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NBA Playoffs 2016: Utah Jazz are going to make it, even if this season has been a downer -- Downbeat #1868

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Hey Utah Jazz fans, sorry this is so late. It's been a very crazy weekend for me -- and in reality -- all season long. I think that this site hasn't been performing as well as it could be. In that case, no other site follows the Jazz as well as we do, because the team is also under-performing. There are a lot of reasons for it, and it's clear that there are several different camps emerging. There have been flaws in the plan, and the front office, the coaches, and the players all have to share part of the blame for this sub .500 season. There's a push to adopt the newest trends and analytics. On the flip side, this means saying goodbye to non-ideal player types and backgrounds in favor of what fits your corporate culture. Congruence matters, but so does having guys on the team who want to put in work and bust their butts for wins. So it's clear that we have to talk about MIT's Sloan Sports Analytic Conference, former Jazzman Elijah Millsap, and looking back at two Jazz teams in the NBA Playoffs that were supposed to lose -- and how differently they handled it (I'm looking at you 1988 Jazz and 2011 Jazz). All this, Raul Neto 's breakfast, and the big question of "What does it take to make it?"

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Are the Jazz going to make the playoffs this year? Yes.

If I'm wrong, I'll admit it. But I think the schedule is in our favor -- that's the main take-away here.

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So on Friday night Raul Neto didn't miss a shot. For reals. Yes, Shelvin Mack was super and the Utah Jazz most likely don't beat the Washington Wizards without his career high 27 points. But Neto was no slouch either. He went 4/4 from the field, 2/2 from downtown, and 2/2 from the stripe. He also had two assists and two steals. So you're probably asking yourself: "How is he so perfect?" He was probably born that way with those amazing Brazilian .genes. Sadly, you can't be as perfect as Neto. But you can probably get a glimpse of what it takes to be perfect. And for him, it seems to be a healthy breakfast that a forest animal would eat -- fruits and twigs and stuff.

DB 1868 - Raul Neto breakfast

In the interest of transparency, I made a Southwest scramble for breakfast with a few eggs, jalapenos, onions, mushrooms, cheese, and many spices. I'm not perfect. But I am full. If Neto keeps shooting like he has of late, 44 / 38 / 85 since the All-Star break, I may need to adopt this "hungry forest animal" diet myself.

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This has been a disappointing season. I think it's fair to admit that at this point. I had slightly higher expectations for this team, even if the injuries. I felt like fighting for 8 wouldn't be the upper level, but perhaps fighting for 7th or maybe even 6th. In the big picture having to face the West's top 3 makes no difference, the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder would all house our side in the first round. So I guess I'm presenting a situation where a) I downplay the importance of making the playoffs, and b) introduce the idea that fighting for the 8th isn't great, but it's not like fighting for 7th would make a big difference this year.

I'm still drinking the NBA Playoffs Kool-Aid for this season. But there just hasn't been enough sugar to sweeten this brackish solution this year.

So let's just watch this video -- good times will be here again. Possibly later rather than sooner, but it'll happen again.

Yeah, that was one of the biggest games for me, personally as a Jazz fan. Where our young guys went into LA and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2. On their own home floor. That Frank Layden coached team played loose and with no fear. They faced off against THREE Hall of Famers in their peaks (or slightly after it for The Captain): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy. I think the mental game was very important here too. While the Jazz were supposed to lose they took it to LA in LA, and won.

The last time the Jazz went to the playoffs, against the Spurs, their best players went into it feeling like they were supposed to lose and let that happen. Al Jefferson even proclaimed the series over halfway through it. Sadly, I don't want guys with that attitude leading this era of Jazz basketball. I want fighters. I want guys who want to be giant killers. Give me Karl Malone from a broken, non-middle class home, give me Mark Eaton who can't stretch the floor, and give me a 'too small to play defense' point guard like John Stockton any day.

