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The Downbeat - 25 January 2011 - #411 - The "It Is What It Is" Edition

It has only been two days but I'm eager to get back to Jazz basketball tonight.  Time really does heal some wounds no matter how illogical it may be when looking forward to seeing the Jazz try to recover tonight against the Lakers in LA.  Maybe it's because spring training is right around the corner and the Cubs fan in me gives me an irrational hope.

I wrote before that I'm interested in seeing how the Jazz respond after being down.  So far it hasn't been good.  I don't know why I would expect any change tonight, maybe it's just a morbid curiosity at this point.  I really believe there's too much talent on this team to keep playing this poorly.  It may not be a quick turnaround, but when they do decide to figure things out, I'll be there.

  A great breakdown (link from Prodigal Punk) from SI on defensive woes of the Jazz.  This spurred a good twitter discussion.  If you remember, the Jazz actually led the league the first couple of months of the season in defensive FG% and 3P%.   Amar suggested this as well, but pick and roll defense (or lack of) would appear to be the main culprit,

A deeper look at Utah's defense suggests the problem lies in the pick-and-roll - and specifically in its inability to stop dribble penetration at the top. An exhaustive look at video points to, primarily, the inability (or reluctance) of Millsap and Jefferson to jump out aggressively and cut off ball-handlers before they turn the corner. For whatever reason, both prefer mostly to sag back as Williams chases point guards over screens. That's fairly common, and good big men can drop back and still manage to cut off a ball-handler if their positioning is sound and their feet are quick.

Jefferson and Millsap can't pull off the trick consistently. And when point guards get into the teeth of a defense, bad things happen - open shots, fouls and offensive rebounds that result from Utah's big men having to help on the pick-and-roll action.

The consensus from our twitter discussion was that Fesenko and Elson are a lot better at defending the PnR than Millsap and Jefferson.  The defensive numbers seem to back that up as the top floor units defensively according to all have Fesenko or Elson as part of that unit.  The only top defensive unit that doesn't have them in is the starting 5 with CJ swapped in for Bell.  I don't know if the PnR defense is any better with CJ in, but they're a much better team defensively.

  You're not going to be ready for this, but it's coming.  You may not want to talk about it until after the season is over, but David Aldridge is right,

I hate to do this to my friends in the 801, but there's no point in sugarcoating it. When this Carmelo business is done, you're on the clock, Utah.

Deron Williams ain't especially happy, and as every NBA fan should know by now, an unhappy star makes for a vulnerable team in the Age of LeBron.

It started with the Ronnie Brewer trade last season when Deron said that's why he signed a three-year contract.  He expressed dismay when the Jazz lost a lot of guys over the summer.  The 2012 talk is going to heat up quick especially when Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are going to be free agents as well.  It's not quite on the level of the 2010 free agent bonanza, but it will be huge.

Deron has never been a rah-rah kind of guy and isn't one to mince words.  That said, has he been saying anything lately that would indicate that the Jazz are going to improve?  His comments from yesterday's practice about running the same plays for 23 years or talking about not making any trades sound unleader-like.

Is he just telling it like it is?  We know how frustrating it is as fans to see the team play like this but can we really empathize with the players?  If I'm a role player though on a team and I'm looking to a leader that's going to pull us out of a funk, is that what you want to hear?

This end quote from the Aldridge article is particularly discouraging,

We still haven't figured out what's going on. We're at the halfway point now. It should have happened weeks ago, months ago. But it is what it is.

He's right, it should have happened by now.  But "it is what it is" doesn't instill any confidence in me. 

He seems to be focusing more on the past and what they had then what they have going forward.  That doesn't seem like the right mindset.

  I couldn't find his tweet, but Clarkpojo and I were watching the Blazers play last week (not a coordinated effort) but he tweeted (I couldn't find the tweet to link) something to the effect of "I wish the Jazz would play with the energy that the Blazers do." 

It must have been the SLC Dunk borg effect because I was thinking that same thing right before  I saw that tweet on my timeline.  The Blazers were flying around in that game with a collective hustle we haven't seen since the early inception of SWARM.  They were flying everywhere.  It was from their starters down to the bench players.

It won't fix everything but an effort like that out of the Jazz would be a breath of fresh air.  There seems to be a lot of balls bouncing the opponents' way lately and not much for the Jazz. The spacing and rotations might not be perfect right now, but they can create their own fortune.

  Tuesday open poll...  What are you looking for in the Jazz tonight against the Lakers?