So, the NBA Playoffs are a thing and we collectively are a little closer to the NBA Finals as well. Last night the Miami Heat evolved to another sun cycle and immolated the Indiana Pacers to advance to the Finals for the fourth straight time. It should come as little surprise that the players who led the way for Miami were the stars. Yes, their team is led by stars, but their team all function well together.
A lot of Utah Jazz fans have something to dislike about the Heat, and I get that. But there are things about that team to admire, like how their 10th most used player (by minutes played) in the Eastern Conference Finals, Shane Battier, played tough defense, and shot .545 / .600 / .800 when he was called into action.
The Heat built with stars, and had a rookie coach, and filled in the rest as time went on. Against the Pacers the stars did most of the heavy lifting (LeBron James avg 23/6/6/2/1 while shooting 56/33/82; Dwyane Wade avg 20/4/5/2 while shooting 55/46/85; Chris Bosh avg 16/5/1/1/1 while shooting 48/31/72). But they don't win without the help of the "little guys".
I don't think the Jazz can build a team like the Heat in the way they did. But I do think that the Jazz direction can be influenced by the Heat. Build a plan, and stick with it. Don't change what you do every 2 years (We're doing Alfense and no one is allowed to shoot threes, okay, now we're doing Alfense, and only MOLO and FOYO can shoot threes...). It's a refreshingly empirical approach that doesn't factor in the issue of time. The Heat's front office knew there was a window here, and they went all out to maximize it.
Here's some trivia for you -- guess how many years between the first time John Stockton and Karl Malone were All-NBA players to the first time they made the NBA Finals. The answer is on the front office there, and the ownership, not the players.
And here's some other trivia for you all, despite the fact that Miami had the stars, in the Eastern Conference Finals the Pacers actually went to the line more (140 to 116), and also went to the line more per FGA too (.232 to .210). So while the Heat may have had an easier road to the finals, they still won the games they needed to in order to get there.
In a situation where I want our Jazz to one day be where they are today then I think there are plenty of things we can learn from this situation.
The Utah Jazz organization, while not currently fielding a championship caliber team, are doing great things as well. Check this out!
Man, I'd love to play on such a beautiful court like that.
So the NBA, in general, is a crazy place. It's hard to keep being grounded despite being up in the air all the time. In the last few weeks we've had the Los Angeles Clippers be forced by the NBA to get rid of their owner, then be reported to be on the verge of getting sold for $2 billion dollars (how much are the Jazz worth again?), then their owner was about to try to sue the NBA for $1 billion dollars, and now apparently everything is going to be alright. How crazy is that? The Memphis Grizzlies front office is imploding, and they even let their Head Coach talk to another team while being under contract, and then he came back after saying he wasn't interested. And well, where do I start with players' news?
I guess I need to address the whole Chris Andersen thing. I'm not a huge fan of him. He was a guy who was busted by the NBA for violating their drug policy, was suspended from the league for a few seasons, bounced around, and then got all tatted up and started hard fouling the Jazz as a member of the Denver Nuggets. None of these things made me a fan of his.
Then the news came that he was somehow involved in child pornography.
A lot of ugly feelings and thoughts expressed themselves over the internet after that news broke. Something with the wording of the reported stories gave me the impression that the smoking gun was a computer at his house in Denver, but there was no proof that it was Andersen who was in trouble. In my mind this meant that maybe one of his degenerate hangers on who was 'crashing at his place for a while, bro' was on his computer while he was on a road trip or something. I did not feel like Andersen was actually that dirty, but this news story did not make me feel any sympathy for him.
Years later I now know so much more about the entire situation and I will clearly state that I owe Andersen an apology. I didn't say things nearly half as bad as others, but I did think you were a creep, a druggie, and involved with the wrong people. You may still be all of those things, but in regards to this entire under-age children porn thing . . . the details of this sequence of events makes me sympathize a little more with what crazy stuff happened to you.
If you are interested at all in criminal justice, internet safety, crazy women on facebook, and what could possibly make me, an Andersen-Hater, feel bad for him . . . you need to check out this longform article in Newsweek.
In other Jazz social media news:
- Enes Kanter was on a cooking show. (Waaat?)
- Trey Burke was hanging out with Marky-Mark . . . but was really judgmental about it.
- Gordon Hayward is still on his honeymoon.
- Mehmet Okur is going to have another kid, a boy!
- Bryon Russell 's son is a hooper
- Raul Neto 's family suggests HEAVILY to me that they are the Brazilian version of Arrested Development. #NOTOUCHING
And last, but not least, C.J. Miles still misses LHM.
In his own words:
...Rest in peace to Larry man he was one of the best men I ever met .. He and Coach Sloan believed in me 9 years ago and in (sic) still here because of a lot of things they did for me and taugh me...
Yes, we may not have any rings, but we love our Jazzmen.
I can't really get away with starting this Downbeat about the Miami Heat without looking at the opposing ideal, the San Antonio Spurs. ESPN's Marc Stein went to work in this article about the Spurs center Tim Duncan and their coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs weren't always the NBA's model franchise. Even they needed a blueprint.
Long before they became a factory for coaches and general managers, even before Duncan made it to the Alamo City, San Antonio looked at the Utah Jazz with the same sort of reverence with which rival teams study the Spurs today.
The Spurs saw the exacting execution and no-excuse manner in which Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton conducted their business and strained to emulate them.
The toughness. The precision. The physicality. The professionalism. The fact that Utah's offense was consistently effective even when everyone on the other side of the ball knew what was coming.
The unbreakable bond, above all, between the coach and his two stars in a city no one saw as glamorous.
The Spurs, before they really became the Spurs, wanted to be the Jazz.
"They weren't in a high-profile market, but they were incredibly consistent," Buford says. "They were incredibly competitive, defensively tough-minded and had a mentality that we knew we needed to get to. We knew we had to get tougher to get to their level.
"It wasn't so much style of play as it was the demeanor and the competitiveness and the consistency with which they kept their group together. We were also in similar markets, so it helped us to think, 'If they can do it, so can we.' It helped us believe there's no reason we can't be successful because we were in San Antonio."
Years later, after a slew of playoff battles that usually went Utah's way, Pop and Sloan have established a friendship, which everyone discovered when Sloan showed up at Spurs training camp at the start of the 2012-13 season as an invited guest. The ties between the NBA's execution masters of the '90s and the 2000s were only strengthened that same fall when Buford responded to a number of raids on his front office by hiring former Jazz executive Scott Layden as his assistant general manager.
The Pop-and-Timmy Spurs, of course, wound up taking what the Jazz built in Salt Lake City to a new level with those four championships. Things have come so full circle that Utah, when it needed a new GM to chart its post-Sloan course, hired trusted Buford aide Dennis Lindsey away from San Antonio to succeed Kevin O'Connor.
There's more to the story about the Jazz/Spurs in the article, and way more about the Spurs too. So check it out.