Man. That Bucks game was pretty bad, wasn't it? I mean, I was on recap duty that night, and I got so profoundly depressed in the second half that it bled over into my writing and I was probably more negative than I meant to be (or usually am). Sorry about that. It was just...it was bad.
Grantland's Robert Mays was there, too, and while he mostly focused on the Bucks in his "Fate Worse Than Death" article, he did offer this tidbit:
Across the court last night were the Utah Jazz, who were at least up-front about their intentions before the season began. In a season that saw Paul Millsap make the All-Star team, and on a night when Al Jefferson had 38 and 19 against the Heat, Andris Biedrins and his $9 million expiring contract looked to be having a great time in the layup line before the tip.
The Jazz were fresh off a 94-91 loss in Indiana the day before. Asking a team to play a back-to-back after seeing the Pacers is pretty much like asking an NFL team to play the Sunday- and Monday-night games, and it showed. Utah had trouble putting the ball in the basket from just about everywhere last night, but especially from 3. Shots clanked off the rim for most of the first quarter, and Utah's effort on the other end wasn't much better. Tyrone Corbin did call timeout after Wolters managed to go coast-to-coast after an Ersan Ilyasova block to make it 15-8, but I'm not sure even his heart was really in it.
Two things here. First: You really had to rub in the Millsap and Big Al thing, didn't you, Robert?
(More on Millsap and Al later, unfortunately.)
But the second thing -- and here's where this Downbeat gets more, um, upbeat -- is Mays' observation that playing the second night of a road back-to-back when the first night was against the Pacers is no small task. Couple that with the fact that Sunday's game against Indiana was really entertaining and encouraging for Jazz fans, and I think we can just move past Monday's misery.
At least we have another game tonight to wash the taste out of our brains, right? In this "season of discovery," I've had to try and condition myself not to get too up after wins or too down after losses (especially since the latter have been far more frequent). The Jazz are more or less on track with what we expected for this year, so there's no point in getting too upset.
It helps if I keep telling myself that.
OH GOSH WHY.
Okay, so it's easy to pine for what we once had. Grass is always greener, etc. The Jazz were probably right in the long run to let both players walk -- at least, by the time it came to that -- and it's no use living in the past. Still...
Millsap might not be elite at any one thing on offense, but he has worked himself up to B-level mastery of just about everything. That makes for a very tough guy to guard, especially for the league's plodding big guys.
Mike Budenholzer, a shooting zealot, has unleashed Millsap's 3-point game, and that has only made Millsap a more difficult cover over larger swaths of territory. Run him off the line, and he has a surprisingly nifty off-the-dribble game, filled with crossovers, step-backs, and hesitation feints. That serves Millsap well against bigger defenders who aren't vulnerable to his bullying back-to-the-basket game in the post; Millsap can simply catch the ball, face up, toss in a couple of jab steps, and go to work. He's not an explosive athlete, but he's springier than you think, and he'll unleash the occasional vicious dunk.
He can do just about anything on the pick-and-roll - pop for a 3, slide down for a midrange jumper, catch and drive, or cut all the way to the rim like Tyson Chandler. And, hell, he may decide not to even set a pick in the first place...
...He's a skilled passer and a gritty defender long among the very best big men at swiping steals. Millsap has turned himself into a Swiss Army knife in the frontcourt.
Let's make it official: We're calling him Prof. Al Jefferson, PhD, Post-up University, from here on out. Big Al and Prof. Andre Miller are the only two players in the league to earn academic titles in this space.
Professor Al is having perhaps the best all-around season of his career, carrying a heavier burden than ever for a Charlotte offense that dies without him. He's still holding court on the left block, tricking hopeless fools with Randolphian footwork and the league's most unfair two-handed pump fake.
Charlotte has Jefferson doing things a bit differently on the margins, but the arsenal is the same - jump hooks, instant-release push shots, midrange jumpers, up-and-unders, and killer drop steps. Professor Al is shooting nearly 50 percent on post-ups, and here's the remarkable thing: He never shoots left-handed, even when NBA fundamentals say he should. Take these floaters he likes to launch after spinning back to the left baseline. This is a textbook lefty shot, but Jefferson always shoots it righty, even though doing so brings the ball back into traffic. He's still not a good defender, but he fits better in Charlotte's conservative scheme. We're going to remember Professor Al as a delightfully unique player - an old-school post-up wizard who never turns the ball over.
Just give me a moment to weep silently.
No, but seriously. I know this is basically like thinking about an old ex and only remembering the good things, and not the parts where she was, like, really bad on defense. Metaphorically speaking.
I forget what we were talking about.
Oh, right. Honestly, I'm happy that Millsap and Jefferson are getting the recognition they didn't get when they played in Utah. And the Jazz are still probably in a better position now and going forward.
Let's just move on to FANPOSTS! Those always cheer me up. Because you guys are awesome.
