So the 2012-2013 NBA Season is over. The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz fans who didn't turn the season off after 82 games (and missed the playoffs) got quite a treat watching really good teams with good players and systems win very important games. There were a lot of meaningful minutes in the second round and deeper. Well, the season is over and there were challenges with the Jazz; but the future looks bright. And it's nice to see that our front office is actually acknowledging the future for once too.
Our immediate future is on June 27th, the NBA draft. And then after another four days Free Agency starts. The Jazz figure to be major players in both situations as the team has three draft picks and a lot of expiring contracts. The team we finished 2012-2013 with will be a distant memory in the rear view mirror by the time training camp starts in October, 2013.
The future is bright and there are going to be significant roster changes; but the organization has been making a ton of "non-basketball" moves this off-season already that has Jazz fans excited and optimistic. Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan has returned to our braintrust as a Senior Basketball Adviser (which is what Mychal and Amar saw first hand in Chicago). Hall of Fame player Karl Malone will be working in some semi-formal capacity with our players as a part time development coach, much the same way Jeff Hornacek got his start years ago. The LHM Group of Companies have started $15 million dollar renovations on the Energy Solutions Arena that will improve the fan experience by leaps and bounds.
Jazz fans are Jazzed about next season, and collectively I think we will see increased enthusiasm amongst our most rabid fans, and a louder home court with more butts in the seats. I think the positivity we see in 2013-2014 will make the sourness of 2012-2013 go away.
There are additions that still need to happen in Jazzland. We lost our #2 Assistant coach in Jeff Hornacek, who makes the jump from #3 coach to #1 as the future head coach of the Phoenix Suns. We saw something similar to that when Tyrone Corbin made the jump from #3 to #1; except Ty didn't have to interview for this battlefield promotion. The two guys ahead of him, Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson, left. I think the most logical move is to bump up Brad Jones to the #3 spot on the coaching totem pole behind Sidney Lowe. He has been a pro ball head coach before (with the Utah Flash), and should be able to fill in some of the official roles that Hornacek filled. The main problem in Hornacek leaving the team was never about the normative duties of a #2 assistant. Someone else could probably schedule practices, and co-ordinate film better than he could. What did Scott Layden do here? Make sure guys didn't run on the floor during altercations? (This is a joke, having talked with Scott about all he has done for the Jazz I have great respect and admiration for him.) The problem is that Horny went beyond his duties as an assistant to also retain player development responsibilities. Last season he was working with Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks on guard skills and shooting, while also assisting Derrick Favors on his free throw troubles. He probably did a lot more too -- and he will be missed. Even veteran shooters like Randy Foye and Kyle Korver both had career best shooting seasons under him. There's something there. It's not all co-incidence.
I think his assistant coaching duties can be replaced easily. It's the player development that's something that needs to be filled. You have the ear of the players if you are an assistant coach who is trying to break down film in a one on one session. But you have the respect of the players you are trying to teach to shoot straight if you were an All-Star who has won awards for three point shooting and has played in a few NBA Finals games as a starter.
Right now the Jazz are still looking for someone to fill in the spot for Horny on the bench. We will also need someone to fill his unofficial role as well. (And yes, good former players can help teach young players actual in-game moves and strategies that are successful, things average players can't teach. Look at Al Jefferson 's post up game as a Boston Celtic, then look at his game as a Minnesota Timberwolves player under Kevin McHale.)
While holes in our coaching staff persist (for now), Jeff has been poaching guys we had our eyes on. Jody Genessy wrote in the Des News about how Kenny Gattison is going to be joining Jeff in Phoenix. Kenny G was in Utah recently helping the team with their free agent mini-camp. Kenny was an average player but has been an assistant coach in some capacity since the 1996-97 season.
