Happy Father's day to all the dads out there. I feel the need to give a special thanks to Larry H. Miller in particular -- he's basically the Utah Jazz dad. He developed familial relationships with our best players over the years (Karl Malone, , ), and was instrumental towards not just keeping the Jazz in Utah but also developing in his own Ben Franklin type of way generations of productive Utahns. His philanthropy did not just end with making buildings for people to work in or helping children get educations -- but he was one of the main people out there who active helped resolve the 1999 NBA Lockout. As a small market owner he was able to make a difference understanding the strains of all the non-unified groups to reach an agreement. A titan in life few people cared more than he did. I miss him so much and wonder what a different path our most-beloved franchise may have taken had his health been equal to his vigor. Anyway, Happy Father's day Larry. You are dearly missed.
Is there enough news to justify a weekend downbeat? Maybe? I don't know. But we'll find out by the end of this article together.
The last game of the NBA season is tomorrow (Father's day), and in a sociological perspective, pits a second generation NBA player who was born a millionaire who lived his entire life around the professional game and on professional courts going up against a first generation NBA player who grew up without a father and in poverty. Both were born in the same hospital, though, if that matters. There's really no comparison between Dell Curry and Anthony McClelland. But all eyes will be on their sons for this winner-take-all Game 7. The game is tomorrow at 6:00 pm Mountain time, and will be on ABC and ESPN3.
Will the Cleveland Cavaliers be able to win three straight games against the Golden State Warriors? The Warriors lost at home only twice in the regular season, but have dropped two of the 13 at home so far in the NBA Playoffs, including losing their last home game five nights ago to the Cavs.
I do want to see more of this, though.
Whatever happens in Game 7 may not matter, becausehas an awful signature shoe. It's so bad Stephen Colbert had to clown on them.
Also, this brings me back to this:
I had two pairs growing up as a kid. And yes, children, this is a Utah Jazz player with a signature shoe who had SEVERAL international ad campaigns that featured him primarily. This is a star player. I can't imagine any of our guys being asked to sell anything other than professional gamer mouse pads or whatever. (I see you)
Looking over the last 82 games I was saddened to see that there were quite a few of them that ended up being losses, despite the fact that the Utah Jazz should have held on and finished with the win. Wins weren't easy, for some reason. And I am going to point out that yes, injuries, and yes, moving parts, and yes, sometimes both at the same time . . . but this team just didn't finish games that well. It's hard for me to see because this squad has so much talent to it. But missing free throws down the stretch, turn overs deep in the fourth, and scoring droughts in overtime . . . these are almost all mental at some level. It is supposed to get better, and we still hope that it does under Quin Snyder's remaining two years under contract.
But it makes me look back at those crazy line-up teams that John Stockton and Karl Malone. JazzBasketball1 posted a great 11 minute video of a thrilling Utah Jazz @ Boston Celtics game from back in that 2003-2004 season.somehow got to play at a high level post-
You can check out the 99-96 UTA over BOS Box Score here, and you can tell that that 42 win team (2 more wins than our 2015-2016 team, by the way) had some "crazy factor" to it. Sloan played only nine guys in this game, the fourth game in a six game Eastern Conference road trip (@PHI, @ WAS, @NJN, @BOS, @DET, @CHI). The Boston Celtics went to the line over 30 times at home in this game and had the crowd with them, but Utah dug deep, and while they did not play mistake free basketball (26 fouls, 11 turn overs) they did play together as a team and won in Boston. This win being one of the only 11 wins in franchise history in Boston.
Statistically some of our players had very good games. The starters shot really well and the bench made only five total field goals. That's crazy when you are looking for a road win. Also crazy? The Jazz shot 3/8 from deep and the Celtics 7/15. Only 10 three pointers were made in this game. It was a different sport back then.
- [PG] : 12 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
- [SG] : 22 points (10/16 shooting, 2/2 from deep), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
- [SF] : 21 points (9/16 shooting, 0/2 from three), 3/4 from the line, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
- [PF] Andrei Kirilenko: 18 points (7/13 shooting, 1/3 from three, 3/4 from the line), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 blocks, 2 steals
- [C] : 11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 153 ORTG / 108 DRTG
Beyond Jarron Collins hitting free throws, Raul Lopez grabbing three boards, and a steal and a block, or Ben Handlogten 's post moves, the only bench contributor was , who finished with 4 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Comparing THAT team against last season's TEAM is a worthwhile exercise. One squad did the best with what they had. Another did not. I know that I make excuses for the 2015-2016 squad. But as competitors, I don't think they need me to do that on their behalf.
Watching this game recap video makes me miss seeing a Jerry Sloan team out there on the court. Outside of blowouts I rarely felt like our team didn't have a shot to win. This past season I had a growing feeling in the pit of my stomach that made me feel like a loss would be the ultimate outcome, even if we were winning in the 4th. It wasn't a fun feeling. It was the opposite of that 2003-2004 team.
