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The Downbeat #1252 -- The "Trey Burke Returns" Edition

Evaluating where the Utah Jazz rank against their peers; the biggest player surprise of the season so far; Trey Burke's Michigan return; Kyrylo Fesenko doing Fesenko things; and Enes Kanter wishes you . . . well . . . just read below.

"Please don't go . . . . please don't go . . . . please don't gooooOOOOOOooooo"
"Please don't go . . . . please don't go . . . . please don't gooooOOOOOOooooo"
Gregory Shamus

Hey everyone, sorry I'm not a fantastically talented, smart, or funny lady -- so this may be a deviation of your normal Friday Downbeat. I'm filling in. I can't expect to do as great a job as dianaallen and moni do, but I will try. Honestly though, I expect it to go this well:


Okay Utah Jazz fans, the team has now played in #40 games. Tonight is #41. This is half the  season, folks. Let's take stock of the team:

  • Record of 13-27
  • #15 / 15 in the Western Conference
  • #28 / 30 in the NBA (but we're climbing, teams ahead of us are tanking hard like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics)
  • The team is #27 in PPG (94.6), and #23 in Off RTG (102.7 points / 100.0 poss)
  • The team is #18 in Opponents PPG (101.3), and #30 in Def RTG (110.0 / 100.0 poss)
  • Utah plays at one of the slowest paces in the league, #25 (91.6 poss per game)
  • The team has a reported home game attendance that is #15 in the NBA (lies)
  • The Offensive Four Favors are #24 in eFG%, #19 in TOV%, #16 in OREB%, and #19 in FT/FGA
  • The Defensive Four Favors are #23 in Opp eFG%, #26 in TOV%, #20 in DREB%, and #24 in FT/FGA
  • The Jazz are 8-11 at home and 5-16 on the road

I'm not saying, but I'm just sayin', that this isn't the type of performance that prevents a head coach from getting fired -- unless the secret goal is to be bad this year in order to get a good draft pick. Over the course of the season the team is a bad team. I don't know if I've ever had to say that about the Utah Jazz, a team that my life has seemed to revolve around since the 80s. This is a startlingly bad team.

Part of that is due to injuries at the beginning of the season. Part of that to the players. Part of that to the coaches (though some aggressive people wish to absolve them). Part of that is the schedule. But more than anything, this is a bad team by design. We've argued about the nobility of a tank before, but Dennis Lindsey tanked this year on purpose. There's no way an analytics based guy uses up his cap space on Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, and John Lucas III. DL is too smart to screw up this badly. The goal all along wasn't to win now. Which is tough because all of the metrics you have to evaluate how a player or coach is happens to be based on how successful they are. How *good* they are.

And this is not a good team by design. Goodness exists in brief flashes. We see Tyrone Corbin taking more appropriate time outs instead of hoarding them like roll over minutes (so, for example, he'll be able to use 15 in a game or something). We see some of our players do great things. But, over all, as a team -- all of the numbers say this is a bad team that is performing poorly.

But the 'badness' of the Jazz in this case is a "Ser y Estar" issue. Is it that the Jazz are bad, implicitly; or that the Jazz are just bad now, temporarily? I think we're bad *now*, but not bad in general. A characteristic of our franchise isn't to be bad. It just is right now. And again, that's by design.

So while the team has more wins than I thought we would at the effective half of the season, and the defense is worse than I ever hoped it would be; I think that this team bad "for now". And not "for good." And for the record, I expect the Jazz will keep Tyrone Corbin as the head coach for the rest of this season. Specifically because I think Lindsey did the risk assessment here and feel like the negative effect to the current group of young players is lesser than the potential positives of Ty being Ty, and the Jazz losing games they should win.



The Biggest Surprise player for me this 1/2 season has been Richard Jefferson. Richard Jefferson is . . . well . . . I did not expect him to be starting this season. And I did not expect that he would be playing 27.6 mpg. The only players to play more total minutes than him this season have been Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and just very recently Alec Burks (the margin there is 5 minutes in Alec's favor right now).

The entire Jefferson Saga is crazy...

First the Jazz trade FOR HIM, along with Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins. To most observers this is a straight up salary dump and that these three guys weren't even supposed to be rotation players; let alone one of them is starting. All three were expiring contracts, and that was the main 'carrot' placed in front of any team willing to trade for them. RJ saw it differently though:

"Just looking at the (Jazz) roster, I knew that I was going to get an opportunity. I think a lot of people had kind of counted me out because the lockout year (struggles)," he said. "Then I went to Golden State, (and) they were obviously trying to get a good draft pick, so they kind of rested guys." (Link: Jody Genessy, Deseret News)

It's nice to have confidence, but maybe he's assuming that with the Marvin Williams injury he only had to beat out one of two "young hot shots" to be a starter, and did. Yup. Since becoming "Starter for Life" our own head coach has forgotten about how much he has played:

Through 40 games, small forward Richard Jefferson is the only Utah Jazz player to have started every contest.

