First of all, don't expect me to really contribute too frequently with these 'news-y' type of posts during the season. Okay, now that's out of the way . . . the Jazz play their third preseason game of the season tonight. (This is also technically our first back-to-back of the 2010-2011 NBA Season) It's on the road, in Phoenix against their Suns. If you are interested, their great blog here at SB*Nation has a preview up: click here to read it at the Bright Side of the Sun. I think that we have a few things to look at in this game as the coaches have a great many things to still figure out.
They start and end with figuring out this whole back-up point guard issue . . .
Do you remember when the Jazz were the top team in the Western Conference? What was special about that team besides John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek, and a bunch of other cool parts? If we go down the line one of the more over-looked points has been the fact that we had a very solid back up point guard. Howard Eisley was so good that he could (and did) get the ball, drive up the court and hit a game winning three pointer without taking a time out and setting up a play or even let the guy he was backing up get on the court.
The last time the Jazz made the Western conference finals we had a pretty good group of guys who could play back up point guard. (Though, during the Golden State series, due to family issues, and freak injuries, Andrei Kirilenko was our back-up for the majority of a game) There seems to be something to this back-up business. Before this deviates into a whole blog post about the back up issue (which I should just probably type up), let's get back to the preseason game #3.
What's the point?
Steve Nash has played in all of their previous games, but in each game his playing time has gone down from 24, to 22, to only 6 minutes in their last game. The Suns have Goran Dragic who looks to get the lion's share of the minutes tonight.The next guy on the list will by Chucky Atkins (if he wasn't already cut). Welp, I just checked, it was. Dragic is good enough to give our crew of Ronnie Price, Sundiata Gaines, and Earl Watson enough of a challenge. We really need a good leader for the second unit. This is not news.
The last couple of seasons we were looking for a wing player to do this. Really, though, a point guard should be the guy who does this. We only have to look as far back to the Brevin Knight era to see how our collective hopes went up at the prospect of a solid back-up point guard playing for the Jazz.
Ideally, in my mind at least, the duties would fall to Earl Watson. He has actual experience, and is a defensive minded (at least in interviews) veteran who should know how to run a team. Ronnie Price always ends up winning the 2nd string job though. He's specifically made a career out of this (over Jason Hart in Sacramento, over Jason Hart in Utah, over Brevin Knight in Utah), so he can't be over looked here. Confusing the problem is the fact that Sundiata Gaines is shooting 75% from deep. (0% from the free throw line, by the way . . .)
That said, in the two games we've had, I haven't been impressed with any of them. Hopefully in this game one of them will stand out in some way.
Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward, and Ryan Thompson have shown flashes of competency mired with some really rookie level ball. I'm not knocking them. I do think that they need more time on the floor (apparently my mantra about younger players). At least on some level we're expecting one (or all) of them to be as good as they can be later on this season, but be that good in October. Wesley Matthews became a starter for us later on in the season. He wasn't the top shooting guard back in October. Let's not forget this fact. Let's also let our rookies have the same grace period as well.
I do want to see how Evans can match up with some of the face up guys that the Suns have. Defensively if he can stay in front of guys and contest jumpers he'll earn himself more playing time. His energy around the basket is a given by now. Not every team in the league will keep the guy he defends in the paint though.
Demetris Nichols did not get a lot of burn in the previous two games, so he may get a shot in this game. He's not a rookie though, but I'm not going to make a new H4 heading for just him.
Game 1 they totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds with 2 blocks. Game 2 had them bringing 32 points and 13 boards with only 1 block. Obviously Game 2 was more productive from the 5 spot for us. The Suns aren't going to be bringing the lumber inside (ever), so I don't expect these two guys to get to play together at some point during the game. I do want to see how they would fare though . . . Al Jeff inside with a bigman watching things over his shoulder weakside -- not a bad plan. If anything, today's game will better show us two things:
- How well is Al Jefferson really picking up the offense? How efficient will he be?
- Can Fesenko play big minutes, and running up and down the floor minutes, consistently?
More than anything, though, we'll probably have a very solid Paul Millsap game.
The game is on TV somewhere . . . so I will try to record it.