The Utah Jazz are finally healthy and finally putting in the work they expected them to. has been that constant all season long and the better his teammates are the better he seems to play. But that's just what a cohesive franchise looks like. Down south, the Phoenix Suns have been combusting. We look at the aftermath from people who saw it all happen this year, and from the people who were there from the beginning. Either way, it looks bad. There's some , some Trey Lyes, and the ever-present fear of a Nuggets outburst.
Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Denver Nuggets. Last season the two regional rivals split the season series 2-2. Overall the good guys are in the lead 106-75 in the regular season, and always kick their butt in the playoffs. (Though things were too close in '94) The altitude is supposed to be a factor when these two teams play OTHER teams, but less so because -- you know -- they are both mountain cities. In Utah the Jazz are a dominating 71-20. That makes it even stranger that the Jazz dropped a home game to Denver last season. But that's why you have to play the games.
The Nuggets just whooped the Toronto Raptors. They want to follow that up with another big win against the Jazz. We can't let that happen. I'm going to go into this more in the game preview . . . but for now, here are some of the best ever Nuggets player games against the Jazz:
- Mahmoud Abdul-Raul: 51 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 9/14 from deep
- : 44 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 block
- : 42 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists
- : 41 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4/8 from deep
- : 39 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
- Danny Schayes revenge game: 37 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block
- : 34 points, 10 assists, 3 steals, 4/7 from deep
- Bryant Stith: 31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 7/9 from deep
- Orlando Woolridge (because why not?): 29 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals
- : 28 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block, 8/13 from deep
So I guess the question for tonight is 'Which Nuggets player is going to go off on us?'
I don't have the full story on what happened with Bright Side of the Sun, have an article out there called "Phoenix Suns and Jeff Hornacek failed each other," by Dave King. You should read it, even if you're not interested in this story. It is a good, strong, and accurate look at how all of this developed over time, and eventually boiled over.and the Phoenix Suns. And I've been too down on that franchise to even figure it all out. But there are some very good places to start if you want to unravel it all. Our sibling site,
"...they decided to hedge their bets on the one-time runner up for Coach of the Year, leaving coach Hornacek to dangle in the wind under an implied win-or-else mandate. Their other option was to guarantee his lowest-salary-in-the-league contract for the 2016-17 to give him some staying power as the roster bucked and swayed under him because they didn't even bother trading. I'd have recommended option 2, for those wondering. There's almost zero downside to option two, except for a few bucks if he failed and got himself fired.
"Now, not only is Hornacek on the street but the way it happened was about as ugly as it could possibly get. First, his silent feud with Markieff Morris failed miserably. He was forced to have Morris on the roster, so he didn't play him as a signal to the rest of the guys he wouldn't play someone who wouldn't play hard. The guys heard him, but somehow interpreted that message as a negative and collectively played weaker as the games went on.
"Even before  busted his knee again, the guy who'd started the season on a 22 and 7 tear had posted awful games of 8 and 9 points in ugly losses where the Suns didn't even compete. , who started the season putting up 20 and 6 a game, regressed as the season went on to become a player who looked so much worse than his numbers.
"Of course, Markieff Morris used his playing time to further tear away at the coach's and team's chances. Shooting under 40%, committing fouls and turnovers at terribly high rates, and generally looking slow out there made him and the Suns look bad, bad, bad.
The list goes on and on. And GM Ryan McDonough - the guy who's made more than a dozen trades in two years - has refused/failed to make a single trade since late summer as the Suns sink to the depths of the league."
It's all great, you really need to read it all. But I think this aspect is quite telling.
"While the players didn't blame Hornacek, they also didn't support him. The entire team effectively became coach-killers. They broke off of the called plays regularly to do their own thing. They didn't crow about it the past two years because their broken plays almost never worked. It wasn't until last week that someone admitted it to the media.
"Hawks and decided it was better to shoot a contested, off-balance three pointer instead. Goodwin is a terrible three-point shooter, in case you've forgotten. But he made the shot, the Suns won the game, and Archie felt compelled to take 100% of the credit for the win. Good on ya, Arch.", all of 21 years old and in his third season being coached by Hornacek, broke off the designed play to end the game against the
BSotS doesn't have the only take on the situation. Not at all. My man Matt Zemek wrote about it all for The Crossover Chronicles, and had this to say:
"Barring an unlikely turn of events in the next 10 years, the Phoenix Suns will never again be coached by Jeff Hornacek ... [t]o understand how much this reality hurts Phoenicians -- who know that the troubles of their NBA franchise are rooted in ownership far more than the head coach -- you have to understand where Hornacek, and the Suns themselves, came from.
