did last year. But by magic, or desperation from a coach who didn't know his team wasn't in "win now mode", he became that guy who started 78 games and played nearly 30 mpg.
RJ had a 'bounce back year' where he averaged double digit scoring for the first time since 2010-2011. He was a consummate professional who many of the younger players should have learned a few things from. While he had lost a step on defense, few players attacked the basket like he did. Furthermore, his dunks were unexpected and really enjoyable to watch. Seriously, Vince Carter doesn't dunk like he used to anymore -- but RJ was still putting in work above the rim.
As the season long starting small forward he finished with averages of 10 / 3 / 2 / 1, which is fine if he's making $6 million a year. This is specifically a Matt Harpring kind of line, and the most he ever made was $6.5 million in a season. Actually if you look at Matt Harpring 's numbers, this is below Matt Harpring level. Love him, like him, or hate him, RJ was over paid last year.
That's not to say he didn't try to earn his pay. He played with the same effort every time he was on the court, if the team was winning he'd be working hard, if they were losing, he wouldn't 'dog' it out there on the court. If it was the first quarter or the fourth quarter, or a game in December, or a game in March . . . he was consistently putting in the effort and I really respect that. He was the most professional mercenary we've had during the Tyrone Corbin era.
And perhaps that's the rub. He is doing this as a job, and he does his job. But it's just his job. He will go where he gets paid. If the Jazz bring him back he'll be more than happy to continue being professional here. But I don't think you can really believe that in his heart he wants to stay and die a Jazzman.
His three point shooting, nay, three point making ability was a huge boon to the team. But I think the Jazz want to move in another direction and focus on not playing a 30+ year old guy nearly 30 mpg for 82 games again.
Happy Independence Day RJ, seriously, your jams were great
2. Brandon Rush :
Brandon Rush was another player from the same trade, and he was . . . well . . . I don't even remember him being a part of this Utah Jazz team. He spent the majority of his time after being traded to the Jazz posting pictures of himself in clubs on Instagram. He didn't even have a press conference when he came to Utah (none of them did, and I think it was because Rush didn't show up to Utah until late September). He barely played, yet still almost played more minutes than Gobert, and way more than Ian Clark. And when the season was over he was, within HOURS, back to posting pictures of himself partying with his Golden State Warriors family (then playing in the playoffs) on Instagram. He really didn't do much to endear himself to the Jazz community by spending the least amount of time here out of anyone.
Rush only made $4,000,000 USD last year, but his PER for the season was only 4.1. He got paid nearly $1 million per PER value. You have to pay someone, I guess. But he was spectacularly awful and disengaged all season long. Yes, he came back from an injury, never got into the rotation, and checked out early. But by his metrics this was a dude who would score 9.9 points over 100 offensive possessions. Awful.
He also shot a career low from the three point line (I'm not counting his 0/2 shooting in 25 mins back in 2012-13 as a season).
Brandon was the inverse of Richard, one was professional, the other didn't care. One tried to earn his money, the other was just stealing it. There was a lot to dislike with how Richard was handled by the coaching staff, but at least he was the teacher's pet. Brandon was in detention every day.
Happy Independence Day, Brandon. This was really the only highlight of you in a Jazz jersey I could find
The last of the three guys the Jazz took on from the Golden State Warriors, Andris Biedrins got paid $9,000,000 USD last season. He played in only 6 games. He got paid more than a million per game. Last summer I felt as though Beans would start at least one game for the Jazz because, you know, Corbin; but I was wrong. Andris was so far gone that he couldn't even be counted on to get in more than 6 games (he was healthy, by the way) for a team that won 25 games. A huge part of his season on the bench came because he was traded to a team that already had Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter inside, that had a month before just made a draft night trade to acquire Rudy Gobert.
Anchoring the bench, instead of the paint, Bidrins didn't do anything of note besides grab 15 defensive rebounds in 45 minutes on the floor. His 39.7 DREB% was quite epic, but the sample size was so small we have no choice by to disregard it entirely.
And that is what Andris' career with the Jazz ultimately became. Impressive, but functionally unusable. And thus, we move on . . .
Happy Independence Day Andris, hope you find your confidence one day!
I don't know what the Utah Jazz are going to do about all of their players with non-guaranted contracts (Diante Garrett, John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy, and Ian Clark) and the whole Gordon Hayward thing is still up in the air, and even more teams are now interested in Marvin Williams -- but for the most part I think we are going to see the Jazz grant RJ, Beans, and Rush their independence.
Happy Independence Day, guys, you deserve it.