You guys. The Jazz played basketball last night. Real, live, NBA-ish basketball. And they won. And it was glorious.
Okay, so it was preseason, and the opposing Golden State Warriors were playing the second night of a back-to-back and a third game in four days. But still! This was no scrimmage or summer league game, and while the result doesn't matter, the opponents were real NBA players, many of whom are considered "better" than the ones with J-notes on their chests.
And the Jazz won, handily. More importantly, the team was a blast to watch. More sharing the ball. More high-energy play. No more static Al-fense on the low block. It was great.
(Actually, one of the "highlights" of the night was watching Andris Biedrins somehow find himself isolated in Big Al's former domain in the left post and proceed to look absolutely terrified. (Biedrins made up for that play with a panicked stumble that somehow turned into a gorgeous spin move around Andrew Bogut. I know; I was confused, too.))
Anyway, that enjoyment was the biggest thing I took away from the game last night. I have no idea how good this Jazz roster will actually be over the course of 82 games. The odds are that they won't win most of those. But after three years of frustrating stasis, the change in roster, in play style, and in energy is invigorating.
As Bill Murray says at the end of Groundhog Day, "Anything different is good."
One thing that hasn't changed? Tyrone Corbin's preference for starting veterans. The news broke before the game:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Utah Jazz starters: Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter. <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23GSWatUTA&src=hash">#GSWatUTA</a></p>— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) <a href="https://twitter.com/DJJazzyJody/statuses/387718618471235584">October 8, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Needless to say, this...didn't go over well with Jazz fans on Twitter. Hadn't we just seen three infuriating years of seemingly blind deference to older, (probably) inferior players? Will Alec Burks never escape the Wicked Stepcorbin?
I admit, I was worried, too. But keeping Burks on the bench to star in the second unit does make some sense. He's a scorer, and he'll get points, looks, and the ball in his hands a lot more when he's not fighting Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter for them.
The problem I had was the player starting in his stead: Richard Jefferson. (Or Richard Jefferson's Expiring Contract, to borrow a Simmonsian turn of phrase.) If this guy couldn't get burn with the Warriors last year, why should he be worth any time now?
I have to say, though...after seeing R-Jeff play last night, I wasn't entirely appalled.
(Engage "Damning With Faint Praise" Mode)
He was much more active and energetic than I expected him to be. He moved and defended surprisingly well. He didn't really take any awful shots. And while four points, one rebound and one block in 22 minutes is pretty wretched for an NBA starter, he was only a -3 for the game. He wasn't awful. Really. I promise.
(On the other hand, Burks had 14 points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes. So...yeah.)
Anyway, it's all a moot point. Probably. Hopefully. Because Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams will return from injury at some point, and I trust either one of them to hold down the starting 3-spot better than Jefferson. And Ty Corbin did leave himself some wiggle room for lineup adjustments heading into the regular season. We may see Alec starting at some point after all.
So no need to overreact...yet.
(It helps if I keep telling myself that.)
FanPosts! I'm excited to see these pick up now that the season's almost underway. I fully expect you Dunkers to point out observations that we miss, and I'm looking forward to being told I'm wrong about everything. (Yeah, I dunno. It works for me.)
Since we just got done talking about minutes and starters and playing time, Jordan Cummings' rotation breakdown is especially relevant:
He breaks down the rest of the quarters, too. Are Jefferson or Biedrins given any minutes? Read through to find out.
Next, Jazzfan12 defends his thesis that Derrick Favors should develop a few "go-to moves" to help his offensive game:
Yesterday in the Favors edition of the downbeat I got into a spirited debate with many of my fellow SLC Dunkers on Favors and his overall lack of offensive ability and his disdain for the phrase "go to move". I got a ton of flack for suggesting that Favors really doesn't have a great offensive game and that he shouldn't be so quick to shut down the idea of developing a couple go to moves to help him improve his offensive game. I find it interesting that the day after I get ripped apart at the mere suggestion that he isn't a very good offensive player (including as the roll man in the PnR), the immortal Zach Lowe of Grantland shares some similar sentiments. You can find his article here. I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees it.
And lastly, though it isn't technically Jazz-related, I wanted to give a shout-out to Frank5's request for youth coaching advice:
I am taking over coaching the boy's basketball team at the middle school where I work. Not a lot of pressure on me, because I don't think we have won a game for a couple years! Nonetheless, I have never coached before, and I am wondering if fellow SLDunkers can direct me to some good online resources for coaching at that level. Or if you have some personal experience and tips you would like to throw at me, that would be great. Thanks!
I know we have a few current and former coaches among our readership, so if you've got any pointers, head over to the comments section of Frank's post.
Speaking of Zach Lowe, the Grantland writer released his preseason rankings, breaking down the league according to rough tiers of quality. The Jazz? Well, they're firmly ensconced in the group Lowe calls "Back Up The Tanker Truck":
Nothing we don't already know, and nothing I really disagree with (aside from the definition of "tanking," which I reeeeeeally don't want to get into again.) As I said above, though, I'm focusing more on the first half of Lowe's final sentence. This year's team will be fun to watch. And that's enough for me, for now.
A few final items from last night's box score:
-- His numbers don't jump off the page -- 12 points, three assists, two rebounds, one turnover in 26 minutes -- and his shooting percentage (5-14) was still way lower than it needs to be, but Trey Burke assuaged a lot of my doubts. He looks like an NBA point guard. And he made 2-4 three-pointers, all of which he took very confidently. He'll be fine. Once he gets to know his teammates, I daresay he can be great.
-- While he shot pretty poorly (4-12, no threes), Gordon Hayward flirted with a triple-double, tallying eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds to go with three steals and only one turnover. That's rare versatility -- shades of the old Andrei Kirilenko 5x5 line (sans blocks). Hayward will have to assume more of a scoring role this season, though. Eight points ain't cutting it.
-- The biggest reason Hayward only scoring eight was okay last night? John Lucas III. He shot the lights out. All of them. Like, there were lights, and then there weren't, because he shot them.
Okay, he actually only shot 5-9, but he made two threes and four FTs for 16 points total in 18 minutes. The Jazz obviously can't count on that kind of production from Lucas every night, but just the threat of his scoring will help the second unit.
-- We're going to REBOUND ALL THE THINGS this year. Favors had 14, Hayward 7, Kanter only 4 (but that was largely because Favors was beating him to all of them), Jeremy Evans 13 (!!!), Rudy Gobert 5, and Lucas and Burks a respectable 3 each. 62 total rebounds, to 41 for Golden State.
Now, the Warriors only shot 32% from the floor, and when the other team shoots poorly, you're going to get more rebounds. (I believe that is what they call "science.") But still. If people were worried about the Jazz's rebounding game without Big Al and Paul Millsap, they can probably put those worries to rest.
I don't know that there's a lot more you can pull from the box score of one preseason game. But what stuck out to you? Let's hear in the comments and poll below.