Today we really have to take a long look at the NBA Playoffs, and the former Utah Jazz players who are still in them. We take time to make fun of the Clips, point out how durable Stockton was, and long for days of yore. The Western Conference has the haves and have-nots, and it's important to see what common thread binds us lotto teams. Once again we look at numerology during this 'non-news' time period in the NBA season. And finish up with . . . well . . . I don't even know where to begin.
NBA Playoffs, huh? Well, the Utah Jazz aren't in it so neither has been my heart. But as of right now three teams have punched their tickets to the second round. Out East we have the Cleveland Cavaliers (who unceremoniously swept the Detroit Pistons 106-101, 107-90, 101-91, and 100-98) waiting for everyone else. Yes, that's right, each of the remaining three series is currently tied 2-2. That works out great for the resting Cavs. Kyrie Irving took control in the first round, and as much time as they can buy for LeBron James the better. Love him or hate him (and I know so many millions of people do), gotta respect what he did last year by himself taking another crappy team to the NBA Finals (where he averaged 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 8.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 2 threes a game, and 0.5 bpg against the Dubs and somehow wasn't Finals MVP).
The picture out West is a little more clearer with the San Antonio Spurs (sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies 106-74, 94-68, 96-87, and 116-95) and Oklahoma City Thunder (with the gentleman's sweep of the Dallas Mavericks 108-70, 84-85, 131-102, 119-108, and 118-104) both advancing -- and will face one another in the second round. The West leaders and apparent team of Destiny, the Golden State Warriors, are 3-1 up on the Houston Rockets. I don't think anyone expects them to LOSE three more time.
Get hyped for the 4/5 match-up out West, which is tied between the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. And it's going to be a deep series with all the injuries piling up against LAC. But more on that in the next beat.
Regardless of what happens, I really don't think I'm going to have much rooting interest in any specific teams. I am a fan of what some of our former Jazzmen have done so far.
Paul Millsap (45 points, 13 rebounds):
Enes Kanter (21 points, 8 rebounds -- then the next game 28 points, 6 rebounds):
(That finish while being fouled by David Lee tho . . . )
Al Jefferson (25 points, 7 rebounds):
Ian Clark (11 points, 5 assists):
Those are just four of the great performances we have seen so far. Because I'm a nerd, here are the best games by former Jazzmen this postseason:
|1||Deron Williams||DAL||13||1||5||1||0||20||11||Mo Williams||CLE||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|2||Wesley Matthews||DAL||22||5||2||2||0||31||12||Randy Foye||OKC||3||3||1||0||0||7|
|3||DeMarre Carroll||TOR||17||5||0||1||1||24||13||Richard Jefferson||CLE||5||4||1||0||0||10|
|4||Paul Millsap||ATL||45||13||3||2||4||67||14||Kris Humphiries||ATL||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|5||Al Jefferson||CHA||25||7||1||1||0||34||15||Nazr Mohammed||OKC||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|6||Devin Harris||DAL||8||7||2||2||0||19||16||Bryce Cotton||MEM||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|7||Kyle Korver||ATL||17||7||2||1||1||28||17||Ian Clark||GSW||11||1||5||0||0||17|
|8||C.J. Miles||IND||5||7||1||0||0||13||18||Brandon Rush||GSW||3||1||0||0||1||5|
|9||Marvin Williams||CHA||12||14||0||0||1||27||19||Jeremy Evans||DAL||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|10||Enes Kanter||OKC||28||6||0||0||0||34||20||Jeff Ayres||LAC||3||0||0||0||0||3|
Who has been the biggest surprise?
The big news last night (and this morning) is that the Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul got all kinds of busted up. This is on the heels of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry not being in top shape either. I guess they just don't make tough point guards anymore.
A look at how past metacarpal fractures have affected other players recently (& how much time they missed) pic.twitter.com/5xdDAtYlb1— NBA.com (@NBAcom) April 26, 2016
Fracturing your hand is a fluke injury, but this makes for 5 out of 5 postseasons as a Clipper that Chris Paul has been hurt at some point.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) April 26, 2016
Of course, because this is the internet, we immediately needed to make fun of this news:
I didn't see Chris Paul's injury. I assume he broke his hand punching someone in the crotch?— SportsPickle (@sportspickle) April 26, 2016
This pretty much spells the end of the Los Angeles Clippers season. I know what you are all thinking -- "Marko Jaric isn't walking through that door." As much fun as it usually is to pile on the Clips, it's important to point out that no team was going to beat the Thunder, Spurs, or Warriors out West. Having an excuse to fail once again is always handy.
