Okay, so the Utah Jazz got pantsed by the Dallas Mavericks, at home, two nights after holding on and defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Jazz are 2-4 right now, but let's take a look at their schedule: Houston Rockets (possible Top 4 seed in the West), Dallas x2 (possible Top 6 seed in the West), Phoenix Suns (possible Western Conference playoff team -- so at least 50 wins), the Los Angeles Clippers (possible Top 4 seed in the West), and Cleveland (Possible Top 3 team in the East). This isn't an easy schedule. Most other lotto teams would do much worse.
I'm not getting too high or too low with each passing win or loss. And I advise others to understand the reason for that. The goal is to be a better team, not to win more games. One will naturally follow the other, but we're not yet at the point in our franchise rebuild where we can extrapolate projected success on a curve just yet. We're still gathering data points to help us plot our future, yes; but we're only 7 games in still. It's way too early.
It's hard not to go a little crazy though, especially not when all NBA eyes were on that Utah / Cleveland game, and there was so much press about it after:
ESPN's Brian Windhorst detailed a history of LeBron James ' troubles playing in Salt Lake City.
Grantland broke down the game in excessive detail.
NBA.com 's Fran Blinebury ranked Gordon Hayward 's shot on the Robert Horry scale.
And three of the top 10 plays of the night, that night, were Jazz plays:
So the hype and momentum was pretty unbelievable for that one game. But Jazz fans have never gone with the flow of the national hype train anyway. We've been high on our club when they have not been; we shouldn't be too quick to believe the hype when it's in our favor as well.
We're going to be a good team, with good players, and a strong front office. We just need to be patient. And the next time the NBA world goes crazy for our Jazz remember that our bangwagon has a lot of empty space right now, and our team has a lot of room for improvement still.
So, now, instead of moving on from the non-season defining Cleveland game, let's get take a look at a story that went under the radar . . . Dion Waiters caused a ruckus, and in a way that the NFL would call a distraction. What did he do? He skipped the national anthem for religious reasons.
On Wednesday, before the Cavaliers' game in Utah, those following Cleveland noticed Dion Waiters did not join the team during the pre-game presentation, including the singing of the national anthem. When asked by the Plain Dealer's Chris Haynes, Waiters attributed his absence to his religious beliefs:
Waiters informed Northeast Ohio Media Group that he is a Muslim and that he plans to excuse himself prior to the national anthem from here on out.
"It's because of my religion," Waiters told NEOMG. "That's why I stayed in the locker room."
Waiters says he is rededicating himself more to his Muslim faith. He appears to be in a happier state.
As Haynes explains, Waiters was absent not only for the anthem, but for lineup introductions -- a first because it was his first game of the season coming off the bench. In the Cavaliers' next game on Friday in Denver, Waiters remained out of the starting lineup, but did join his teammates for the anthem.
Waiters is not the first NBA player to forego standing for the anthem because of his Muslim faith. Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Raouf famously drew a one-game suspension from the NBA for his refusal to stand.
The original article up at the SB Nation mothership was shared on Facebook 5,000 times . . . because people like to fight with words on the internet. (The comments section was scrubbed a few times, but man alive . . . beware)
How would you feel if a Utah Jazz player did this? Utah currently has one player on the team who identifies as Muslim, Enes Kanter; and had another in recent memory, Mehmet Okur . . . but neither of them did this. I think this shows evidence of how non-monolithic that faith is. It also shows that some people are more into specific interpretations of their faith than others. Also, Turkey is a much more moderate, Westernize Islamic nation than others; and a recent convert is probably more 'by the book' than people who go to the Playboy mansion . . . right?
Utah is the center of the LDS faith, a faith that has a historical past inherently linked to being the VICTIMS of wrongful, and hateful intolerance. I wonder, honestly, how tolerant the average Jazz fan would be if a player (including an American born one) decided to skip the national anthem before games . . . for religious reasons (a religion that wasn't the majority faith in the nation)?
For me this is a several pronged issue, a huge one being that there is a quasi-monolithic religion that most Americans have to abide by, the American Civil religion. Not respecting the Flag (capital F) is something many Americans find as a severe insult. That alone puts a guy like Waiters in the wrong. The one the media will talk about, though, is the religion one. (I guess in a world where Tim Tebow / Husain Abdullah conversations take up a media cycle, what honestly did I expect?)