Tyrone Corbin, Jefferson’s current coach, was surprised by that fact. (Link: Jody Genessy, Deseret News)

Of course, either this means that Ty a) didn't think he was starting that much, b) didn't think he was the only one to start every contest, or c) doesn't know how much players on his team are actually playing. It's probably option B. Probably. In the last few weeks Jefferson has been more of a news story, locally and nationally.

He said he was a gun for hire.

"I want to play for a championship team," he said. "I want to win a championship. I've come that close. People think just the NBA, but I'll take it back a little further for you. I lost in the [NCAA] national championship game. Then I went to the Olympics and lost to a quality Argentina team and won a bronze medal. Then I lost in two NBA finals. I wan to win."

Jefferson expressed his desire to get back to the playoffs — a place the rebuilding Jazz seem unlikely to take him.

"If I get an opportunity to play for a championship team, I'm going to go hunting for that," he said. "I have no loyalty. I'm not one of those guys that played for the same team for 15 years like a Reggie Miller who has to decide whether or not he's going to do that. No. I'm a gun for hire." (Link: Aaron Falk, Salt Lake Tribune)

He was rumored to be traded.

Sources said Utah Jazz veteran swingman Richard Jefferson has emerged as a new trade target for the Cavaliers after ongoing talks with the Los Angeles Lakers on a deal centered around the swap of former teammates Pau Gasol and Bynum remained at an impasse Friday. (Link: ESPN, Marc Stein & Brian Windhorst)

And now he's trash talking other players on his former team:

It has been nearly two years since Richard Jefferson’s ill-fated tenure with the Spurs ended. Now in Utah, with a brief stopover in Golden State, Jefferson still keeps up with his former team and former teammates in San Antonio.

Specifically, Jefferson keeps tabs on the player who replaced him as the Spurs’ starting small forward.

"As much as they talk about Kawhi Leonard being the future and Kawhi Leonard had a great playoffs and Kawhi, Kawhi, Kawhi," Jefferson said after Jazz shootaround this morning at the AT&T Center. "Look at Kawhi’s numbers at the three spot." (Link: Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express News)

That's some vetty behavior right there, especially for a small forward who is averaging fewer rebounds per game than Trey Burke and Alec Burks. That's not to say that Jefferson hasn't done somethings well. He's shooting a stellar 43.6 3pt% so far; but hey, Randy Foye did well here too -- and left. History is likely to repeat itself here. It doesn't seem like we are in RJ's long term plans, and vice versa. Which is confusing as to why he seems to dominate the wing minutes distribution. Because he has to start at SF this means for Marvin Williams to play (the SF starter last season) he has to play at power forward, reducing the minutes available to 1st round picks Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert. The Jefferson minutes slide works the other way as well, with Gordon Hayward being a fixture at shooting guard, meaning Alec Burks has to come off the bench.

Some non-SLC Dunkers are just as perplexed.

Instead the Jazz keep him, stick with a guy who has an expiring contract (translation: not coming back), doesn't want to be here (you know, the whole loyalty thing), AND is probably playing well just so he can command a bigger salary.

That last supposition alone translates to more points and wins -- which also translates to the Jazz not getting a Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins type talent in the upcoming draft.

This journeyman NBA player who says all the right things and seems like a nice person actually intends to undermine your ability to snag a lottery pick -- and that is not copacetic with me, and it shouldn't be with Jazz fans. (Link: Brian Shaw, Yahoo! Sports)

All in all, RJ is making more than $1 million per point scored, has the 9th best PER on the team, not exactly playing defense; but proving to all of us that all you gotta do is hit threes and kiss your boss' butt in order to be treated like an untouchable. (In the 1920's mob sense, not the 3300 B.C.E. Vedantist caste system sense) But we knew that already, because it's not like Randy Foye played any defense, and he played. [Holy Crap, click on this if you want to compare Foye's last year the RJ's this year.]

Hat's off to you Tricky Dicky. You are my biggest player surprise this season for sure. And it's refreshing to know that it's not just a surprise to me. Even your own head coach doesn't know much you are playing.

Who is the biggest player surprise this season to you?