The Utah Jazz are inching upwards with their draft workouts -- and by the end of this weekend will have worked out 91 prospects. They worked out 91 players in the run-up to the 2014 NBA Draft, and 101 players in the run-up to the 2015 draft. There's a few more day still to get some guys in, but if the type of player is any indication . . . Utah isn't likely to be working out anyone who is an immediate impact player. So don't expect the team to be planning on moving up this year. The 10 most highly regarded players the Jazz have brought in (or will bring in, including Sunday's workout) will be Deyonta Davis, Domantas Sabonis, Denzel Valentine, Demetrius Jackson, Dejounte Murray, and five guys who do not have a name that starts with D. (Ante Zizic, Malachi Richardson, Thon Maker, Gary Payton II, and Pascal Siakam). Half of these guys are bigmen, and most of them could go in the first round -- but only three are actual targets in the lotto, Davis, Sabonis, and Valentine.
Workout #15 was Deyonta Davis (a bigman) by himself. Workout #16 was a pot luck of guys not likely to even be drafted. Workout #17 stars Zizic -- a 6'11 bigman from Croatia who could be picked around #23 this year. Of course, I am more interested in Gracin Bakumanya, a 6'11 guy from the Congo. But I don't know if he's actually going to impress. He has an average draft spot of 92.33, and there are only 60 picks. So you do the math.
For what it is worth, here's a vid on Zizic by Dakota. The DX video can be found here.
Is this a guy you will be okay trading down for?
Defending the rim. Somehow the Golden State Warriors are able to get it done withhurt and 6 foot something playing center. Not all teams have that big market / big star / highly marketed armor about them. So not all teams can get away with the physicality with which they play "defense" with. For other teams they just have to be more straight up with how they defend the rim. And I think that in this changing NBA where more and more teams are attempting to go small, or at least go with a small forward at the "four" spot then you need to stay ahead of them. Historically guards and wings were thwarted in the paint by bigs.
Utah has two really solid rim protectors in Jeff Withey (non-guaranteed contract) has also been very solid in the limited time he has played. And at the end of the day is still 7'3. But being on the floor is hard for some of these guys, and staying healthy for 82 games seems to be a modern impossibility for some. As a result, while on paper the Jazz have solid rim protection -- on the whole their very impressive and successful defense is still not inherently reliable.and .
On any given game what we've seen from the Jazz could be a historically impressive defense . . . or a game where both Rudy and Derrick are injured and sitting out. That's nerve-wracking and probably a reason why it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see the Jazz take another big either in free agency or the draft. If the whole defense is anchored around stopping paint scoring and your best paint stoppers are out . . . the defensive scheme crumbles.
One player who was both a beast on defense, and reliable, was Mark Eaton. Eaton wasn't just a tall guy who blocked shots. He was an All-Star and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. In a way, he's something none of our current players have ever been, and he twice reached an award that we hope and pray one of our players could even be nominated for.
Here's what he had to say on a big picture topic . . . not just protecting the paint, but others:
This is legit. While there is a globally transferable message here, it still holds true on the basketball court. History gives us the idea that John Stockton isn't the all-time leader in steals if he doesn't play with Big Mark Eaton holding things down in the paint. Why? Because Mark was reliable and did protect others. He allowed for John to wreck havoc out there on defense because Eaton could lock down an entire zone of the court while still playing man-to-man defense. This is taking it to the next level -- and honestly WHY Eaton is so highly regarded.
The first step is being available to make a difference. And Mark played in 80 or more games in nine of his 11 year career. One year he played 79 games . . . the last year was injury plagued and only had him hobbling on the court 64 times. But over his entire Jazz career he played in 875 of a maximum total of 902 Utah Jazz regular season games -- 97%. If you take away his rookie season and his last season he started 99.5% of his games as well. In the playoffs few have stood taller -- starting in 100% of the games he played in. (Assumption as I do not have the starting data for his second year in the league's playoff games, he did start 78 of 82 in the regular season and played all 11 Jazz games, so, this is a safe bet.)
Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors have not been as available.
- Derrick has played in 429 of a maximum 476 games over his New Jersey Nets / Utah Jazz regular season career. That's playing in 90.1% of the games, and starting in 58.3% of them. He has never once played in 80+ games in a season. Over his last three he has played in 73, 74, and 62 games. The 62 games was last season.
- Rudy has played in 188 of a maximum 246 regular season games. That's getting minutes in 76.4% of the possible games, and starting in only 51.6% of them. Rudy has played in 45, 82, and 61 games over the last two seasons. His rookie year he had a Tyrant of a head coach who didn't play him. He flourished in his second season, and had injuries in his third. We do not yet know what the average season is going to be from this guy.
- Both of these values are much lower than Eaton's 97.0% of all possible Jazz games played, and 93.1% of Jazz games started
And that inherently has made Rudy and Derrick less reliable. And that trickles down towards them not being there to protect the rest of the team. And perhaps that was Mark's greatest talent, he could play through injuries and still be effective out there on the court. And he took care of his body so that he could play all season long and into the playoffs without breaking down.
If this team is going to be built around the defense, and if that defense is going to be fortified from the inside out . . . then you need to build it around bigmen who can defend. Favors and Gobert fit that bill, even if they can be predated upon in the pick and roll by today's shoot first point guards. But they both need to be healthy enough to play every day -- or else the Jazz will need to find an insurance impact defender on the market. (?)
Or see if Eaton wants to come out of retirement and play in 20-30 games a year. The 10 year NBA vet minimum is a lot higher now, if that's an incentive.