As for my point of view on this subject, I think that it's okay to have strong feelings -- but it's a smart thing to do to assimilate into the greater social mores of a culture, as long as that culture is not dangerous or hurtful. Showing respect to the flag and national anthem doesn't go against my beliefs, and as an immigrant with the wrong skin tone, it's the smart thing to do. But when did Dion Waiters ever start doing the smart things in life?
Am I wrong? Yell at me!
I am hearing the war drums for some sort of zero-sum game between Dante Exum and Trey Burke, for all the point guard marbles. I would like to strongly advise against that, because it's severely premature and logically bankrupt. Dante Exum and Trey Burke are the two youngest players on the team, and will both improve with time, experience, and years. Also, they have reached the NBA on different paths and with different strengths. This isn't an Eddie Jones vs Kobe Bryant issue. Both of those guys were the same size, relatively the same type of athlete, and did the same things -- mostly slashed and could hit threes, while playing average NBA defense. In that specific case there was no need to keep both of them.
In Utah's case? I think it's very clear (until Raul Neto comes over) that we need both of them. Dante's natural point guard instincts and ability to facilitate for others is so essential to the bench unit that without him there, we'd get nothing from that group. Trey, on a squad with more ball handlers, can do what he does best -- which is draw defensive assignment and maintain floor space with the threat of his outside shooting.
So far this season Trey's outside shooting hasn't been what we expect of him, and Dante has looked exception against certain bench units. But the team hasn't even played 10 games yet, it's too early to decide that a 19 year old rookie is ready to play 32+ mpg just because the starter -- a ROY candidate who had three Rookie of the Month awards -- is struggling right now. After all, Trey looked like Michigan Trey Burke in the preseason. Being force fed a schedule against some of the best starting point guards in the league isn't making things easier for him.
All that said, Trey is shooting .333 / .233 / .769; while Dante is shooting .483 / .333 / .400. Both players have flaws. And I don't think that one of them is really beating the pants off the other in some contrived head to head competition. And it's not that Trey starting is the difference between the Jazz being in the lotto this year or making the playoffs.
Furthermore, if you look at the advanced stats, Dante is getting 21.7% of the assists when he's on the floor (AST%); Trey is getting 20.0%. So both are getting about one in five. Trey has better TRB%, a higher STL%, and a higher USG% (and higher TOV%). He's doing "more" on the floor, but we're seeing Dante have a larger individual impact because he's the focal point off the bench.
It would be very easy for the quiet, teenaged rookie to disappear playing alongside Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. Trey is 'boss' enough to stay in that equation because of his temperament. I think Quin Snyder is doing the right thing by starting Trey (who won the starting job in training camp and preseason), especially since the bench unit sorely needs Dante.
And anyway, it shouldn't be either/or, it still is "both". Last night the Jazz sent out Trey and Dante on the floor at the same time. Before last night it had happened in two other games . . . . and you know what? According to factual data from the NBA, when Trey and Dante are on the court together the team is shooting 50.% FG, 60.0% 3PT, 100.0% FT, score 1.42 PPS (that's Karl Malone like), and have scored 34 points in their 13 minutes out there. The +/- is zero, which better than our normal team; and have dished out 11 assists, with an assist to turn over ratio that's 2.75. The TEAM almost has starting point guard A:TO ratio when those two cats are out there on the floor together. (But more on this in a separate post)
I think it's way to premature to be crowning one of them over the other; and that we need more time with both of them on the floor at the same time before declaring that they can't work with one another. After all, they have very complimentary skill sets -- and if numerous teams out there can run two point guards at once, why can't the Jazz? Let's not forget that in Phoenix, Jeff Hornacek was the starting SG and back-up PG at the same time, and when he was traded for from Philly he was their starting PG.
#Team #ExtremeDrunkBeauty! (That's the anagram)
Oh wow, what do talk about now? Uh, let's go back to Gordon Hayward and LeBron James, I guess? Coach Nick broke it all down here:
How weird is this season? Jeremy Evans has a PER of -10.5 right now, despite having career PERs of 18.8, 19.6, 19.9, and 16.2 so far in his career. Get well soon, Jeremy.
.... wow Amar, it's almost as if you as pretending the Mavs game didn't even happen ....