The "And I'm okay with that" Edition - The Downbeat #908

Stephen Dunn

Soooooooooooooooooo, the Jazz are now 11-10 after 21 games into an 82 game season. I think as this month (in particular) progresses the eventual shift in the Utah Jazz fan Zeitgeist will turn to the question of "are we worse than we really are or are we underachieving". We're about even in wins and losses. And I predicted that is how we'd be after 18 games, and after about 40 that's where we'll be as well. The critical issue is a perception one. Mathematically we will remain a .500 team, or close to it, until around the All-Star Break. On some nights we'll use the measuring stick of our best players to determine how good we should be, E.g. "If our best player right now will never be an All-Star in the future, it would be silly to expect us to be a good team this season." On other nights, particularly last night, bereft of one or two rotation guys the rest of the team stepped up en masse and we got a quality blowout win. And the resulting opinions then say "Look at how awesome we are, there's no way that you can hold this much talent down."

So that essentially states that on any given night in Jazzland we're either going to be overachieving or underachieving. Sounds like a .500 team to me. But again, because this point is specifically created to be a circle, does that mean we should be better than our record, or not? I think that it's hard to be greater than the sum of your parts when half of your active roster happens to be in contract years. But let's take stock of a few factors:

  • Regardless of playing time, all four of our players who were drafted close to one another, are effectively better players this year
  • Our number one offensive problem last year was threes, and we've fixed that
  • No one is fighting right now
  • We're rolling along, not derailed by injuries -- despite having injuries
  • Limited players are excelling in their one position of power (eg. Randy Foye can only shoot, but now he's added the Harpring curl to his already dominant spot up shooting)
  • Our Coach continues to shuffle the deck (partly due to injuries), and it's resulting in a lot of good data for everyone from the front office down to fans

We easily could have not been having such a good season. There could have been fighting. Foye could have been slumping. Enes Kanter may not have been ready to rumble this year, and so on. And as a result, we could have been a worse team -- and in that case we'd applaud being at .500. I guess that's why this is a perception issue. We're getting along, and there are individual parts that are working at high rates; so we expect better than what is possible.

I guess the ultimate point is that you can be a successful team and have a good season in a completely independent evaluation that's divorced from wins and losses. And by that qualitative evaluation our team is playing very well. We're far from perfect, but having a good season so far. If we keep it up the numerical issue of Wins and losses will catch up to us on paper. As for me, I don't think we're underachieving nor are we overachieving. This is who we are: a mix of youthful potential, veteran resilience, and mercenary desperation. And in December 2012 of the season where we hope to return to the 2013 Playoffs -- I'm totally okay with that.

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So you guys know that Kevin Murphy is a guy we drafted right? And watching all of his games for free online on YouTube is not only a thing we can do, but it's the official way to do it, from the NBA - DL ? Well, last night the Reno Bighorns won their first game of the season (defeating the Baskersfield Jam) 127-98. You can really watch the highlights, view the boxscore, or watch the ENTIRE GAME, all here in this one link. What the NBA has done with the NBA-DL and the YouTube partnership is pretty amazing. (The only other sport that has done this is cricket... no, that's a real sport. Shut up.) Well, our guy Kevin got his first start (on the same night Kanter did), and in 28:48 of action he was a +19 in +/-, and scored 13 points (5/11 shooting, 0/3 from downtown, but went 3/3 from the line), and also had 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He did have four turn overs as well -- but statistically he didn't do poorly. It's not like scoring 50 points or whatever, but that's the inherent difference between a 1st round scorer vs. an end of the NBA draft scorer. Murphy isn't going to dominate the NBA-DL, and I'm okay with that too.

[This is the place where I would embed the highlights of that game -- but NBA.com fails to allow people to do that. But I can embed the entire game here, because that part is handled by YouTube.com . . . this is the world we live in.]

What's more valuable is for him to continue being an all-around threat and he's showing us all that he can be.

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So the Jazz made 13 threes last night. In the entire history of the team, the Jazz have finished a game with 10 or more made threes only 35 times. We've been around since the 1970s. It's, well, just not a thing that we have historically done much of. We've needed 9 overtime periods to get to that mark of n = 35, so there's that.

The most we've made was 15 (back on March 2008), and we've gone for 14 four other times.

The bad part for traditionalists? Well, the Los Angeles Lakers have done this thing we've only done 35 times a whopping 208 times before. The Boston Celtics? The green have dropped 10 or more threes in a game 235 times. Even the Charlotte Bobcats are more three point friendly than we are, having only been in the league for a handful of seasons and already having had 46 different games of 10 or more made threes. Well, the Jazz are 23-12 when they make 10 or more threes in a game, which is a winning percentage of 65.7%. That's higher than we usually get.

