Wow. Where to begin? The NBA season tips off tonight with three games: Orlando Magic @ New Orleans Pelicans; Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs [ring night]; and Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers. Our Utah Jazz do not play until tomorrow, where they will host the same Houston Rockets who are playing tonight on the road. (But big schedule post is dropping tonight)
The question isn't going to be about how many wins the Jazz will have this season (but I'm sure everyone has their opinion on that); the question for me is going to be just how good this team will be able to play when at their best.
- Grantland's Zach Lowe feels as though the Jazz will be "Friskier than expected," and references that last season the players "did not appear to understand what they were supposed to be doing." (Is this a teaching moment? What is teaching?) Zach attempts to codify some of the endemic problems the team had last season that will persist this year, and generously suggests the upper level potential for this current squad at 35 wins. Check out the full article here, which goes into the Jazz (and 29 other teams) into more detail.
- Staying with the G, Grantland's Brett Koremenos poses the question "Could the Jazz be this year's Suns?" By now most of you have read this, but for those who have not Brett suggests that our club could be a candidate to "capture our attention." Koremenos talks about the similar systemic changes at head coach (Jeff Hornacek and Quin Snyder); the Xs and Os changes; an emphasis on consistent defensive schemes; and the general talent level of the team. You should read it all if you haven't already. So check it out here, and be happy with the knowledge that our team is on the right track if they are getting comparisons to a team that almost made the Western Conference playoffs last year, in their first year together.
The uniting point is that while some people will disagree on the day-to-day performance of the club, or their end of season record, all signs point to this season being one that displays better on-court play for a young team where their most hardened playoff veteran is Steve Novak.
If you missed it, the Jazz said goodbye to Brock Motum and Carrick Felix; and said hello to Jordan Hamilton and Joe Ingles. Hamilton has bounced around a bit in the NBA, but Ingles is much beloved in his home and native land (Australia) despite not having an NBA resume. His impact on the perception of the team, and the interest in the team cannot be understated.
This required an official statement from Andrew Bogut:
Yes please. Also, yes please to this imagine taken by me during a random point in the night, from Google Analytics:
The Utah Jazz are going to be very popular in Australia. Thankfully SLC Dunk has many Aussies in our community already, so they can show the rest the ropes! Of course, the "B Story" here is that Hamilton may actually get more burn this year with the team. I don't know. I do now wish I recorded all the Australian FIBA World Cup games so I can re-watch them and focus on Ingles, instead of Brock Motum now!
The season really is here . . . the coin flip has long since stopped spinning, the lottery was played, the draft happened, as did summer league. Free Agency was exciting for once, and training camp and preseason games are all in the rear view mirror now. Heck, even some final cuts were made at the 11th hour. But there's one thing more, one important thing, that needs to be figured out still before I can really focus in on the NBA Season.
It's the October 31st deadline for NBA teams to reach rookie scale contract extensions for first round picks, from the 2011 NBA Draft. Last season the Jazz were able to come to terms with 2010 Draft pick Derrick Favors (#3), but not with Gordon Hayward (#9). This season the Jazz have two more decisions to make with Enes Kanter (#3), Alec Burks (#12). [N.B.I'm not completely familiar with Jordan Hamilton's (#26) contract history, but I do know that as a first rounder the team that holds his contract should have this right . . . unless his rookie scale contract was terminated down the line, and he's just a guy looking for a job then. I suspect that's the case as he did bounce around a bit and had a discontinued service record in the NBA. Heck, he was just picked up off of waivers.]
What the NBA learned last year was that there is almost no incentive (beyond security) for a player to come to terms with a team instead of trying to find their price on the open market as a restricted free agent. Or sadly, that's what a lot of player's agents may have learned. So what's the real deal?
Basketball Insider's Steve Kyler breaks down the NBA Extension Clock for a few of the high profile candidates here:
If teams do not reach an agreement by midnight on October 31, they will still have the option of restricting their player's free agency with a qualifying offer next summer, giving them the right to match free agent contract offers in July.
The risk for teams not making a deal is that as many as 15 NBA teams could clear at least $15 million in cap space, with more than dozen being able to clear more than $20 million in space, making many of these players highly coveted free agent targets next summer.
Steve looks at all of the key players from this draft class, including our two Jazz players: Ricky Rubio, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson, and Jimmy Butler. As for the plight our players, general manager, and fans are in with Alec and Enes . . . Steve suggests that it's a "40/60" division right now that a deal does not get done for Kanter; while it's a "50/50" shot with Burks. Check out the full post here.
Personally, I think the Jazz have to really sell the security part, because with the current offensive system the team looks to run, and the financial motivation, these two guys could get really pricey on the open market as restricted free agents. The general concept I hear is that Burks is more likely to get the deal done while "Hollywood Enes" may play hard ball. Of course, there is more to it than just that.
Enes Kanter's agent is Max Ergul. Ergul does not have an agency, but has more than just Kanter on his plate. Dee Bost is represented by Ergul and 540SE's John Spencer. Bost was a Idaho Stampede player who was in Jazz training camp this year. That may be nothing, but it is evidence of the Jazz trying to keep relations up. Bost has been seen by the Jazz back in a predraft workout and two Free Agent mini-camps. So they may have an actual interest in him beyond greasing the wheel for Enes' extension.
Alec Burks, on the other hand, seems to be an entirely more obvious situation. He is represented by ASM Sports' Andy Miller. Miller has represented scores of players before, but is someone the Jazz brass have talked to quite a bit recently. In addition to Burks, ASM and/or Andy Miller also represent Trevor Booker, and former Jazz players Donyell Marshall, Josh Howard, Michael Ruffin, Milt Palacio, Eric Maynor, Travis Leslie, Erik Murphy, and a number of players the Jazz have brought in for free agent mini-camps or draft workouts.
Furthermore, one of the members of ASM's management team is Jeff Zanik, who has been with ASM since 2003. That name may sound familiar to you because he is none other than Justin Zanik's brother -- Justin, a former agent at ASM, is an currently Assistant General Manager with the Utah Jazz.
Sometimes in business it's not what you know, but who you know. And I know some very smart people who helped me with this post. In the case of the Utah Jazz, I think their connection with Alec Burks' people will provide them an edge that they may not have with Enes Kanter. Time will tell . . . and time is running short right now. Friday is right around the corner.
Hardwood Paroxysm's Daniel Leroux wrote a fun little piece about Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Dante Exum -- specifically about their freakish bodies and the superpowers they may possess. It's short and sweet, so I won't pull any quotes from it, but if you like anthropometrics it's just the right thing for you.
And because this is a text heavy Downbeat, here is an example of what Leroux is talking about . . . in practice.
Did you check out the Complex Sports Utah Jazz preview? I don't have much to say but, man, just look at this image. Click it. You know you can't deny yourself this pleasure.