I guess the players were just different back then, and the game was too. Today you can't just win on grit and avoiding keeping up with trends. But even with all the analytics in the world and trying to stay ahead of the curve this team can win right now. The reality is that this is a possible playoff team, but right now with a few weeks to play in the season, they are under .500 and not in it yet.

And that's why I find myself watching the Playoffs on Youtube instead of on TV. My team is in the playoffs on Youtube.

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The Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is happened! Our bros over at The Dream Shake are there, check it out!

I can understand not wanting to read about the Houston Rockets. But if you are into what they are talking about over there in Boston, the full agenda is here.

Friday Highlights include:

  • The Future of the Fan Experience
  • Marketing, Data & the Digital Fan
  • Sponsorship Analytics: The New Yardstick for Brands and Properties
  • The Curry Landscape (probably about cooking South and South East Asian foods)
  • Evolution of Ownership
  • Recognizing & Analyzing Ball Screen D in the NBA
  • Accounting for Complementary Skill Sets of NBA Players
  • Can you really predict Athletic Injury and Performance?

And on Saturday:

  • Basketball Analytics: Hack-a-Stat
  • Modern NBA Coaching: Balancing Team and Talent
  • Unlocking the Potential of the NBA Schedule
  • Predicting NBA Season Ticket Member Behavior

These are just some of the events that went down, and I didn't even include any of the research papers. I'm interested in all of this kinds of stuff, but I realize that not every Sports fan is enamored with that "numbers game". As a result, I didn't do anything here but just list some of the topics. If you want, I can delve a little deeper into what the findings were in a separate post. But be specific with what topic you want me to investigate ... I can't do a whole recap on a conference I didn't attend. I'm having a hard enough time writing about the Jazz this year!

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Just as we have our favorite sports teams we also have our favorite players. Most of the time you just love the guys on your squad. Some players you are lukewarm towards. Yet others you will unreasonably support for your entire life. And there's no logic behind it. For me I really like guys who start their careers with the Utah Jazz. (Like Dell Curry!) They were players who had no NBA resume to show they were good, but did enough for the Jazz to WANT them. Either be drafting them (like lotto picks Gordon Hayward and Trey Lyles), trading for them (like Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert), or signing them as undrafted rookies (like Wesley Matthews and David Benoit). It's the underdog story for that last group for sure.

One guy who epitomizes that is Elijah Millsap. Millsap was waived by the Jazz earlier on this season, but that doesn't diminish all of the work he put in to make it to the NBA. He went to two universities, and started his career off in the NBA DLeague. It would take him six years to get to the NBA, after four years in the NBA DL, one year in Israel, and another in the Philippines. I respect hard work, and as a result will always root for this guy. As covered here and elsewhere earlier, he had return to Israel after the Jazz dumped him, but now it seems like he's no longer with the team -- or long for it.

There's more to this story, but most of it is out of reach because most of Jazz fandom can't read foreign languages that well, so I had to go to someone who could. Asked to translate, super Jazz fan Gilad Perry tweets:

I don't know what's going to happen with Sap, but he's still chillin in the Holy Land according to Instagram.

DB 1868 - Elijah Millsap Israel

Also, I am almost certain that his kid has larger hands than most grown men. Getting back to basketball, I can't believe that Millsap wasn't good enough to help this team this year, with all the injuries they have sustained. He always gave me the impression that he cared when he was out there on the court. I guess having to work his way into the league made him feel like he had to keep working to stay in it. I don't remember other guys displaying grit, playing physical, and putting his body on the line to make plays this past year. i get that in 173 minutes with the Jazz this last fall and winter he shot 1/12 from downtown -- a 8.3% success rate. I do think that there's more to this game of basketball than making shots.

I guess Jerry Sloan would have found a way to use him in a successful way. Sadly, the league is changing and it's no longer one where everything Jerry did would be successful today. And that really sucks. I hope everything works out for Elijah. Dude actually works hard and plays defense.