So the Utah Jazz are 2-0 in the preseason with a pair of wins against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Jazz share that 2-0 record with the Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Phoenix Suns. Some of those teams were playoff teams last year, while others have made significant changes from last season to this one. Months from now we'll know which of these teams had a hot start that mattered, and which were just schedule flukes. After all, it's *just* the preseason, but after all the abuse the last few years, this season will appeal to fans and usher in a new generation of die hard Jazz fans (like those Frank Layden years did so many years ago).
Talent and planning are overt advantages, but for me success of a group boils down to psychology. If you like one another you are going to fight harder for them, go that extra mile for them, and try to help them succeed more. You are going to make that extra pass, and play better team defense. You know one another, and develop trust on the court. And it helps you win games.
This team looks like it wants to do that, and it starts from Dennis Lindsey finally having the coach that he wants in Quin Snyder, and the players finally have a coach that wants to play them / respect them / have a relationship with them / give them individual responsibility.
Look at how loud, together, and unified the bench appears after these two dunks. This is a young team with a real collegiate atmosphere and camaraderie with an actual head coach who wants to instill a personality for this team.
We're going to see more and more of this style of play, and behavior on the court this season. And we're no longer going to be a weight-station for broken down veterans looking to prolong their NBA careers at the direct expense of the long-term goals of the franchise. (Seriously, how was that even allowed to happen?)
And seriously, this is going to be a really fun season.
Speaking of broken down vets, remember that ghost of Brandon Rush who "played" for the Jazz last year? To refresh your memory the sharp shooter averaged 33.3 FG%, and averaged 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, and 0.6 apg in 11.0 MPG. His 418 minutes on the team were 12th most, and still, somehow, he and his PER of 4.1, still almost played more minutes than Rudy Gobert last year. Well, not everyone has given up on him yet. Jim Cavan, a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, feels like Rush is due for a bounce-back year:
Homecoming stories are fun. But a homecoming story that's also a redemption story? I, for one, am already crying.
Two years ago, Brandon Rush-then a member of the Golden State Warriors -had emerged as one of the deadliest three-point marksmen in the league. And while he'd spent most of his career as a skill-specific reserve, that skill all but guaranteed Rush a long and fruitful NBA career.
Then, just three games into the 2012-13 season, disaster struck in the form of a torn ACL in Rush's left knee-the end result of an awkward landing in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. But while Rush would eventually return to the league the following season, his one-year stint with the lowly Utah Jazz was the definition of "forgettable."
Luckily, the Warriors hadn't forgetten (sic) just how valuable Rush's brand of floor spacing could be. On July 22, Rush inked a two-year, $3 million deal to return to the Bay Area.
Playing under first-year head coach Steve Kerr, Rush could prove a potent backup for fourth-year rising star Klay Thompson -the perfect sharpshooting analog to allow the triangle proponent to maintain some semblance of offensive continuity between units.
Yup. It's possible. After all, it's hard to get worse than a 4.1 PER. Many people fail to recognize just how poorly Rush performed last year in a contract year, his numbers (raw, per 36, per 100 possessions, and advanced stuff) were pretty much across the board worse than the season before where he played in only 2 games. Yeah, he was a better overall player in those 25 minutes in his last season with the Warriors than he was in 418 with the Jazz.
But as a home coming story? I don't really buy it. He showed up in Utah at the last possible moment (there was no presser for him) after spending the months after being traded in clubs in the Bay area. Then got on a jet out of Utah as soon as possible, and was seen partying with his former guys after Warriors home playoff games -- hours after locker clean out in SLC. This is just from his self-reported Instagram account. You could easily argue that this can't be a home coming story because dude never left.
But you should really check out the rest of Jim's full breakdown on Rush, and view the rest of the slideshow. Click here.
Perception is a funny thing. Subjectively we would want to feel like our perception of an event is an accurate one, though our own life experiences and constructed schemas get in the way -- you know, beyond the fact that our perception is still based upon ever increasingly fallible sensory information.
*long sigh, to adjust my glasses*
Even in the very focused sports world you always have these 'fights' over who has the more accurate perceptions. The big market, national writer gets to see more games, more players, and more events -- and as a result has a larger frame of reference to contextualize what he or she sees. The locally focused beat writer gets to see more in-depth nuances about a team, or a player, or whatever. So when a statement is made, and the national take on it is different from the local take, who is right?