Point guard, and potential Rookie of the Year candidate, Trey Burke returns to play in the State of Michigan for the first time since his NCAA playing days. It's a big deal. As I said elsewhere on this blog earlier, it's a whole big media thing in Detroit. It's been a much promoted event that is going to draw people in to watch the Detroit Pistons. Of course, it's awesome. It's like Jimmer Fredette's own Jimmer-mania -- except people going to the game (even MSU, Detroit Mercy, or Oakland University grads) aren't going to boo him because of what college he went to.

They love him there. And many people have been vocal about the NBA Draft, and the fact that the Detroit Pistons passed on him. For the record Trey is having a pretty solid rookie campaign, the guy the Pistons drafted, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, isn't having as solid a campaign.

TB: 30.9 mpg, 13.6 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.3 rpg, 0.7 spg, PER 14.9

KCP: 24.3 mpg, 7.3 ppg ,0.9 apg, 2.3 rpg, 1.0 spg, PER 9.3

Many people are writing about their longing for Trey Burke right now. One of them is Terry Foster (aka a better Radio guy than every guy working in Utah radio). [N.B. Article in full because I want you lazy people to read all of it. And if you aren't one of the lazy people, don't be offended.]

Auburn Hills - The Utah Jazz are coming to The Palace on Friday, which hasn't been a big deal since John Stockton was running the pick and roll with Karl Malone.

But it is a big deal to many Detroit fans because former Michigan guard Trey Burke will run the point for the Jazz. He is going through growing pains like any rookie, but his numbers tell a story of a young guy who can play while he learns.

The Jazz are 12-16 since Burke returned to the lineup after breaking his finger. The team was 1-10 without him. That is a sign that he can lead a team even though he is developing his leadership skills.

The Pistons (16-22) had a shot at drafting Burke with the eighth pick of the 2013 NBA draft. Instead they selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia. Later they traded for Brandon Jennings to handle point guard duties.

So now the question that will linger is: Would the Pistons have been better off by drafting Burke and signing a couple of cheaper players? Or are they better off with Jennings and Caldwell-Pope?

Jennings is a better point guard than Burke right now. But how long will that be the case?

"Brandon is finding the balance between being a scorer and being a distributor," said NBA analyst Jerry Stackhouse, who played briefly with Jennings in Milwaukee. "He can be a dynamic scorer, but sometimes it is hard to find that balance. Sometimes you need to be more aggressive or sometimes you need to find ways to get guys involved."

Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks defended his guys following a brief workout at the Pistons practice facility Tuesday. He said he will spend the next couple of days looking at tape on the Jazz because he has not seen Burke play yet as a pro.

"I like the guys we got," Cheeks said. "I like Brandon with what he has done. He is like a sponge for learning the game, so I like that about him. I like his competitive spirit. I like the way he plays. I like everything about him."

Caldwell-Pope has been praised for his length and defense. But he has shot the ball better in the last couple of weeks. He is averaging 11.1 points a game and shooting 51.7 percent from the floor during his last six games. He hit two big buckets during a recent victory over Phoenix.

"KCP is a work in progress," Cheeks said. "He is a rookie like Trey Burke. The more minutes he plays, the more time he gets, the better he is going to get. The guys that we've got, I like them."

Caldwell-Pope said he is feeling more comfortable in the offense and has studied veteran teammates on the way they come off curls and set up their shots.

"He is not afraid to take shots," Stackhouse said. "He has the ability to get to the basket a little bit. I like his overall game and I think he will get better."

Caldwell-Pope said it is all about comfort.

"I think I am handling it pretty well," Caldwell-Pope said. "I am getting pretty confident with my team and with playing here. It is good to be out there. I know my shot will eventually fall because I am a shooter. And if I keep my confidence level up it will fall and I will continue to get better."

He must get better because he will always be linked with Burke. (Link: Terry Foster, 97.1 The Ticket; The Detroit News)

The NBA Draft is always a crap shoot -- just ask any Cleveland Cavaliers fan who bought an Anthony Bennett jersey. Trey's return to Detroit is always going to remind Pistons fans of this point. And Jazz fans / Trey Burke fans, from the e-mails today with Trey's agent I can tell you all that he's very appreciative of our support.



So Kyrylo Fesenko is back in action in this part of the world again. He's playing with the Iowa Energy and averaging 17.0 mpg, 12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, and 1.0 bpg. Okay, he's only played in one game so far this season. Of note is that he went 4/5 from the free throw line and can proudly say he's making 80.0 FT%. It is a special moment for us. Also, via Moni -- this dunk.


Man, I often forget how large he is.



Ladies and Gentlemen, Enes Kanter.

"Have a sexy weekend," - Enes, probably.