Of course the secret here is that in these games the reason why so many threes are made isn't just a volume issue (it is for the Phoenix Suns), but it's because the team is working around to get a lot of open shots. These values are products of team work and unselfishness. In the 35 total times we've had 10 or more made threes . . . . we've also had 20 or more assists 31 times. So, in a way, the "most Jazz basketball" thing is now working it around to get three pointers.

Game done changed, son. Game done change . . .

. . . and I *might* be okay with that if we keep making a good percentage of them.

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Prodigal Punk tweeted out a link to his Tumblr that links to some alternative NBA Logos on Imgur via Reddit. The only word in that sentence I understand is Prodigal Punk. And, well, clearly, "tweeted". I thought this was fun, because it's supposing a world where we don't use Jerry West as "The Logo". Well, one of the proposed alternative logos was Karl Malone performing his signature move.

Db_908_-_karl_logo_medium

Behold: The Power of the internet . . . .

I have mixed feelings about this as, well, the logo makes one of his legs look like he has a disease (baggy shorts in flight), and well, if the Mailman was drafted by the New York Knicks he clearly would have gotten all the shine he didn't get in Utah -- just like Deron Williams is getting right now with the Brooklyn Nets. A long time ago I read an article talking about Karl Malone during the 1996 season. This was before he had ever gone to an NBA Finals, btw. And in the article (I think in Sporting News) the author said that had Malone played in New York, they would have already erected a statue for him outside of MSG. This was back DURING his playing days, and a national writer said that. I think it's fair to say that if you want to be a star -- it's very hard to do it in Utah. That worked out great for John Stockton who thrived in that anonymity. Other players greatly desire it.

Karl was one. Deron was one as well. I'm beginning to see flashes of that in Enes Kanter as well. And while some of it is good, some of it is bad. Right now he's happy to be making millions and being able to go out and eat at family style restaurants. (The Goofy Fes phase) In last night with some more shine he was staring down refs, calling for every foul, and he was even talking trash with Jonas Valanciunas on the Raptors broadcast. We know what kind of stuff Kanter gets into in the off-season, so we're seeing a young star from an out-of-the-way place blossom into a . . .

. . . classic entitled athlete? A bro? A jerk? Or just a young man trying to find his place. I'd love for him to be a Jazz man for life, but out of all of our young guys right now (Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Kevin Murphy...) I think Kanter is the most likely to associate himself with people who may want to tell him he can have a lot of shine in another place. And that prematurely worries me.

Db_908_-_kanter_tweet_medium

I'm okay with Kanter becoming a little more selfish and entitled on the court. I'm not okay with feeling limited here in Utah. (After all, didn't Mehmet Okur do like a ton of Dimes commercials here in Utah?) But I do know from the past examples of Deron (who is now in a ton of commercials and has his own video game) and Karl -- that if you want to blow up in the media, then it's way easier to do that in LA or NY. (Karl Malone was going to movie premieres guys, like, on red carpets for Legally Blonde 2! He was in that movie that featured Salma Hayek and Salma Hayeks boobs. You know Kanter wants that life!)

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Speaking of Memo . . . so apparently the Jazz aren't making him fly to Mexico to hang out with them. (On the post game video I theorized that they made him buy his own ticket) It think it's really really really really x13 easy to see how to properly manage Enes may mean forcing the Jazz to be proactive and actually manage one of their players. Kyrylo Fesenko was an absolute party time trainwreck. Kanter is a much more high risk asset because he was a #3 pick, and not a guy making 1/4th the salary. I feel like the Jazz should bring in Memo as a player consultant / assistant coach who sits behind the bench occasionally. Give him the contract job (not full time job) that Jeff Hornacek got back when DeShawn Stevenson and Andrei Kirilenko were clankers. Bring in Memo -- who is honestly one of the biggest "look at how awesome my life is" guys in the Turkish TMZ world (married to a former TV star and beauty contest winner, has an NBA Ring, lives a totally chill life). Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Omer Asik, Ibrahim Kutluay, all those guys are messes. Memo wasn't. He was all class, and has his life together.

And he's a Jazz guy. And he deserves a little more from this org I think than being traded to the New Jersey Nets a few days before the season started (but I won't get into it here).

And having Memo as a paid big brother would REALLY calm Enes out. While I don't believe it will happen, I wouldn't mind yelling about it. Let's not forget that Memo was a complete warrior on the court. He played hurt. He was always willing to get into shoving matches and almost fights all the time (he almost punched out Juwan Howard for no reason back in 2006). Memo never backed down, but was always that fun "so far so good" guy who found that balance. We need Kanter to have some of that. Also we need Memo's wife to find Enes an nice girl to settle down with. That'll prevent me from ever having to write a post about Kanter missing a game in Miami because he had a bad reaction to some liquid-MDMA in his system.

Memo is the best. I love Memo. And he still made amazing plays on and off the court.

Jazz should def hire him, and not just send him to Cancun and think that's the end of it. And I'd be totally okay with Memo as an assistant player development contract worker who comes in every few months to make sure things are okay.

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