In the debate about Enes Kanter and his developing three point range, well, it's possible for no one to be right, right now? The Deseret News' Jody Genessy reported on what Kanter was told he was supposed to do this year. Most Jazz fans are in love with that idea. Yahoo! Sports' Eric Freeman broke down the evidence that one would normally use to prove or disprove a theory.
Jody's vine shows Enes taking and making the corner, spot-up three pointer in practice.
And Eric shows just how remote the idea of seeing Kanter add the three point shot to his game actually is, based upon historical play style.
So who is right? Well, we've already talked about this on the site, but this is going to be a larger issue as the season goes on. What is This?
THIS is the battle between perception of the Utah Jazz and the Utah Jazz. It's bigger than just "Can Enes Kanter drop it like it's hot from downtown?" Sure, he was drafted based upon having a capable face up shooting game -- and predraft scouts mentioned a possible three point shooting element to his game. (Not making this up, the internet reveals her secrets to those who know how to use Google) But you just didn't see it in the NBA.
And really, that's the bottom line. This Jazz team went into training camp with the vast majority of the team being under 25 years old. The players we saw the most of were used in such limited roles that we honestly don't know what they can or cannot do. It's hard to show your full range when your job was to get out of the way of Al Jefferson as he did an 8 second post move that ends with a 180 push shot going away from the basket, while being double teamed. Probably the most limiting factor was what their coach would or would not let them do in NBA games.
Old coach is gone, new coach is in.
And for super young, unexplored players like Kanter -- there's just so much under sea level that people don't know about. He could be an iceberg, with massive talent and depth below visual range. How to view our Jazz players is part Schrodinger's cat, part Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and part Saudi Arabian beauty contest.
These guys are so covered up (market size, popularity, PR handcuffs, and of course, on court 'allowances' from their last head coach) that there's really no telling what they are capable of, or incapable of. As a result, I think it's premature to book-end a guy like Alec Burks as someone who "projects to be a bench player" or that Kanter can't ever make threes. And I know how funny that is to say about guys going into their fourth and fifth years in the NBA. But truly, their talents and flaws were obscured these last few years. This year I hope that we all (from the GM down to the casual fans) get a chance to see who these guys really are.
And yes, talking about 3s in the third beat of this downbeat, and Enes Kanter, and regressive Islamic states, and our old coach means only one thing -- Half-Life 3. Confirmed.
And speaking of not being able to figure out our players . . . didja see that Derrick Favors ESPN Rank is 90th this year? Last season he was 68th, and two years ago he was 89th. So, in the relative sense, he is less good as he was two years ago -- even though we all feel like he has improved year to year. So the NBA is just that good, I guess. Amongst bigmen, Derrick is immediately ahead of Jonas Valanciunas (#91), Robin Lopez (#92), Larry Sanders (#93), Tiago Splitter (#96), and Boris Diaw (#97). Does that make it better? He's directly behind Nikola Vucevic (#85), Ryan Anderson (#80), Thaddeus Young (#77), Anderson Varejao (#76), and Josh Smith (#75). Does that make it worse?
Or perhaps people just don't know what to do with a guy who has more raw talent than DeMarcus Cousins, a 20 - 10 guy, but has played for coaches that have played him only 19.7 mpg, 21.2 mpg, 23.2 mpg, and 30.2 mpg over his career. I guess the saving grace is that he's still only 23 years old. But after a while his production is supposed to reach or surpass his potential, a refrain for all of our young guys.
Favors projects to be a double double guy this year, and get 2 blocks on top of that. That's what Basketball-Reference thinks. What do YOU think?
- What is your desired average for Derrick this year?
- What is your "...but I think he'll actually average" average this year?
And what is the #1 factor that you think will be the difference between those two things?
He also had 19 points in Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs, but over all it's more than just the scoring we fell in love with. He can handle the ball, makes smart decisions, and does some work on the glass. He has a better court vision than most other SFs who look like just shooters, and you can tell that he doesn't limit himself to just being a shooter. (He did shoot 90 ft% and 35.7 3pt% this summer though) What we saw we liked.
One thing we didn't see was Rodney Hood in Game 1 or 2 of the Preseason because of hip flexor injury, which appears to be resolved now!
Utah jazz forward Rodney Hood will make his preseason NBA debut tomorrow night against the Los Angeles clippers— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) October 12, 2014
Hood - who missed two games last week - scrimmaged without restriction on Sunday. Quin Snyder said he will be in his rotation— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) October 12, 2014
Good stuff! His return to the court will only make us happier and happier. And help us get over Jarnell Stokes and his 5.3 ppg / 3.0 rpg average this preseason in three games.