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The Downbeat #1982 — Winning cures all, and how Jeff Hornacek historically heals teams

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Looking at Jeff Hornacek, and a whole lot more!

Jeff Hornacek

The Utah Jazz look much better on paper this year, but can they be a winner? We think so. But maybe we are too close to them to be objective? Winners bias is something to look at, and Ian Levy of HP talks about how Karl Malone and Charles Barkley would probably have been less memorable if they won a Championship. Contrasting that, we have our own memories where we are biased towards Jeff Hornacek when looking at his over-all impact as an individual player. So we had to delve into the stats and look at shooting guard prestige. Oh yeah, Jeff’s greatest challenge may not have been playing Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals — but being a head coach in a crazy city with a chaotic front office. All this — AND MORE!

Beat 1

The Utah Jazz wins per season since the last, most-recent lockout have gone as follows: 43, 25, 38, and 40. The hope this year is to not have another set-back — but instead for the team to take a big step forward. I believe in this group, and I think that if there are no major injuries and everyone is on the same page, then this team could crack 50. We’re seeing a lot of talk from publications who may not think 50 is the goal, but the NBA Playoffs sure are.

Yesterday one such publication, HoopsHype, dropped their preview.

It’s well formatted easy reading. And it has the Jazz finishing the season in a dangerous playoff spot — dangerous for their higher seeded opponents. And yes, finishing 7th in the West doesn’t sound great, but perhaps it a more realistic jump than some of what we have been proclaiming (myself included).

I don’t agree with everything Jorge Sierra has to say about our team, but sometimes in a sea of self-confirmation it’s good to hear the dissenting voice. Most of what I have read states that the Jazz are going to fall in the Top 6. Reading why we could fall in the 7-8 range is important.

Sierra brings up some legit concerns about: our virtual question mark Dante Exum, the team’s inability to get easy baskets, and the fact that there honestly has been a durability issue in Utah the last few seasons.

Another year together and the addition of (hopefully) impact players in the off-season should make the team stronger. On paper the team is so much deeper. However, we have yet to see this team on the court yet. I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid for this season. But maybe I need to take sips instead of gulps right now?

Beat 2

By virtue of being the starting shooting guard on a team that went to the NBA Finals in back to back years you could easily argue that Jeff Hornacek was probably the most “important” 2 Guard in franchise history. You could also argue against that, too. Pistol Pete Maravich was more than just an All-Star showman, but also a Hall of Famer and basketball icon. Darrell Griffith was the Rookie of the Year and once led the league in three point percentage. Jeff Malone was a hyper efficient scorer who could drop 20 without breaking a sweat. Gail Goodrich was a turning point for two franchises, but he still managed to play nearly 200 games in a Jazz uniform. And he still managed to have a real impact on the games he played in.

After that, the historical shooting guards list does taper off quite a bit. Bobby Hansen was a utility man who had the drawn the short straw in 1988 to defend Magic Johnson in the NBA Playoffs. And he did as best as anyone could. Theodore “Blue” Edwards brought energy and above-the-rim ability to a run-and-gun team. Ronnie Brewer was an athlete’s athlete. Kyle Korver was a shooter’s shooter. And C.J. Miles was one of the few players who didn’t have transcendent talent to be able to grind their way from high school into a long, prosperous NBA career. (Wait, was I talking about DeShawn Stevenson?)

When trying to find out which shooting guards had the biggest on-court impact I looked at their performance in a Jazz uniform, and their career prestige as basketball players. The results tell me one clear thing — when you add in his work with the Stars, it’s clear that Ron Boone deserves more recognition.

AllThatAmar

These are the Top 25 Jazz shooting guards by combined minutes played for the franchise, regular season and playoffs together. I added Blue up here because of name recognition, though it’s fair to say that he started a lot of games for the Jazz at SG, in addition to moving over to SF during normal play. (Carl Nicks fans get at me, for bumping your boy.)

There are sadly a lot of “one and done” players on this list, which shows you a few things. Shooting guard hasn’t been a strength for the Jazz. The Jazz franchise is still pretty young (only four decades old). And that there’s been a lot of high turn over at everything that’s not point guard and power forward over the eons.

What I really like is how Jeff Hornacek is “up there” (not just a pretty face / not just a starter on a team with two HOFers who dragged the rest of their roster kicking and screaming to two NBA Finals). But if we’re looking at pure production, he’s not at the top of the list. (Also, yes, using per game averages here, instead of per second or number of dribbles or whatever highfalutin analytics you think is the most superior this week.)

But it can’t be all about numbers. After all “Vet Merc HOF” Terry Furlow came in to play in 55 Jazz games and shot the ball all day long. And as a result, he has some pretty great numbers here, despite not being an impact player over his NBA career. (Also he’s 3rd in APG here, so let’s not call him a straight up gunner, though.)

Of course, this doesn’t include things like league championships. It would add a ring for Ron Boone, but also for Devin Brown. (And Bob Hansen, DeShawn Stevenson, and possibly others, I don’t remember off the top of my head.) But from the data we have it’s clear that Pete and Gail are ahead of the pack. The only one in the same airspace is Boone if you add up his ABA and NBA awards. Please note that some of these awards only came out after the middle 80’s, but I can imagine that Pistol Pete would have had a few POTW trophies (Player of the Week).

