Injury Bug Already Biting Jazz
September 30, 2009 -
CJ Miles looks like he’s praying in this picture. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Are you kidding me? After last season’s hospital ward disguised as a basketball team missed a combined total of 149 man games to injury, I was hoping the Jazz had gotten their bad luck out of the way. Apparently not. Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, and CJ Miles all managed to injure themselves in only the second day of training camp (Sunday).
Fortunately none of the three seem to be seriously hurt. Kirilenko (strained quadriceps), Korver (inflamed knee), and Miles (strained hip) all participated in warm-up and shooting drills on Tuesday morning after missing Monday’s sessions. It’s still unknown whether any of them will play in the preseason opener tomorrow against the Denver Nuggets. Not exactly the smooth start I was hoping for.
Carlos Boozer Faces the Utah Media
September 27, 2009 -
Friday was media day for the Utah Jazz. Ross Siler, Jazz beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, began his media day blog entry by saying, “It was difficult to listen to Carlos Boozer on Friday and not come away convinced that a trade would be in the best interests of both the Jazz and Boozer.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve felt that way all summer, and Boozer’s media-day Q&A session did nothing to change my opinion. Let’s just say my BS meter was tripped on more than one occasion.
I almost felt sorry for Boozer as he was peppered with questions about his behavior during the offseason. Almost… But not really. Carlos brought this whole situation on himself by essentially begging Chicago and Miami to trade for him this summer. Actually it started back in December when he declared to ESPN that he would opt out of the final year of his Jazz contract by saying, “No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless." Not exactly an endearing comment under any circumstances, but the fact that it came when he had missed the previous 15 games with a knee injury and with Millsap playing amazingly in his absence made it all the more, well, stupid.
I’m sure there are NBA players who are worse at the PR game than Boozer, but no one immediately comes to mind.
On a more positive note, it was exciting to hear some of the other interviews during media day. Despite the fact that this summer didn’t turn out as I had hoped or expected, I’m still optimistic about the upcoming season. When asked about the shape of his players, Jerry Sloan said, “These guys look pretty good.” For the always-understated Sloan, that’s some seriously lavish praise. Hopefully we'll see the results on the court.
Jazz Training Camp Starts This Week
September 22, 2009 -
First of all, Hallelujah! We’re finally just a few days away from Jazz basketball. Is it just me, or did this summer seem to last forever? (That last sentence sounded suspiciously like a Bryan Adams song.) I guess getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs does actually make the offseason longer.
Barring a surprise eleventh-hour deal, the Jazz will begin training camp this weekend with essentially the same roster they finished with last season. I don’t know anyone who expected that to happen. If we want to get technical, the Jazz did make a few trivial changes. They drafted Eric Maynor and Goran Suton, but neither should see significant playing time this year (and Suton may not even make the roster). They also elected not to bring back Morris Almond, Brevin Knight, or Jarron Collins from last year’s squad. Still, these moves amount to the equivalent of replacing the floor mats rather than overhauling the engine. I was at least hoping for some new custom rims.
The pessimist in me is frustrated and concerned that the Jazz did nothing to address obvious deficiencies like their lack of interior defense and outside shooting. I also worry about the impact Carlos Boozer’s unanticipated return will have on team chemistry. That said, there is cause to be optimistic as well:
• Deron Williams is arguably the best PG in the league and will be vying for his first all-star invitation
• The much-maligned Boozer will be highly motivated to perform in a contract year
• Kosta Koufos is poised for a big improvement after showing promise as a rookie
• Paul Millsap will be out to prove he is worthy of his new contract
• CJ Miles is rumored to have worked extremely hard in the offseason and may finally be ready for a breakout year
• Kyle Korver is healthy after wrist surgery and may show the deadly shooting touch we know he is capable of
• Memo and AK both opted out of international play to rest and prepare for the season
Just a sec while I remove my rose-colored glasses…
The Jazz could easily once again find themselves fighting for the final playoff spot in the West this season. Conversely, if everything falls into place they could push the Lakers and Spurs for the top record in the conference. I’ll reserve my official prediction until after training camp. At this point, I’m just ready for the season…come what may.
Deron Williams, Two-Sport Athlete
September 18, 2009 -
Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders both played Major League Baseball and NFL Football simultaneously. Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy and then played point guard for the New York Knicks. Danny Ainge played baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays before beginning his NBA career with the Boston Celtics.
If the whole NBA thing doesn't pan out for Deron Williams, he might be able to fall back on his dodge ball skills. Let's hope so, because based on this picture I don't think he has a promising career in the fashion industry. (Speaking of this picture, it was posted on a JazzHoops message board by a fellow fan, and I thought it was too good not to share.)
DWill and Kyle Korver recently co-hosted a charity doge ball tournament to raise money for The Christmas Box House shelters for children. I give them full props for doing this and love seeing NBA players giving back to the community in more than just a “take my picture with this little kid for some good PR, and then get me the heck outta’ here” kind of way. Williams and Korver both do a lot of good things for charity and seem committed to being good citizens in addition to good basketball players. Nice when you don’t have to choose one or the other.
John Stockton, NBA Hall of Famer
September 13, 2009 -
John Stockton is my favorite basketball player of all time. He is the reason I became a Jazz fan. I was 14 years old when the Jazz took the heavily favored (and much hated) Lakers to 7 games in the 1988 Western Conference Semifinals. My family had moved to Utah a couple of years earlier, but I had not particularly embraced the home team up until that point.
