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Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James likes Utah Jazz great Karl Malone, and vice versa - Downbeat 1818

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Everything from schedule talk, summer league, rookies, journeymen, stars . . . and obviously . . . crazy dunks and video games.

Old Karl lays it in, young Karl would have slammed it
Old Karl lays it in, young Karl would have slammed it
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz got some rest, but that's not the best part of the upcoming schedule. Life gets easier. Life is also getting easier for Trey Lyles and Raul Neto -- hope to seem them both showing off in the Utah Summer League next July, which is confirmed to happen. Jeff Withey's NBA career has it's up and downs, but Jazzfans can't help falling in love with his on court performances so far. LeBron James likes Karl Malone, and vice versa. It's nice to see younger players help shed some light onto older, somewhat forgotten (by the national media) stars. Also, some video game talk and lots of Karl Malone dunks!

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Two days off? Yes, two days off. In a row? The Utah Jazz didn't have that the entire last week. I can imagine the team is very thankful because during parts of last week they did look a bit overwhelmed.

Exhibit A: 90 year old Amar'e Stoudemire pushing us around

DB 1818 - Need Rest

Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The good guys get back at it again with a much easier "week". There are just three games, tonight @ Portland Trail Blazers, then tomorrow at home (yes, another back-to-back) hosting the Sacramento Kings, and then a night off, followed by a Saturday game hosting the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, two Lakers games in the last four -- and the last two games of this week are both on the home.

For reals the easy part of the schedule is here, as the toughest games (aside from this Kings game) will be January 23rd @ Washington Wizards, or failing that, February 1st hosting the very up and down Chicago Bulls. Really, there's only about four or five tough games between now and the All-Star Break, and 16 games and a long six game home stand between now and then. Our guys, if people only get healthier, can make up some ground and possibly win two out of every three games.

It's so much easier to be positive about a Dennis Lindsey / Quin Snyder team that actually plays young people who are improving.

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Speaking of young guys, remember the Utah Summer League? (Btw, missed opportunity to call it the Salt Lake Summer League) The NBA's lead reporter, and one of the very nicest men I've met on a few occasions, tweeted out that the USL will a) return, and b) announced that it will once again by the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and us.

I am excited, mainly because LAST season we didn't see much. Trey Lyles was in a contract dispute and wasn't signed so he didn't play. The guy we really wanted to see, Grant Jerrett, got injured in the first game. Rodney Hood only played in two games. Dante Exum looked great, but only played in one game. Raul Neto wasn't even with the team. The fans did see a whole lot of Jared Cunningham and JaJuan Johnson though. In a way, circumstance may make it feel like the loyal Jazz fans who supported the event were sold a bill of goods, sir.

Hopefully this time around there will be more to see. And yes, this segment may be partly here in the DB to quell the fears of that one angry fan who e-mailed me to suggest I should write more about Brock Motum. I think Brock is awesome. He can guard multiple positions, bang a little, and make threes. He's what we hope Lyles develops into, and keeps developing past.

Also, back to Scott Howard-Cooper, check out the Rookie Ladder at NBA.com. Right now it's obviously filled with the very real exploits of Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Jahlil Okafor, Nikola Jokic, Justise Winslow, D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., T.J. McConnell, Devin Booker, and Frank Kaminsky . . . but hey, Raul Neto is 12th in rookie minutes this year and Lyles is 16th! If they continue to get comfortable I have no doubt that they can end up being better than some of the guys currently ahead of them. Lyles at least, dude was a Lotto pick.

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Basketball Insider's dropped a pretty long read about Jeff Withey yesterday. Check it out here!

Near the midpoint of his third NBA season, Utah's Jeff Withey is looking more and more like a guy who somehow slipped through everyone's fingertips. He was among the token "good efficiency, tiny sample" examples during his first two seasons in New Orleans - players for whom it's tough to tell whether their strong play in limited situations would transfer into a larger role without a loss in productivity.

The Pelicans faded this possibility in letting Withey go, and they quickly look to be on the losing side of that proposition. Withey has stepped admirably into a void filled by injuries to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, posting a career-best 19 PER in by far the largest role he's been asked to play. He's shooting nearly 56 percent from the field and blocking over three shots per-36-minutes on the floor, a badly needed continuation of the rim protection provided by Gobert and Favors that serves as the foundation of Utah's defense.

"It just took a chance for me to get on the floor," Withey told Basketball Insiders. "Even in New Orleans, whenever I had a chance to play, I was able to put up decent numbers. So it was just a matter of being on the floor."

Such opportunities were hard to come by for Withey with the Pelicans. Initial signs were promising in his rookie year, during which he logged nearly 12 minutes a night in 58 games and showcased the outlines of a capable interior defender at the NBA level. There were nights where he dressed and didn't play, natural for a rookie behind other talent at his position. A couple injuries allowed him more significant time, which he relished.

"Jason Smith, that was my rookie year, he got hurt," Withey said. "So I was starting the last, I don't know, three games of the year. And that kind of gave me confidence going into the year after that [2014-15]. I didn't play a whole lot, but I knew in the back of my mind that I could play."

That cautious optimism would be the rosiest things got for Withey in New Orleans, however. Buried behind Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca on the center depth chart, his minutes decreased to just seven a night in his second season as he spent long periods fully outside the rotation. His production remained similar and even heightened in certain areas, but even as he outplayed both guys ahead of him in a couple major areas given their roles, he couldn't find any consistent playing time. He logged DNP-CD designations during over a quarter of the Pelicans' games last season.

- Ben Dowsett, Basketball Insiders, 2016

It is a worthwhile read that goes over some of his background, challenges, and opportunities. It's well worth the read.

While his GF posted this, I think all Utah Jazz fans are similarly swooning over Jeff Withey. I know I am, having had to live through so many incompetent back-up bigmen over my life as a Jazz fan.

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Last night LeBron James threw down another Mailman signature dunk:

This wasn't the first time it happened and probably not the last time either. I think it's cool to see the best player in the game right now paying homage to the best player in our franchise history. Of course, because I'm just a Malone fanatic, there's ANOTHER dunk that LeBron does (the sweeping one-hander, power dunk) that Karl used to do. You just have to watch a lot of Karl Malone and LeBron James dunk videos to see it. Sadly, it doesn't really have a name, so I call it the Shogun for some dumb reason.

There is a mutual admiration society between LeBron and Karl. Karl always puts him as the PF on All-Time best teams. Looking at peak PED LeBron (before the "Paleo diet" cover-up) (allegedly) he looked every bit a power forward, and far, far away from the skinny kid that STARTED AT POINT GUARD as a rookie.

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I really hope NBA 2K16 doesn't screw up one of the deadliest things about Karl Malone when they do release his MyTeam card from the 1994 season (these values are guesses based off of his '98 season card) -- his speed. His end to end speed is without peer compared to other bigmen. Behold:

Karl said it best, F = M x A.

In that '94 season Karl did average 25.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.5 spg, and 1.5 bpg -- so he's going to be a beast of a card, even if there were lots of other seasons where he did score up to 6 ppg more. I do hope that his speed is in the 70s at least, like what they did with the Seattle Supersonics version of Tom Chambers (who is somehow only 6'8 and not 6'10...). Speaking of beasts, check out my main man Colton who got the Diamond level John Stockton:

I, myself, am chasing that card, and hope to get it soon. (Only about 80% of the way there) WOO! Videogames!