I do wish to point out that John Stockton has played in 6,398 playoff minutes over his career -- more than guys like Jerry West (The Logo) and others of his ilk. Stock has played the 18th most playoff minutes (limited to the data set at basketball-reference.com). CP3 is only at 2,626 total playoff minutes over his career. That's 165th. Freakin' Penny Hardaway has more playoff minutes.
You can't deny Paul's stardom and his ability on the court -- but you can 100% question his heart and toughness.
Keeping tabs on the other non-playoff Western Conference teams . . .
Sacramento Kings -- after firing George Karl (that info released on the eve of their last game of the season, so yeah, great motivation there) they have been active in searching out a new head coach. The candidate list was somewhat leaked and some of the following have already been interviewed: Kevin McHale, Jeff Hornacek, Ettore Messina, Luke Walton, Brian Shaw, Mike Woodson, Sam Mitchell, Vinny Del Negro, and for some reason also Mark Jackson. Lots of re-treads there. I don't think that ANY of those guys is better than George Karl. But the Karl of the 90s may not be the same guy as the Karl of the 2010s. Still, the Kings will look to be a mess no matter who they pick because their talented franchise centerpiece is a buffet of DSM-IV diagnoses.
Denver Nuggets -- The Mile High city didn't make much news after losing their tie-breaker in the lotto, but former player Jared Jeffries (that string bean 6'11 SF/PF/SG who used to play for the Wizards) is now the Nuggets Director of Pro Personnel. I don't think the Jazz have one. But there are lots of jobs not made by the LHM Group because it saves money. I'd like for our franchise to move out of the survival based mindset that it had in the 80s. Things have changed a little over the last few decades. The only thing that can move the Jazz out of Utah right now would be an Act of God. Also, in unrelated news, I think Bryon Russell needs a job.
- New Orleans Pelicans -- There was a "Much Ado about Nothing" moment regarding their front office boss Dell Demps and rescheduling media availability for him; however, the news that stretch big Ryan Anderson is "super duper" on the trade block tells me that they are rebuilding right now and keen on scuttling this core. Heck, their in-bed-media are tweeting things like this . . . that kinda says it all, right?
Working on a column, just curious @slcdunk -— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) April 20, 2016
Think Jazz would do:
Exum & pick #12 (yes, a lot)
To NOLA for:
Jrue Holiday & picks #39-40
Minnesota Timberwolves -- The big news is that they added some power and strength to their decision making after a year post- Filp Saunders (who passed away shortly before the 2015-2016 season started), and that power and strength comes from adding Tom Thibodeau as head coach and also the president of basketball operations, and by adding Scott Layden as General Manager. Layden has previously done wonders with the draft for the Utah Jazz, did an okay (hindsight is 20/20) job with the New York Knicks, and really helped out the San Antonio Spurs in his most notable stints with other teams. Thibs had suitors with other teams, was somehow spurned by the New York Knicks, and would have listened to an offer from the Los Angeles Lakers -- but is getting control and security in Minny. He has a young core, but also has a deep relationship with Kevin Garnett from their time together in Boston. Those Celtics don't win that title without Thibs as an assistant coach re-branding them as a tough defensive club. As for KG, he has one year left on his contract worth $8 million. I'd rather have KG for $8 than Trevor Booker for $5 plus when it comes to intensity, defense, missing layups, and teaching toughness. But that's just me. As an aside, you HOPE that with Layden in Minny that opens up a line of communication there and the potential for a special economic zone (like what the Jazz had with Billy King 's 76ers and Nets during the KOC era). The future is bright for the Wolves.
