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Sunday Syncopation # 26

This season ends in four more days. There are two more games remaining, on the road against Deron Williams’ rival Chris Paul, and at home hosting the Nuggets – a team we beat in the playoffs last year. I really don’t quite know what to think about this season yet, but I do know that the next time I’ll be writing a Sunday Syncopation it will be without Andrei Kirilenko (my favorite current player) under contract. Truly the possible end of an era – and the last remaining link to the Stockton and Malone years.

  • If you follow me on twitter (and if you do, God help you) you may have seen some curious tweets last night from me during the San Antonio Spurs game. I am sick of the Spurs. Not because they are a good team. Not because they flop. Not because they seem to be impossible to defend outside. Not even because they usually always beat us either. I am really getting sick of seeing the Spurs because (in my opinion) they seem to keep us around - toying with us – for the entire game. We were ‘kinda there’ last night. We were ‘kinda there’ a few games ago in Utah when Deron was still on the team. We were ‘kinda there’ in most of the games in the Western Conference Finals a few years ago. Kinda doesn’t get it done against a great team like the Spurs. "Kinda" may just sum up the legacy of this last incarnation of the Jazz that ends in 4 days.
  • The Spurs could have just put the hammer down and I could have gone on with my life – no, that didn’t happen. Instead I got a chance to see Tiago Splitter dominate our frontcourt instead. Awesome.
  • We did see some good things from the last few games (and I’m not talking about Gordon Hayward being a Kobe stopper – if one ever really existed). First of all, Jeremy Evans may not be the most complete basketball player but he has the physical advantage of quickness and being light at a spot that is usually filled with bruisers. In a way, you can look at Tony Parker’s physical advantage as a way to work on other parts of your game over time – while still retaining your physical gifts. Parker is light and fast at a position where defense is pretty much all related to lateral quickness. He’s exploited this point (and the changed rules on defense that prevent you from being really physical outside on the perimeter) into a solid career where he can drive and finish or drive and dish with impunity. He does it so well that his defensive match up concerns are not even brought up. Evans is not going to power over anyone with a hammer dunk. He’s not Shaq. He’s not Karl Malone. He’s not Shawn Kemp. That’s fine.
  • If he can build his game around the physical gifts that he currently has he can be a legit NBA player – and not just a circus freak who after his playing days are over will get a job working at NASA testing the effects of low gravity on humans on earth. Evans is exploiting the fact that he’s not scouted that well right now. He needs to find an exploit that relies on his jumping ability primarily though. This exploit does not have to be on offense either. Andrei Kirilenko made a name for himself by getting to balls that people didn’t think he could get to on defense. He blocked 3+ shots a game as a 6’9 forward with length and leaping ability. Evans can get better on help defense, and he could be able to do some of that too, I think. He doesn’t have the basketball IQ of Andrei (who has been playing professional basketball before he got a driver’s license) but he does have something a lot of forwards do not have – one of the quickest and highest jumps in the NBA. We knew this back in preseason, but last night he was scoring up and over the San Antonio Spurs – the best team in the West, one known for defense. This is definitely something to be happy about.
  • Derrick Favors is averaging 23.0 minutes per game this month. That’s not enough, but it’s a start. In this time he’s rewarded us with 9.8 ppg (52.3 fg%,) and 7.2 rpg. This was done against the Spurs, the Portland Trail Blazers, and two games against the Los Angeles Lakers (all playoff teams), and the Sacramento Kings (his worst game this month). He’s also getting 1.2 blocks per game – which is not really something we’ve had in a rookie bigman since, well, Paul Millsap. It’s not all good for Favors, over these last five games he’s shooting 27.3 ft%. That’s sub-Fesenkoian. Of course, it’s also only from a sample size of 11 total free throws.
  • This is a tangent, so bear with me here, but I think there is a potential risk of under developing Favors. The Jazz have been lucky with young guys who had that motor to push themselves (see again, St. Paul Millsap), but not all guys are like that. The young guys routinely don’t get the minutes they need to grow at the speed they possibly could (C.J. Mile always behind Harpring, Fisher, and Brewer; Gordon Hayward behind Raja Bell; Kyrylo Fesenko behind Jarron Collins, a coat rack, and a very territorial house cat). Favors isn’t going to get the minutes here that he could on a team without Big Al Jefferson and Sap, but that’s not the real concern for me. The real concern is that there’s no bigman coaching here. Thurl Bailey isn’t a coach, and he wasn’t that great (aside from that 18 ppg year) as a player either. The last few years the bigman coach was Matt Harpring (really, go back and read the beat reporters, he was the only one working with Fes one on one on post moves – the back up SF). The theory that playing against good players will make you a good player is a false theory. If it was something that produced real results, all of John Stockton’s back-ups would have at least been All-Stars.

  • Were they All-Stars? No.
  • You cannot waste a year in the development of a guy on a rookie contract. You need to spend the resources to make Favors better, even if this means hiring another coach. (We started the season with 4, and are ending it with 3 – I know Greg Miller likes where this is going, but you need coaches in the NBA) Waiting for Karl Malone to fill in the spot will be wasting one to two years. (Depending on if there’s a lockout or not – if there’s a lockout, then in October Derrick Favors is living with Karl Malone.)
  • Tangent over, we can’t talk about the last few days without mentioning Gordon Hayward who, over the last few days, is averaging 13.4 ppg (51.0 fg%, 42.9 3pt%, 73.3 ft%), 3.2 rpg, and 2.4 apg. Better than the scoring is the defense. You saw it in his first summer league game, you saw that this kid puts in effort. It happened on one of his first plays on defense with a Jazz jersey on (even if it was in Orlando). On defense he got absolutely creamed on a screen trying to follow around some speedy kid. Gordon lost his man, but did not give up on the play. He collected himself, and ran at top speed to get back into the play and managed to block that guy’s shot. That’s been the microcosm of the macrocosm of his first NBA season as well. It has been an up and down year for him, but he’s adjusting well on the fly, and he is an NBA player. Moreover, he’s our NBA player. He’s also at the risk of not being developed enough, but whatever . . . you just can’t play only the young guys all game long. Those rookies tend to become burnt out veterans – like Shareef Abdur-Rahim (these are his MPGs from his early career: 35.0 mpg, 36.0 mpg, 40.4 mpg, 39.3 mpg, 40.0 mpg, 38.7 mpg, 38.1 mpg – then the wheels fell off).
  • Devin Harris made another public appearance for the Jazz, playing on Thursday at home against Portland, and last night against the Spurs. He has played in 15 games for the Jazz, and I can’t wait to see what he may be capable of next season. That said, he really is a shoot first guy and I fail to see how useful that is (in the big picture) on a team that runs an offense focused on getting the ball to forwards in scoring position. He may not be the long-term starter like a Stock or Deron Williams – and may just be a stop gap like a Carlos Arroyo or Milt Palacio. (That’s a huge insult, Harris in not that bad at all, so far I have not been impressed with him and his 41.5 fg% shooting though.)
  • Speaking of guys who may just be passing through, fan favorite Kyle Weaver was not inked to a second 10-day contract with the team. I liked him as a player. Hopefully we’ll see him next year and this is just a money saving deal. Nothing tells a player ‘we really want you back next year’ like sending him home a week early though.
  • Sadly, this Syncopation has become less of a Jazz related tempo changing series of sounds (long, short, and sweet in alternating notes) – and more of just a weekly report. And that’s boring. I fully blame El Nino for this, and I also blame the fact that I’m in the middle of a few long posts that will be dropping in the next few days. I endeavor to be more entertaining next week.