So where does Jeff Hornacek rank on your list? Personally, I love him. There’s no secret. Back in the day when everyone had their own personal blog that was a witty pun on an NBA team or player, mine was going to be about him. But it’s hard not to deny that there were other more impressive shooting guards to wear our uniform.

Beat 3

Speaking of Jeff, he is no longer a special shooting coach for the Jazz, or an assistant with them, or the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. Now he’s under the brightest of lights as the head coach of the New York Knicks. And . . . that is not always the best move for head coaches. Furthermore, with the moves his team made in the off-season he is going to be expected to lead his guys to the NBA Playoffs this season.

My guy Rohan broke it down for Sports Illustrated. Here’s what he had to say about Jeff Hornacek:

“Hornacek looks like he’ll be expected to win out of the gate, with Phil Jackson adding Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee to a roster that includes Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Adding pricey veterans is a surefire sign that Jackson intends to push hard to make the playoffs for the first time during his tenure as president. Melo isn’t getting any younger, and with the Knicks seemingly refusing to trade him, they’re opting out of a rebuild around young talent. Hornacek won’t be coaching for his job or anything like that, but if the Knicks seriously stumble after a summer spending spree, bigger changes could be in store for the roster next year.”

Rohan Nadkarni, Sports Illustrated, 2016

I’d have to agree here. It’s like what the Jazz did by bringing in Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and George Hill — while trading away their top two draft picks last June (the #12 and #42). It really signals that the team is in “win now” mode, and both the Knicks and Jazz are pushing in all their chips to the middle of the table, betting on themselves to return to the post season.

Of course, in Utah no one wanted years of futility but understood that it was a product of having to rebuild twice after trading away Deron Williams. In New York they are a little more vocal about what they think of ‘loser’ teams. It’ll be interesting to see how things go for Jeff. The Knicks haven’t really had coaching stability since Hubie Brown left. It’s been a near-revolving door with Bob Hill, Rick Pitino, Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy, Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Herb Williams, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, and Kurt Rambis all taking their turn — sometimes a few of them as mid-season replacements.

Check out the rest of Rohan’s article here, there are 10 other coaches to worry about this year. And many of them are in our very own Western Conference.

Beat 4

#HOTTAKES! GET YOUR #HOTTAKES! Wow, this one . . . just . . . wow.

Ian Levy, for Hardwood Paroxysm, goes into something kind of taboo for fans of Sir Charles or The Mailman — two MVP’s who were lucky enough to play in the same era as peak-Jordan. Also, it’s a funny piece not to be taken seriously. But man . . . you have to check this out:

“If Barkley and Malone had won championships there would be no nits to pick with their resumes. They would simply fade into vague cluster of incredible players who weren’t Michael Jordan. Their legacies might be shinier and more secure, but they would be remembered far less. Not having won a title calls for criticism, which in turn inspires others to create a vigorous and passionate defense of Barkley and Malone’s accomplishments. No one is defending David Robinson or Dirk Nowitzki because no one is attacking.

“It’s weird to think about a place where greatness becomes mundane but that’s what we have with the logjam of greatness below Jordan. Those who can claim entry to Club Ringz live out their retirements in private, behind closed doors. The few who are left standing outside never fade or disappear because we can’t seem to stop arguing about whether winning it all changes them at all.”

Ian Levy, Hardwood Paroxysm, 2016

This is worth the read, even if it’s just a humorous thought experiment. Also: it’s still the first week of September, and Joe Ingles is still in Australia. You have enough time to read this piece before the serious NBA articles come out.

Beat 5

Now that it’s past Labor Day — for reals — the season has started for me. Expect a lot of great work this year from our staff. Also, seriously, Kevin Garnett is someone I enjoy a whole lot more than Tim Duncan. KG, as a fun, happy, rookie was one of the best stories in the NBA. Of course, Michael Jordan broke him mentally and he became a hyper intense and competitive individual. But it’s nice to see him turning back the clock now and then.

KG, going into season 22, makes him one of the last remaining players from the 90s who is still in the league. Over two decades of an 82 game grind is remarkable. Not to blow things out of proportion, but this season SLC Dunk will check out the odometer and see us past the one decade mark as well. This blog has seen 54 win seasons, and 25 win seasons both. From Jerry Sloan to Tyrone Corbin to Quin Snyder. By my count, over 3,000 days online. But somehow nearly 8,000 articles posted in that short time.

Like KG finding his stride long after he hung it up, I think we’ll see a really great year here at the site in 2016-2017. Sure, we may not crank it up to over 8 posts a day, like we saw back in November 2012 when crack was really cheap in Detroit. But it’s going to be a great year because of YOU!

THE READERS! AND FANPOSTERS! AND COMMENTERS! AND LURKERS! AND RANDOM PEOPLE WHO GET HER FROM GOOGLE LOOKING FOR THE MOST OBSCURE OF TOPICS! (What up, fans of Mongolian throat singing?)

Most of all, tis’ going to be a great year this year because the Utah Jazz are going to be really fun to watch, and win a lot of games. And if there’s any one take-away from Hornacek, it’s that everyone loves a winner. Which is why so many of us still rank him very highly on our personal lists.