JuMu gets us started with a look ahead to the future:
We have a lot of cap space opening up for us these offseasons (I projected the salary cap at $60 Million). Many options indeed for Dennis Lindsey. We can choose to match any Hayward contract as well as offer Burks and Kanter extensions this offseason. We also decide if we want to bring Marvin back or choose another free agent this offseason. Finally, we also get to choose if we are going to use our pick and Golden State's first picks in his hyped 2014 draft.
I am going to play around with a couple options here, let me know which one is your favorite, or if you have your own proposed future lineup.
JuMu gives three different options for the team to take going forward; check 'em out and see which is your favorite.
Next, gotag has done some great research on why it might not be the best idea to spend money on a top point guard:
A couple of weeks ago my father asked me how I felt about Trey Burke. I told him that my favorite part about Trey Burke is that, after his rookie deal, he will not cost more than 8 million per year to keep. It is strange but I think this is very important, especially if we want to contend for a championship. Over the last 5 years I have come to the position that point guard is the 1 position in the NBA that I would be the most hesitant to offer significant money for. I feel like right now there are only 4 pg's worth more than 10m per year (Paul, Parker, Curry, Westbrook) and only 2 worth max contracts (Westbrook and Curry).
Finally, in his (her?) maiden post, Hestari gives an excellent discourse on leadership, based on knowledge gleaned from U.S. Marines Officer Candidate School, and examines whether Ty Corbin fits the bill:
As officer "candidates" we were required to memorize these traits and know them by heart, receiving "encouragement" and "instruction" if we forgot. It takes years on average to even come close to check marking each and everyone of these traits, but it is usually pretty obvious who's trying and who his not. Equally important for us candidates was to know the the 11 leadership principles.
1. Know yourself and seek self improvement. Evaluate yourself by using the leadership traits and determine your strengths and weaknesses.
2. Be technically and tactically proficient. A person who knows their job thoroughly and possesses a wide field of knowledge. Before you can lead, you must be able to do the job.
3. Know Your People And Look Out For Their Welfare. This is one of the most important of the leadership principles. A leader must make a conscientious effort to observe his Marines(players) and how they react to different situations.
4. Keep Your Personnel Informed. To promote efficiency and morale, a leader should inform the Marines (players) in his unit (team) of all happenings and give reasons why things are to be done. Informing your Marines of the situation makes them feel that they are a part of the team and not just a cog in a wheel.
5. Set The Example. A leader who shows professional competence, courage and integrity sets high personal standards for himself before he can rightfully demand it from others.
6. Ensure That The Task Is Understood, Supervised, And Accomplished. Leaders must give clear, concise orders that cannot be misunderstood, and then by close supervision, ensure that these orders are properly executed.
7. Train Your Marines (players) As A Team. Train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that each Marine knows his/her position and responsibilities within the team framework.
8. Make Sound And Timely Decisions. The leader must be able to rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. Hesitation or a reluctance to make a decision leads subordinates to lose confidence in your abilities as a leader. Loss of confidence in turn creates confusion and hesitation within the unit.
9. Develop A Sense Of Responsibility Among Your Subordinates
10. Employ Your Command Within its Capabilities. A leader must have a thorough knowledge of the tactical and technical capabilities of the command. Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit's capabilities.
11. Seek Responsibilities And Take Responsibility. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take responsibility for your actions. Regardless of the actions of your subordinates, the responsibility for decisions and their application falls on you.
Really interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing, Hestari! Be sure to click through for the rest, Dunkers.
Speaking of Coach Corbin, he came up briefly in a discussion on Bill Simmons' B.S. Report with Zach Lowe (click through and fast forward to about the 13-minute mark). Transcript follows:
Lowe: ...the point is, it's not, like, insane any more to suggest that New Orleans might be able to get there (to the playoffs). I don't think they want to get there -- you know, they say all the right things privately about "we want to have a winning culture" and Monty Williams, you know...it's like Brad Stevens in Boston. They have a coach that's never gonna try and lose a game on purpose, but...you know, they're not very good, and they're losing a lot of games.
Simmons: There's one more like that, too, which I realized last night watching Utah almost beat Indiana. Ty Corbin doesn't have an incentive to tank, 'cause he's getting fired at the end of the year. You, that team is -- he's at least trying to win all these games.
I don't really have a comment here. We've beaten the tanking horse to death (although I loved My_Lo's Downbeat yesterday, and you should read it if you haven't), so I'll just ask you this: At this point in the season, given all the circumstances, is it good for the team as a whole that Ty Corbin is still "trying" to win games, as Simmons observes? Are Corbin's personal desires still (if they ever were) at odds with the organization's? Or does it help the team's development to have Corbin trying so hard? Or is it mostly moot at this point?
One last item on this point, presented without comment:
Can't hear what's being said in the Jazz locker room after their 114-88 loss to the 12-win Bucks, but it's being said very loudly.— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) March 4, 2014
React as you will.
Here's a light-hearted note to end on, courtesy of Trey Burke's Instagram:
Someday I'll have to do a comparing-Jazz-players-to-video-game-characters post. We'll see.