* * *
"The 1990 Suns, with Hornacek helping [Kevin Johnson] and [Tom Chambers] to knock out the Lakers and end the Pat Riley era in Los Angeles, are the most beloved team the franchise has ever known [...] The 1990 Suns didn't get a massive parade even while failing to win the title (the 1993 team received that honor), but they were the team which made Phoenicians fall head-over-heels in love with professional basketball. Those Suns became the first Phoenix team to beat the hated Lakers in a playoff series. An organization which had known so much heartbreak since its birth in the late 1960s was finally able to taste what it felt like to conquer the big, bad behemoth from Los Angeles, a city which towered over Phoenix in the regional and national imagination.
"Hornacek stood very much at the center of those 1990 Suns, who were more endearing than their 1993 successors.
"Sure, [Charles Barkley] was the character of all characters, but he was nevertheless a hired gun brought in to win a world title. The 1993 Suns were soaked in expectations, lending a somewhat grim undercurrent to the chase for glory. The 1990 Suns remained underdogs from start to finish -- talented underdogs and playoff underdogs, but still a team that was not a higher seed in any of its three playoff series.
"That Phoenix ballclub was coached by Cotton Fitzsimmons, one of the NBA's wisecracking originals, whose wit and sense of playfulness charmed the locals in a way that 1993 coach Portland Trail Blazers might have stopped the party in a six-game Western Conference Finals series, but the Suns enjoyed that ride every step of the way.never could. Fitzsimmons' sense of fun was a perfect match for his under-the-radar athletes. Phoenix played liberated basketball throughout its 1990 playoff run. The
"The 1993 season was a business trip, enjoyable and rollicking though it was. The 1990 Suns captured the hearts of Phoenix residents and set the stage for what lay ahead in the 1990s as a whole.
"Jeff Hornacek, an indispensable part of that 1990 team, helped make the Suns who and what they became."
See, as a kid who grew up on 80s and 90s ball this talks to me where I live. I'm all about that nostalgia. I'm all about overcoming the big market, big media, big star Lakers. And Horny got a chance to do that again with the Utah Jazz when we swept LA in four games in '98. Horny was a shooter's shooter. And everyone who matters knows that.
Even the people running NBA2K's MyTeam department came out and released his Suns card, which is quite a number of points better than his Jazz version (which is accurate to real life, let's be honest, he was an All-Star in '92):
via. 2KMT Central
But, we can't live in the past forever. The newera Suns aren't. And neither is this knucklehead:
Most impressive, Markieff Morris. pic.twitter.com/ph7CIFJI6K— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 3, 2016
Where was that, a few months ago when you were crying for your brother, you female dog? It's so very hard to fall in love with the players of today when they have just so little respect for the people who came before them. And if I was a Phoenix Suns fan I guess it would be a good time to finish that novel I've been working on. This isn't a front office I could support. It's a shame that Jerry Sloan's coaching tree (Hornacek, , ) seems to be inheriting poor soil, so it never seems to flourish.
On the other side of things, SB Nation did a breakdown of #CHIatUTA and the Jazz's 105-96 OT win over the Chicago Bulls -- but with a focus on Gordon Hayward. Effectively, Jason Patt writes that "Gordon Hayward still means everything to the Jazz."
The Utah Jazz were supposed to be the West's next rising team, but their progress has been stunted by injury after injury to key players. Prized young point guardsuffered a season-ending torn ACL in the summer, while Rudy Gobert, and have all missed significant chunks of time during the season. That's why they sit at three games under .500 after the midway point.
That Utah is even weathering the storm and remaining in the playoff picture primarily comes down to the one constant. That's Gordon Hayward, whose stellar all-around play has peppered over many of the Jazz's holes throughout their difficult season.
Hayward's versatile game was on full display in Utah's thrilling 105-96 overtime victory over the Bulls on Monday. After a slow start in which he was soundly outplayed by, Hayward rose to the occasion, scoring 19 points in the second half and overtime to help secure the victory. He stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in 44 minutes of action.
It's not a fluff piece though. It's about Xs and Os, and on court performance. And it goes over six of the key plays in that Bulls / Jazz game and how Gordon Hayward takes over and kills it.
And these clips aren't just of him scoring, but display his all-around game. And it's his all-around game that makes him so valuable to this injury plagued Jazz team. Check it all out, Jason did a great job on this piece for the Mother ship.
Also, if you want even MORE of G-time, check out this vid by my man Dawkins who documents the entire Jimmy Butler / Hayward battle.
Awesome work, man.
? Yes. Trey Lyles.
Where the Canadians at?? pic.twitter.com/phjg1lFTZU— Trey Lyles (@TreyMambaLyles) February 3, 2016
Nice hat, Trey.
Also, Canadian publication TheScore broke down the multiple times he's busted out his "He-Man" (That's what I'm calling it) celebration and it's variants.
I know I don't need you tell you to click on that.
This is a great tweet by Hayley ...
Not to be outdone, here's another -- more recent -- Rudy Gobert picture.
Sadly, I don't think Rudy has changed much over time since his days being a Musketeer. A little more facial hair maybe.