Preseason Game 2: Thunder @ Jazz
Player Focus: Derrick Favors
Utah Jazz standout Paul Millsap will be missing tonight's game against OKC, and tomorrow night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Someone going to have to start those two games. I presume it will HAVE to be Derrick Favors. Favors has to make the best of these two games, and unless something crazy happens, he'll also be the player focus tomorrow night as well. Big Al and Favors actually STARTED last season, but that experiment lasted only two games. Big Al missed Game 3, and Favors started with Millsap and the Jazz won. Then Big Al returned, Favors went to the bench, and the Jazz lost their 3rd game in 4 nights. The main problem was that both guys did not know how to play with one another.
For our sake, I hope this has changed.
Last season was a season of both growth and development for Favors. He was embraced here and really came out of his shell and became a demonstrative leader on the defensive side of the ball. During our playoff push and playoff sojourn he continually came up big in crunch time - getting blocks, rebounds, and dunks with both authority and a semi-swagger. The light bulb was going off for Favors, and he was making moves that only the guy who felt like he should be doing this regularly would make. He isn't a vocal guy, and he's not guy who'll flex after dunking like Karl Malone was. But his moves with the ball were becoming increasingly Malone-like. And we need that.
The problem is that Favors is no where near a first option. His defense is amongst the best on the team, but he's just not comfortable with his back to the basket just yet. So, clearly, pairing him with Big Al SHOULD alleviate that. Favors is best moving to the basket. Big Al is best with his back to it. Big Al is the primary option, and the primary focus of the defense. Favors needs to step up and make a lot of eye contact with Big Al. If Derrick isn't getting the pass off of cuts, he needs to be there to gobble up every missed shot on offense. Period.
The Spurs, for example, make it a habit to reward the guy who moves well without the ball, and is able to move to the right spots so that their well defended stars can see them and get them the ball. We need to play more like the Spurs this year. Part of that relies on mixing and matching player pairings. I think Favors and Al are a natural pairing. Both rebound and block shots. Favors can move on defense. Al can demand attention on offense.
It should work out.
And against an injured OKC, it should work tonight.