By the end of that incredible series, I was hooked. Although the Jazz eventually lost, Stockton turned in one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever witnessed. He set the NBA playoff series record for assists (115) and steals (28). He was particularly dominant in the decisive game 7, when he scored 29 points and dished 20 assists in a losing effort. I recall being amazed that a guy who was roughly my size and didn't appear extraordinarly athletic could do what he did.
Fast forward 9 years… I still remember vividly where I was when Stockton hit “the shot” against Houston in Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, sending the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time. The ensuing celebration is by far the most emotion I’ve ever seen from Stockton or Jerry Sloan and was so much fun to watch.
Fast forward another 12 years… I still get chills every time I see that video clip.
It’s somewhat ironic that Stockton was enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend at the same time as the man primarily responsible for his never winning an NBA title -- the sole blemish on an otherwise perfect resume. Stockton is certainly not the only hall-of-famer to be denied a championship by Michael Jordan, but I digress...
While I’m not an advocate of short shorts for men, I love how Stockton shunned the hip-hop culture that overtook the NBA and remained true to himself throughout his career. Stock stood as an enigma in a league where showboating, trash talking, and self-glorification became the norm. He carried himself with a quiet confidence but was as selfless off the court as we was on it. He never sought the spotlight and was always quick to deflect credit or praise to his teammates.
I feel safe saying that there will never be another player quite like Stockton. His career record for assists has about as much chance of ever being broken as I have of being the one to break it. His career record for steals is only slightly less safe. He played 19 NBA seasons and only missed 22 games over that span. Benearth that choir-boy exterior was a true warrior.
I don’t pretend to be an objective audience, but John Stockton was the greatest point guard ever to play the game.
Players I'd Like to See in a Jazz Uniform
September 7, 2009 -
Occasionally when watching other teams I’ll think to myself, “Man, I’d like to see that guy in a Jazz uniform.” I remember always feeling that way about Jeff Hornacek when he was on the Phoenix Suns and would regularly torch the Jazz with a barrage of 3s whenever the two teams played. I was absolutely ecstatic the day I heard that Utah had traded for him.
With three weeks remaining until the start of training camp and nothing happening on the free agent or trade front, this seems like as good a time as any to list my top-3 potentially attainable players at each position that I would like to see the Jazz pursue. I use the “potentially attainable” disclaimer because as much as I would love to have LeBron or Dwight Howard on the Jazz, I’m not quite delusional enough to think that could ever happen.
Point Guard – This is the one position on the Jazz where the starting job is completely set in stone. On the other hand, backup point guard has been a revolving door of sub-par talent for years. Rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel for a decent PG content to play 10 minutes a game, I would prefer to see the Jazz pick up a combo guard who could give Deron some quality rest and also effectively play beside him in certain lineups.
1. Jason Terry – Explosive scorer and quick defender. Not likely that Dallas would let him go for anything Utah would be willing to offer, but you never know.
2. Kirk Hinrich – Good shooter, strong defender, and heady player. He is a little overpaid, but his skill set would be a great fit for the Jazz.
3. Mo Williams – The one that got away... and I’d love to have him back. I still can’t believe the Jazz failed to match his offer from Milwaukee a few years ago.
Shooting Guard – This position has been a continual weakness since Hornacek retired. Brewer has made nice progress recently but is really more suited as a small forward considering his lack of outside shooting. The Jazz need an SG who plays tough D, scores consistently, and can hit the three.
1. Eric Gordon – Young, explosive guard with a decent stroke who can also get to the rim. Undersized for a 2, but still a good perimeter defender. Tons of upside.
2. Rip Hamilton – Great shooter and solid defender. Would be great coming off screens in the Jazz offense. Not sure how much he has left, but I’d like to find out.
3. Courtney Lee – Really came on strong at the end of his rookie season. I just like his game. He’s a great shooter and excellent on-the-ball defender. The kid has star potential.
Small Forward – Not long ago, this was the strongest position on the team. In a few short years, however, Harpring’s health and Kirilenko’s productivity both took a nose dive. Depending on who they play beside on the wing, the Jazz need a small forward who’s a disruptive defender and can either get to the hoop or hit outside jumpers.
1. Caron Butler – Does most everything well. Not a great 3-pt shooter, but
deadly from mid-range. He’s also a good defender and passer.
2. Gerald Wallace – He’s like a mesh between Brewer and Kirilenko, but with a better offensive game. Need to pair him with a great shooter.
3. Shane Battier and Tayshaun Prince (tie) – Neither of these guys has gaudy statistics, but they are both great defenders and team players who can knock down open shots.
Power Forward – Now that Millsap has been signed, the Jazz could use a taller, athletic player behind him who can provide energy, rebounding, and shot blocking.
1. Josh Smith – Young and incredibly athletic. He would vastly improve the Jazz’ interior defense. He’s also quick enough to play SF, helping to ensure him starter minutes.
2. Tyrus Thomas – Rumored to be a bit of a head case, he appears to have matured this past season. He’s the athletic shot blocker the Jazz have been longing for, and he still has upside.
3. Rony Turiaf – He’s a pure energy player and outstanding shot blocker with a limited offensive game.
Center – With Millsap undersized at PF and Okur playing small for a 7-footer, the Jazz need more size up front. If they go after a center rather than trusting Koufos to develop, I’d like to see them acquire a legitimate 7-footer who can be a defensive presence in the middle.
1. Andrew Bogut – Not a prolific shot blocker, but he has a nice, well-rounded game and would definitely improve the center position.
2. Tyson Chandler – Athletic rebounder, shot blocker, and alley-oop recipient. Seems like an ideal complement to Memo.
3. Joel Pryzbilla – Good rebounder, shot blocker, and weak-side help defender. Not much of a scorer, but he’s definitely tough.