Call me crazy, but we need to mix it up for the playoffs



Let's do a little simple math: Andrew Bynum is seven feet tall with 11 foot arms.  Pau Gasol is seven feet tall with 9 foot arms.  Mehmet Okur is seven feet tall with T-Rex arms.  And everybody knows about Boozer's inability to defend power forwards, let alone Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.  It's too bad that the Jazz don't have big seven footers on the bench who can block shots.

Wait.  They do have a couple of those guys on the bench?  Oh, well then why don't we use them?  I know Sloan isn't one to make lineup changes or especially matchup specifically against other teams, but the Jazz just need to take some chances.  So here is my somewhat ridiculous proposal:  Start Fesenko over either Boozer or Okur and give Koufos some minutes.

At this point, I honestly don't care if Boozer or Okur get their feelings hurt.  What are we playing for at this point?  It is the playoffs, and as constituted, we have about an 8% chance of winning this series.  But I am taking a chance that anybody with any portion of basketball decisions in the Jazz office gets wind of this plea, not that I expect it to make any difference.  But I plan on enjoying this series, because, let's be honest, we would have had to face the Lakers at some point in the playoffs if we wanted to make noise.  And I honestly think that we could change the way this series is dictated in our favor by adding some length inside.  I am sure that some of you who are reading this are thinking, "Clark, I agree with you.  We need to see some more of Fesenko and Koufos in the lineup, but you are making a fool of yourself by thinking that either of them should start."  And I understand your point of view in thinking this, but hear me out. 

There are four reasons I can think of that would lead you to be opposed to this idea. 

1. Okur and Boozer are our best inside players and leaders on this team and they can cause some matchup problems for the Lakers on offense.

2.  Fesenko and Koufos have had little playing time, have no playoff experience and we all watched Fesenko pick up some ticky tack fouls against Bynum on Tuesday night.  He plays silly.

3. What we gained on defense we would lose on offense if we started Fesenko or Koufos.  What can they provide offensively?

4.  Changing your lineup to match the other team only shows your lack of confidence in your team.  You saw what happened to the Mavericks two years ago when they tried to go small and match up with the Warriors.

My response to number 1.  First of all, I agree that Okur and Boozer are our best interior players on offense.  And I also agree that benching one of them would possibly, and probably, sour their feelings towards the team.  But I would suggest talking to the one you are bringing off the bench and explaining the situation to them.  It wouldn't be a demotion, but just a coaching strategy. And I think Okur would be more likely to take it well.  And secondly. we aren't going to beat the Lakers by outscoring them, at least not in LA.  At home we may get away with it a bit, but if we are going to steal a game on the road, we are going to have to keep the lakers away from the basket, off the free throw line, and hope they only perform so so from outside.  It's no secret.  That is how we can win in LA.  If we put Fesenko on Bynum to start the game, we will increase our interior defense two fold.  And Ziggy says that increases our chances of winning to 17.6% for all you Quantum Leap fans.

Number 2.  Fesenko is raw.  He makes some bad plays.  But after seeing him the last two nights, I can't allow anyone to say that he is lazy or isn't in the game mentally when he plays.  You can see him giving full effort out there.  He isn't in great shape, but guess what?  He is our biggest player on the team.  And he is very agile for being so big.  It isn't a cliche that you can't teach height.  I tried teaching it to myself my whole life.  It doesn't work.  Koufos and Fesenko both have a natural ability to clog up the middle and alter or block shots.  I love Okur and I can stand Boozer, but they lack this ability like Harpring lacks quickness and jumping abilities.  It's no knock on Harpring or our bigs, but they don't have it.  And when I watched Fesenko play against the Lakers I saw a very large man, who made some mistakes, but who also clogged the lane, and literally kept people from driving to the lane.  Lots of jumpers were put up when Fesenko was on the floor.  Tell him not to foul and just stay in front of his man and I think he can.  And if he fouls, then big deal.  We aren't afraid of him fouling out.

Number 3. To be honest, our offensive "gameplan" hasn't really been working for a long time, at least not with consistency.  Raise your hand if you think that our best offense has been Deron Williams penetrating and scoring or dishing for an open shot.  We could still do this with Fesenko or Koufos on the floor.  Set a screen for Deron and let him go. It would be a little bit more like the New Orleans offense, but it wouldn't take more than a practice to get it right.  And did you see Fesenko with that hammer dunk and one other good drive where he missed the dunk?  I am sure we can figure something out offensively.

Number 4.  We are the underdogs and everyone is already counting us out of this series.  We literally have nothing to lose.  Avery Johnson was stupid to match up with the Warriors, because he had the better team.  He should have forced Golden State to match his team.  We have no advantages against the Lakers, so we wouldn't be giving up any by admitting we need more size and length in the interior.

I am not advocating for Fesenko and Koufos to take all of Okur's or Boozer's or Millsap's minutes.  I would be happy if you even gave Fesenko 12-15 total minutes, but just started him along Boozer.  But I do think Fesenko or Koufos should get all of Collins minutes.

I watched three teams play Kobe Bryant very effectively on defense last playoffs: the Nuggets, the Spurs and the Celtics.  Even though  the Nuggets didn't have a shot at beating the Lakers, Bryant really struggled against them.  It was Denver's offense that did them in.  Each team employed a similar defensive tactic.  They put their best perimeter defender on Kobe.  Then they put a defender with length on the inside.  That inside defender always fronted his man, so that if Kobe got around them, he would immediately have a big man cutting off the baseline and trapping him.  So Bryant either had to pull up for a jumper, or else make a difficult pass around the inside defender.  Bowen didn't play much better defense against Kobe than Kenyon Martin, or even Ronnie Brewer did.  But he had Tim Duncan working a two man defense at all times.  The Jazz actually have good perimeter defenders, but if you were Kobe Bryant, or Jordan Farmar, or Lamar Odom, or even Trevor Ariza, would you be afraid of getting your shot blocked by Okur or Boozer?  They know that all they have to do is get around their defender and they would have an easy bucket or get fouled.  If we had a shot blocker downlow, it would change the mentality of the Laker offense.  Or at least it might make them work a little harder and force them to beat us from outside.  Because even if we lost this series, I would be much more satisfied if we didn't send Kobe Bryant to the line every other possession or let Gasol and Bynum shoot 70% from the field.  But that might just be me.


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