Today is a pretty big day. Why? It's a big day because we're playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers and their best bigman, Anderson Varejao, is out. That usually means we see some good Utah Jazz style basketball -- particularly at home where we like to run more and dunk more. If you are free tonight you should go to this game. We kind of owe the Cavs who just beat the Portland Trail Blazers, and this game is their last in a 5 game Western Conference swing. Kyrie Irving is flat out destroying teams, Tristan Thompson (aka. the man who unwittingly sabotaged his best friend's college season -- yes, I'm talking 'bout Myck Kabongo here) is finally playing like a lotto pick, and they still have a bevvy of interesting veterans like Luke Walton and, uh, well, our own C.J. Miles.
I like Ceejay. I don't mean I "liked" him. I like him. I think he's good. We all know he's one of the more engaging players out there, and has always been fair and given some fans the benefit of the doubt. We all wish him well, but I still think he's someone who is not just valuable to a franchise because of his off-the-court stuff. Dude can still ball. And while his first season out of Utah hasn't been MIP worthy, we all know that he still has the capability to absolutely torch teams.
After all, you don't score 40 points "by accident". Similarly, you don't score 33 points "by accident" either, he did that earlier this year. For those who want to hold onto the "he's a chucker" doctrine, you may want to skip some of the next points . . . but he scored 40 points off of 18 shots, and 33 points off of 15 shots. These are not Kobe Bryant 30 points off of 32 shots games. These are efficient games, but ALSO massive games where they make a huge difference in a game.
I'm happy for C.J., and I hope that he has a great game tonight.
I also hope that C.J. is received well. He's pretty much everything we should celebrate:
- He played for Jerry Sloan
- He was on some of our best teams post-Stockton and Malone
- We drafted him
- We drafted him in the second round
- He was drafted as a teen
- He went to the NB-DL for TWO DIFFERENT stints and played well
- He was forced to patiently wait his turn
- He would start one game, and then get DNP-CDs in the next 3
- He played for us from the ages of 18 to 24.
- He sent Derek Fisher to the old age home
Yeah, there's lots to love about C.J. And there's a cautionary tale too. (When you give young players inconsistent minutes in their formative years, you're not doing yourself or the player any favors) He's a guy who sat behind Devin Brown, Gordan Giricek, Matt Harpring, Derek Fisher, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, and Raja Bell on the depth chart over the years. That's a mixed group of players all who did not have the same type of talent as C.J. did at the ages he did. But whatever. Water under the bridge.
Jazz fans should remember the good old times, and the "Always a Jazzman" point of view. I hope we have a highlight reel of him tonight. He was an exciting player to watch, who really made a lot of us smile -- everything from threes, to alley oop finishes, I'm sure John and Karl would have loved playing with a guy who could score 40 off the bench.
The most interesting game, in my mind, was the Jazz's last game of the regular season in C.J.'s rookie year. He had just turned 19 years old, and we were playing the Golden State Warriors. We won the game, and secured a 41-41 season. The Warriors played only 8 guys. Jerry Sloan played 10. Why was this game memorable? Well, the Warriors started 20 year old Monta Ellis -- a skinny guard who was young and had little experience. And we brought 19 year old CJ off the bench for extended minutes. Monta would play 43:54, CJ played 33:14. Both were rookies.
- Monta finished with a line of 27 points (25 shots), 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. He went 1/6 from downtown, and went to the FT line 5 times.
- Miles? Miles finished with 23 points (13 shots), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. He went 2/5 from downtown, and went to the line 8 times.
Of course, the two franchises had different responses to these games. The Warriors put their trust in Monta, and he went on to be a long time starter who had the confidence (and respect from the refs) to win games all by himself. The Jazz responded by trading for Derek Fisher to start at SG for us, and draft a lotto pick SG as well (Ronnie Brewer). And Miles was once again buried on the bench as the 3rd SG / 3rd SF (behind Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring). I've always looked at Monta and CJ because of that last game of the regular season battle they had. Monta played more minutes and scored more but was inefficient. C.J. did everything in that game but Sloan did not care at all.
The next season C.J. played in 37 total games, and played 10.1 mpg. Ellis played in 77 games, and 34.3 mpg. The story is that after their respective rookie season showdown, only one of them moved forward. A big part of that, believers and non-believers, was minutes. Monta played 2638 total minutes the next season, CJ only 373. And that's all she wrote.
The argument here is that . . . would C.J. have developed into a legit starter if he got more playing time in his soph season? And would Monta have become a career bench warmer if he played less than 400 minutes the next season?
It's interesting to me -- because at their base rookie level, in that one game against each other -- C.J. was the better player. The only ones who did not see that worked for the Jazz.
There's a lot of C.J. coverage happening all over the internet right now. Steve Luhm wrote about his changing role on the team, with his new team for the SLTrib. Randy Hollis wrote a longform piece about his return for the Deseret News. Clint Peterson had a sit-down interview with him and you can check it out at the Utah Sports Net. Yes, the return of CJ is a nice story, but let's not forget that C.J. is still a nice PLAYER on the court. He's a 11 / 2 / 3 / 1 / /1 player who is shooting 38 3pt% and 91 ft%. He's automatic from the line and making 2 threes a game. Isn't that kinda some of what you want from your shooting guard? I'd think so.
I hope he has a good game, but doesn't try to press. Deron Williams struggles against the Jazz because he's trying to not just win the game, but defeat his entire history in Utah in the span of 48 minutes. It's hard to do. I think that C.J. needs to let the game come to him . . . he's bigger than Randy Foye; a more natural shooter than Alec Burks; more than just a hustle guy, unlike DeMarre Carroll; and much more experienced in the NBA than Gordon Hayward. Each of our guys will give him some trouble -- but CJ is more than capable of returning the favor tonight.
It will be a fun game for sure.
Highlights -- NSFW lyrics . . .
Man, that facial on Amar'e Stoudemire is one of my fav jams ever.