|Most Mins Bigs|
|Season||Team||League||Title||Under||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|1996||1997||New Jersey Nets||NBA||Ast. Coach||John Calipari||Kendall Gill||Tony Massenburg||Jayson Williams|
|1997||1998||New Jersey Nets||NBA||Ast. Coach||John Calipari||Kendall Gill||Keith van Horn||Jayson Williams|
|2001||2002||Old Dominion||NCAA||Ast. Coach||Blaine Taylor||Ricardo Marsh||Charles Dunnington||Clay McGowen|
|2002||2003||Old Dominion||NCAA||Ast. Coach||Blaine Taylor||Rasheed Wright||Ricardo Marsh||Alex Loughton|
|2003||2004||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Tim Floyd||George Lynch||P.J. Brown||Jamaal Magloire|
|2004||2005||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Byron Scott||George Lynch||P.J. Brown||Chris Andersen|
|2005||2006||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Byron Scott||Desmond Mason||David West||P.J. Brown|
|2006||2007||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Byron Scott||Desmond Mason||David West||Tyson Chandler|
|2007||2008||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Byron Scott||Peja Stojakovic||David West||Tyson Chandler|
|2008||2009||New Orleans Hornets||NBA||Ast. Coach||Byron Scott||James Posey||David West||Tyson Chandler|
|2010||2011||Atlanta Hawks||NBA||Ast. Coach||Larry Drew||Marvin Williams||Josh Smith||Al Horford|
|2011||2012||Atlanta Hawks||NBA||Ast. Coach||Larry Drew||Marvin Williams||Josh Smith||Al Horford|
|2013||2014||Phoenix Suns||NBA||Ast. Coach||Jeff Hornacek||Michael Beasley||Luis Scola||Marcin Gortat|
He's not going to be a specific coach for player development as far as I can tell, and he will join Mark West and Jerry Sichting under Horny. West and Kenny both went to ODU and played for the Suns. So joining your buds isn't just a Utah thing. Paul Coro of Arizona Central intones that they will try to pry away Doc Rivers / Boston Celtics assistant Mike Longabardi to fill out their coaching roster. I think Kenny has been around the block quite a bit but his resume displays that he is frequently dropped from the coaching staffs before the head coach is fired. Or at least that's how it played out with the Hawks. Everyone has gaps in their work history at the coaching level. So I'm not going to eat his lunch for that.
I think that under a legit coach who has experience, Kenny can be useful. I don't know if he was right or wrong for Utah. I do think that under a first time NBA Head Coach like Hornacek who has no former head coaches on his staff, that Kenny is not right for Phoenix. Or Kenny would be right for Phoenix if one other guy on Horny's staff was a former Head Coach. The first guy Ty brought on was Sid, and Sid has been both a head coach at the NBA and NCAA levels. As a first time head coach Ty has had that support, over and above his own experiences as an assistant coach working his way up. If Jeff brings on a Mo Cheeks or Nate Mac I would feel better about things. Or maybe he's hiring guys who can help him, but not supplant him? I don't know.
Kenny has been around ball for decades, and I'm sure he has learned enough about how teams run to be able to help Ty run the Jazz -- he could easily break down film, or schedule practices. It's the player development issue that persists. I included the players who played the most on each team Kenny was an assistant coach on. Why did I do this? Well, Kenny wouldn't have been hired here for specific player development, and isn't hired by Jeff for that role either. But it's nice to see the guys who worked with him because in Jeff we had more than an administrator. We had a guy who had the respect of our players who was instructing them on 'player moves' in addition to being an assistant coach. (I guess this is why adding Karl Malone as a pro move development coach is a smart move by the Jazz.)
As a Jazz fan I do hope that the Suns coaching staff has success. Success could be easier to come by if they hired a former head coach to be an assistant under a rookie coach who will make mistakes. However, I'm more worried about our success. I support Brad Jones fully if the Jazz promote him. I would also want to have someone also come on to fill the unofficial role Hornacek took on as well.
It's pretty clear right now that we're all allowed now to be vocal about how much we like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Enes Kanter. Before all three of those guys were criticized heavily by the heavies -- Derrick has no offensive moves, Gordon has an inconsistent shot, Kanter just has no experience and doesn't know how to play. The "narrative" is changing now when two of those guys will be going to USA Basketball camps again, and the third guy has the potential to be one of the best players of his age group. There are two other guys from that group of players though: Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans. It's not okay to like them yet. Well, you can like Jeremy, but he's just never going to be an NBA Player -- who cares that he gave the org a lot of great publicity by being the only Jazz player at All-Star Weekend. Burks is a comb over and little mustache away from being worse than Adolph Hitler. Or at least it seems that way at times if you listen to the people talk about the game, instead of watch the game.
Which is funny. Because both JE and AB have been at P3 this off-season already working out with Favors. And early mornings in June were spent at the Zion's Bank practice facility with Favors, Burks, and Kevin Murphy (along with mystery man Jerel McNeal) working on their games. Those guys are putting in the work and showing the same dedication it takes to make it as the guys we are allowed to love. There's some hidden condition it seems.
Anything Evans does appears amazing. However, his lack of a defined position (does not have the floor skills to be a 3, doesn't have the heft and post skills to be a 4) make it easy to sit his butt on the bench. I do think that if he was given a role, and consistent minutes, that he could be a positive contributor to our young team. He's efficient and has gamechanging athleticism -- even if he doesn't even touch the ball. Mark Eaton, Greg Ostertag, Andrei Kirilenko and others all changed a lot of shots. They changed shots in different ways, but found a way to be useful on defense because of this skill. I think Evans could be useful in this manner. He'd be even more useful if he developed a jumper and dribbling skills. It would be useful if he could work out with Karl Malone a bit; but the Jazz have him go on small town sojourns every off season. It's as if he's not getting the opportunity to get better on the floor during the season, and has a lot of responsiblities during the off-season too that keep him out of the gym. It's a tough life, I guess.
