The Utah Jazz have reversed course and will instead have Joe Ingles return to the bench and keep Royce O’Neale in the starting lineup alongside Mike Conley according The Athletic. The prior move at least had a sample size that showed it could get results. This move just is a move for move’s sake.
If the reporting was initially wrong, this is a rough look by The Athletic. If it was right from the beginning then this move reeks of an agent getting involved and making sure this didn’t happen. The reporting said it had been communicated to Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale and the team had been notified. This wouldn’t have been a one source thing but multi-source thing. Maybe it was leaked so agents would get involved and put up a fight.
Whatever it was, the Jazz went from a making drastic move to fix things to putting a band-aid on burst artery. The game tonight against Boston should prove VERY interesting.
According to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic, Mike Conley is going to be moved to the bench. Royce O’Neale will be taking his place. According to the report, the Utah Jazz made the decision out of necessity. They had given Mike Conley every opportunity to succeed and their patience had not paid off. Utah’s defense over the past 12 games has been a mess. They are one incorrect goaltending call and one miraculous game winning shot from being 2-10 over their last 12.
At fault is a lot of things, terrible effort by all players, porous perimeter defense, an offense that stagnates, a coaching staff that looks out of its depth with improved talent, and a front office that gave up the farm for some “magic” beans in the offseason. But something had to be done. This is the first actionable one that makes sense, but it doesn’t fix all of it. If anything it puts the sins on Conley, has him come off the bench, but the same players are in the rotation, only they are playing at different times with different people. That’s not going to cure this team’s apathy.
If anything, Mike Conley is the warning that no one is irreplaceable and that things could become more severe if the Jazz’s course is not reversed. This is the type of underachieving expectations that gets players traded, coaches on the hot seat, and execs worrying when their email login shows an incorrect password. The Jazz made a big splash this offseason and the only reward was a bump in merchandise sold prior to the season. Right now their fate appears to rest in the 5 seed or worse in the West. The 5 seed was supposed to be Utah’s floor and it could very well be their ceiling even if they turn things around.
The Jazz’s defense and offense is still broken. Their backup four position is shaky. That has not resolved itself. Their backup 5 position is cycling through anyone 6’9 or taller with a pulse. Starting with a last minute win against Dallas in January, the Jazz’s defense appears to have been exposed and their offense doesn’t seem to catch anyone off guard. That needs to be fixed.
This move also shows a lot of desperation, but it’s a good desperation. The Jazz have messed up. Front office misread the ability of Conley to take them to the next level. They misread how Jeff Green and Ed Davis would fill in holes in the bench rotation. The coaching staff has had other playoff coaches put clinics on their team and not giving fans the confidence that Utah could survive a 7 game series against even the 8th seed in the West, let alone a team like Houston or Los Angeles. The players have played and executed game plans with the excellence of a talented college kid trying to pass an exam while not showing up for class all semester. They can fake it on some questions, but when the going gets tough, they get exposed.
In a season full of hype and expectations, the Utah Jazz are now on Wake-Up Call #2. In December they jettisoned Green, traded Exum, and acquired Jordan Clarkson. Now they have benched their $34M point guard for whom they gave up good, passionate players and a valuable draft pick. We can be hopeful that it will turn things around again, but a team that needs this many “Coming To Jesus” moments in just a three month span should not be expected to make any noise in the playoffs. Here’s to hoping they at least salvage some pride for the remainder of the season and the 1st round of the playoffs.