The Downbeat #894 -- The team standings, threading the needle, and turkey edition

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The Utah Jazz have 12 games in the books, and there are 70 more to go. For the most part, I think all of us recognized that our first month of the season was going to be rough. As I noted earlier we basically finish this month with two sets of three games in four nights: Set #1 vs. Sacramento Kings, @ Sacramento Kings, vs. Denver Nuggets; Set #2 @ New Orleans Hornets, @ Oklahoma City Thunder, @ Houston Rockets.

Jazz_schedule_-_02_november_big

All of that said, we're .500 right now; and sitting in 8th spot in the Western Conference, thanks in large part to our 4-0 home record, and 4-4 record against the West. We have our head above water right now, and the next 6 games will try to sink us. But this isn't new. We already knew the schedule, and the hardest part is right now. In December there's a four game Eastern Conference Road trip, but that's 4 games in 6 nights, we're used to 4 games in 5. In January there are only 6 road games, and we spend 12 days in a row in Utah. February only has 4 road games, only one per week.

By the time March rolls around we would have a) played 58 of our 82 total games, and b) only have 12 more road games to play. As a direct frame of reference, by the time November ends we would have already played 12 road games (including the Dec 1st game on the road, which is logically part of the same three games in four nights road trip to end this month).

Glass half empty? We lost to New Orleans and didn't show up on the road. Glass exactly equal? We were a one win in three road team last year, and so far this season are the same. Glass half full? We're the 8th seed in the west right now, and have only played 4 games of 12 at home. We have a loo-oot of home games coming up in December, January, and February. We might not have the record to deserve an All-Star by the All-Star break, but we're going to be a team people take notice of going forward into the second half of the season.

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I'm a Jazz fan, but I only go to road games; and so far this season I have gone to none. I've never been to a Jazz home game, yet I've grown up knowing about some of the crazy things that happen at Jazz home games. There's The Bear, who is awesome. Now they have player introductions with the lights off, but it used to be with the lights on (kinky?). However, I've always known the dance team as the "Nu Skin Jazz dancers". I guess when your dance team has a sponsor you have to address them as such.

However, I don't know much more about them than that. Except of course, I know that the agency which provides us photos to legally use (US Presswire) seems to be crazy about all the NBA dance crews. Increasingly with each home game we're getting more and more pictures of dancers; and less of actual Utah Jazz players. For example, there's more pictures of this lady creeping in than there were of Paul Millsap on offense.

Db_894_-_dancer

Image Credit: Russ Isabella - US Presswire, all. three. times.

The fact that Russ Isabella continues to take pictures of her, and his bosses keep paying him for it, makes it weird. And the fact that I have access to pictures of her at 4000x resolution makes ME look weird too. I guess the approach here is to champion the diversity of the Nu Skin Jazz Dancers. But even their own website doesn't even have an updated roster of who is on their team this year. So I do not know what to call this young lady . . . except . . . . "Nu Skin Girl who we have more pictures of than Paul Millsap." Mindblowingly, their website does have random pictures from this year (but no official list), and one of them is of this girl dressed up as a Native American for Halloween . . . and evidence of other Jazz dancers of different races. (So I guess I now know what pictures to expect in the future . . . instead of our best player.)

SLC Dunk isn't the cheerleader beat, this is a rant against the provider of our images. The most recent image on their own website (not the SB Nation one) of Millsap with the ball in his hands is from the Philadelphia 76ers game. A game that was three games ago. I'm sure that 'beat' photographers take thousands of pictures every game. There are 38 images from the Jazz game in total, and 16 of them are of Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin. James Harden played only half the game, and there are 8 of him. There are a bunch of other ones of Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, and Marcus Morris as well. The vast majority of the US Presswire shots bought by US Presswire from Jazz beat photographer Russ Isabella are of the road team.

And of the "jazz" pictures, we're getting more and more of the cheerleaders. Yes, they do see more floor time than Alec Burks, but that doesn't mean we should be getting more of them to use on our basketball blog.

/ End Rant

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This year the Jazz are not horrible on defense, and not amazing on offense. The team scores 98.1 points per game, which is 15th in the league (30 teams). The team surrenders 96.9 points a game, which is good enough for 16th. I'm happy with this move towards being in the middle of the pack from last season, where we were in the lower third of the league (aka: bottom 10) in defense. That said, I am concerned with the sloppy play on offense. I think we're going to get better and sharper as the season goes on, but so far in the last 12 games we've seen a few bonehead plays where we just give the ball up for no good reason.

Some of it is because we may get lazy, and end up making a bad pass that goes right to an opponent (like some of our passes after a defensive stop and defensive rebound -- I could name names, but not going to). Some of it is because we get too cavalier and attempt a pass that we shouldn't, in a high risk situation (again, could name names here). Very few times do we do a bone head play as a result of the defense. It's been making mental mistakes with little pressure that I'm upset about. Yes, not each of our 15.3 turn overs a game are because of these bonehead plays -- but at least 2-3 of them are. And those are 2-3 that we shouldn't be making. And if we use those possessions instead of turning it over, perhaps we're scoring more as well? Probably.

So let's look at a few things: AST%, TOV%, and the ratio of those two things. These two things are estimated percentages of what a player does on the floor. So, if Player A plays 10 minutes and in that time his team scores 8 times, and he assisted on 4 of those shots, his AST% would be 50.0% (4 of 8). Similarly, if his team commits 5 turn overs, and three of them are his, then he would have a TOV% of 60.0%. (3 of 5) The key thing is that minutes don't matter, it's on court production that does. The ratio is simply AST% / TOV%. Clearly a 1:1 ratio here would be okay for some player classes, but not all. For example, you kinda don't want a 1:1 ratio with your PG here. So let's take a look at what we've got going so far this season:

Db_894_-_ast_tov

Full size here.

Our primary ball handlers are Jamaal Tinsley and Mo Williams. Both of those guys have AST% that are about 1/3rd or above, so that means that when they are on the court, they are responsible for about 1/3rd of all of the FGM, without shooting. One of those two has a crazy high AST%, and that's Jamaal. He's also the proud owner of an insanely high TOV% as well. That's not so good. Mo is doing well here. (Because I know you'll ask, John Stockton's career numbers were 50.2 AST%, 20.8 TOV%, and a ratio of 2.41)

By the way, who is third best on the team here? The guy who the media complains about for never passing.

Ultimately it's not Jamaal or any other single guy who is making dumb decisions and causing unnecessary turn overs. It's everyone. We all need to play better and pay attention. I think the coaches have started to drill this into the players with video sessions (maybe?) because right after a bad game for turn over, the next game each player looks to make eye contact first before passing. We need more of that if we're going to unlock our offensive potential and score more after getting good stops. And that's where this "beat" started. We're no longer a crappy defensive team, but we can't throw the ball away after fighting hard for a stop. Our offense isn't Top 5 anymore.

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Everyone needs to really step their passing game up. We don't have a full-time primary focal point on offense anymore when it comes to a go-to guy. And we sure as heck don't have a primary ball handler anymore. Everyone needs to contribute.

Actually, after watching this I need to say "Jazz players of 2012-2013 -- do not try these passes in a game. It will just lead to more turn overs."

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Non-Basketball Write in poll -- What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving? The Food? If so, what one dish? The time off? If so, what do you spend your time doing? Family? Friends? Football?

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