Burks also doesn't have a defined position. He played defense at point guard better than anyone else on our roster last year; but he's not a point guard. He's also not allowed to play shooting guard because . . . what is the reason again? I guess because he doesn't shoot as well as Randy Foye? That's a good enough reason. Remember Burks game winning / game saving chasedown block on Ricky Rubio on the road last year to end the game? Maybe the value of Burks as a player we are allowed to like will be on defense as well?
I guess if you are trying to re-brand as a defensive team you could do worse than throwing out a Burks / Hayward / Evans / Favors / Kanter lineup if you are doing offense / defense at the end of a game. Hopefully we'll be allowed to see enough of Burks and Evans next year if they a) earn it, and b) expand their games. I think their defensive contributions can help us play better basketball. And if they do that then I think maybe in another few years we'll be allowed to like them too.
Yeah, not a lot of defense in this video . . . but hustle plays help you win too.
Chillin' and/or Koolin'.
We've only dipped our feet into the free agency discussion. We've looked at some of the guys on the market, but before we get there I know that I'm not ready to say goodbye to the players who busted their butts for us last season. In the right situation I wouldn't have a problem with any single one of them returning. Yes, I'd be okay with Al Jefferson returning, even if I was honest enough to be critical of him during the season. I can be honest enough now to say I wouldn't rage if he returned either. In the right situation he can be much better than the way our head coach used him last year.
As a Jazz fan it's hard to wish nothing but the best for our Jazz players. Mo Williams hits game winners. Jamaal Tinsley stepped up big this season and throws half court alley-oops. Earl Watson was part of S.W.A.R.M. and is such a good, smart, guy. He is a great mentor our youth revere. Randy Foye goes En Foyego. DeMarre Carroll is the junk-yard-dog and never gives up. He was the only guy who stepped up in Game 4 of the playoffs two years ago, and I'll always remember that. I've written more about Big Al these last two years than any other player. And over the same span I've watched no one more. I've watched days of film on most of our players. But I've watched weeks of Jefferson. If his home is with the Jazz, I will cheer for his successes.
The last guy to really mention is Paul Millsap. Out of all the guys listed he's the guy most of us want to keep. We would want Paul to stay a Jazz player for his entire career. But I guess we'll see if that happens. What's best for Paul may not be a situation where he's constantly looking back at the two younger, bigger, more physically talented guys in the rear view mirror (objects may be closer than they appear). It would be hard to see Paul go. But he seems the most likely candidate to go. And he will be missed.
And all of our dudes will be missed -- even Raja Bell, who at times seemed like the only guy who gave a damn about defense. He didn't play at all this year, but once a Jazz man, always a Jazz man. (Except for Mark Jackson and Derek Fisher)
High turnover from season to season isn't something we experience much, but this off-season is going to be full of it.
It's bittersweet to see another season go in the books. We all love the game, but over the last few years with the advances in technology and the crazy pace of information, the NBA experience is incomplete without you. Without me. Without all of us. Shared experiences are the norm now. We all see things happening in real time, and communicate instantly. I used to write about the Jazz before the internet existed. Now I have you guys to talk about the Jazz with. And as the season is over, many of you will return to other hobbies and not return until training camp. To you friends I say adieu. Another group will stay with us all summer long, and to those friends I welcome with open arms.
I don't know how long I'm going to be writing online about the Jazz. And I don't know why I'm being overly sentimental right now, but I probably would not be writing about the Jazz right now if it wasn't FOR all of you. Thank you for adding to my enjoyment of the team I love, and thank you for giving me a reason to write about the team that's more meaningful than writing for myself.
You all have encouraged me, challenged me, and helped me understand the team, the game, and myself better. There's a lot of work I have to do still before I do hang it up. But it will be a labor of love for people I love: Jazz fans.
So as another season is in the books thanks again to all the SLC Dunk contributors, FanPosters, thread commentators, lurkers, fans, critics, and associated media who stumble on by.
From the bottom of my heart thank you all so much for sticking with us for so long, and especially during a very trying season for all of us. I think the dark days for the Jazz are over. I really do. We're going to be a smarter team (Dennis Lindsey). We're going to give more effort (Tyrone Corbin). We're going to be patient (Jerry Sloan). And we're going to succeed (Greg Miller). Our team is going to be so much better because we have strong leadership. And we fans will be happier than we've been in years.
I have always attempted to model our site to the team this site is dedicated to covering. The dark days for SLC Dunk are over now too. And thanks again for sticking with us through it all.