Phoenix Suns -- New head coach Earl Watson is trying to build a culture in Phoenix outside of the helicopter front office-ing that has gone on there over the last few seasons. He said "the thing about growth is, you have to give [young players] the opportunity to fail." Earl Watson is obviously a failure as a head coach because we all know the only way to develop players is to start Josh Howard in the playoffs and make your lotto picks sit behind over the hill guys who eat up thousands of minutes then leave as soon as possible. Or at least that's what the local media would have had me believe had I actually wasted any of my time listening toe 1280 or what other propaganda channels existed a few years ago. (No, I'm still not over retarding the growth of your team for the sake of pretending you are a playoff team.) Anyway, back to Earl, he's obviously not a failure as someone who can develop and teach young talent. He did it as a veteran mentor during his playing days and did it off the court with all of his tireless work in Kansas City. I'm exciting to see what Phoenix does this off-season. Watson has already stated that he wants to add some more coaching help.
- Los Angeles Lakers -- They decided not to bring back Byron Scott. "To be honest with you Diane, I'm surprised." They are looking hard at Luke Walton, but Kevin Ollie has thrown his hat into the ring. Personally, I don't know why you'd want to coach this team. They've had 14 different head coaches over the last 27 years. Three of those 27 years included a Lakers team that had three different head coaches. There have been 15 coaching changes over that span. Sure, you're in LA and the head coach for the highest profile basketball team in the world. One that has won 27, 21, and 17 games over their last three seasons. That's not a trend you want to be a part of unless you are self-absorbed enough to think you are going to reverse it. Which is funny, the coaches who do best in LAL are the big personality ones who are borderline sociopaths. That kind of makes sense now that I think about it. (The obvious exception to the rule being Bill Sharman.)
The common thread that connects almost all of these non-playoff teams in the West is a question about head coaching. It rarely seems to be blaming the GMs for constructing non-competitive teams, or the owners for penny pinching, or even the players for under-performing. The fall guy is almost always the head coach. As a Utah Jazz fan I am comforted by the theory behind standing by the head coach instead of making him the only culpable piece of the puzzle. Since 1980 there have been more US Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama) than Utah Jazz head coaches (Tom Nissalke, Frank Layden, Jerry Sloan, Tyrone Corbin, and Quin Snyder).
If we are looking at most of these teams, attempting to build something out of young lottery picks, it's good to understand just a little about learning theory and the psychological schools of development. A stable environment is the one where progressive learning takes hold the strongest. Front office and coaching upheaval is a bad way to develop good habits in younger players. I suspect the teams that retain the most stability going forwards should be the teams that climb out of the lottery the fastest, when on-court success is dependent upon young players performing well.
There hasn't been much news for the Utah Jazz proper right now. Some guys are on vacation. Others are rehabbing. A lot of the front office and scouting department are still working hard. There's not much to talk about until things heat up after the NBA Draft lottery. So let's play a game.
Which number is the next number to be retired by the Jazz?
- 00 for Greg Ostertag. He was a member of the NBA Finals teams, and played in Utah for a long time
- 2 for Joe Ingles, unless it's retired for Marvin Williams
- 3 for Trey Burke (or Milt Palacio, or Jason Hart, or Eric Maynor, or Kyle Weaver -- man, PGs shouldn't use this number)
- 5 for Rodney Hood. He's good. Carlos Boozer had a chance . . . years ago.
- 8 for Deron Williams. (Sorry, Shelvin Mack.)
- 10 for Alec Burks
- 11 for Dante Exum
- 13 for Mehmet Okur
- 15 for Derrick Favors or other Georgia Tech product Matt Harpring
- 20 for Gordon Hayward
- 24 for Paul Millsap
- 27 for Rudy Gobert
- 39 for Greg Ostertag (It would be hilarious if a) he gets a retired number, and b) they use #39)
- 41 for Trey Lyles
- 47 for Andrei Kirilenko
- 55 for Rafael Araujo
My money is on either Memo or D-Will. I think the 2nd quarter / non-halftime recognition of AK47 is the most Greg Miller will ever allow.
So, in relation to yesterday's JuMu-beat we got this twitter exchange with Joe Ingles:
Im honoured but also feel like I was only real choice.... https://t.co/kiQSju2dtd— Joe Ingles (@Joeingles7) April 25, 2016
Also, in relation to JuMu's GOT theme yesterday, here's this amazing piece of artwork I had to share.
Today's question -- what do you think about athletes on social media? What was your favorite personal interaction (if any)?