• Raja Bell Is Back Raja BellJuly 22, 2010 -
    I’m still bitter about losing Wesley Matthews to the Blazers, but learning that Raja Bell has decided to sign with the Jazz is a nice consolation prize. What makes it all the more sweet is the fact that in opting for Utah, Bell rejected a personal sales pitch from Kobe Bryant to join the Lakers.

    If you want to know why Kobe wanted Raja on his team, just take a look at the picture. In reference to that incident, I would normally lose respect for a player who laid a clothesline on an opponent in the middle of a game. But since Bell did this to Kobe Bryant, I’m completely fine with it. In fact, I respect him more for it. (For those not familiar with the situation, Bell was heavily provoked by cheap elbows from Kobe throughout the entire series. And yes, Bell was ejected and suspended for the maneuver.)

    I was sorely disappointed when Bell left the Jazz to sign with the Suns 5 years ago, and I’m thrilled to have him back now. With Matthews gone, the Jazz desperately need his defense. With Korver gone, the Jazz need his 3-point shooting. But most of all, the Jazz need his toughness. Welcome back, Raja.

    Gotta hand it to Kevin O'Connor. He's taken what was shaping up to be a disastrous offseason and turned it into something pretty exciting.

  • A Rabbit Named Al Jefferson Al JeffersonJuly 15, 2010 -
    “Greg Miller and Kevin O’Connor had better pull a serious rabbit out of their collective hat, or they stand to lose a lot of fans this season.”

    I posted that quote a few days ago in reference to the mass exodus of talent the Jazz have experienced in the past 12 months. Fortunately Miller and KOC managed to pull out a 6'10" 260-lb rabbit who has the potential to more than replace the productivity lost when Boozer left for Chicago. Hallelujah! The Jazz front office actually did something positive. They renewed my hope that they just might care about more than profitability.

    While this move certainly atones for the failure to trade Boozer last season, it doesn't mean that all is entirely forgiven. It also does not make the Jazz immediate title contenders (though it puts them much closer than they were just a day ago). Utah still needs to make another move or two if they want to legitimately challenge the Lakers, not to mention the new Superfriends in Miami.

    At least now I'm excited again. Can't wait to see what comes next!

  • Front Office Wakeup Call Kyle KorverJuly 12, 2010 -
    I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I really do. As a businessman, I understand the strategy and perspective that goes into many decisions that may not be apparent from an outside perspective. In short, I realize that “good” decisions may look like “bad” decisions to the uninformed.

    Conversely, my business experience has also shown me that smart, informed people sometimes make extremely poor decisions.

    The Jazz front office has been pursuing a stay-the-course strategy for years now. News flash: It’s not working. Actually I should clarify that. If their goal is to always be a mid-tier playoff team without any real shot at winning a title, then the strategy is working fine. If they, like most of us fans, have championship aspirations, then they need to make some changes.

    When the Jazz selected Gordon Hayward with the 9th pick, I was livid. I honestly felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I have since realized that my disappointment over that draft pick was really a culmination of frustration with management’s apparent unwillingness to be aggressive and take the necessary calculated risks to become a legitimate title contender. For the Jazz, it’s all about maintaining the status quo. They put out a winning product that makes the playoffs year after year. This allows them to sell enough tickets to turn a profit. That seems to be more important than winning a championship. As a business man, I get it. As a fan, I hate it.

    Prior to the 2006 NBA draft, the Jazz, after dropping to the 6th spot thanks to lousy luck with the ping pong balls, made an aggressive move to trade up to #3 so they could select Deron Williams, giving up 3 first round picks in the process. It was a gamble that paid off, and the kind of risk that championship teams have to take.

    In 2008, Utah traded an expiring contract (Gordan Giricek) and a future 1st-round pick (which ended up being #23 this year) for Kyle Korver. Another calculated risk that arguably paid off. The Jazz needed outside shooting, and they got one of the best. Unfortunately injuries marred his performance somewhat, but it was still a smart move designed to make the team better.

    Since that time, however, the Jazz have retreated back to the ultra-conservative approach. This has been particularly manifest in the past 12 months. Need proof?

    Exhibit 1: The Jazz trade Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring to OKC for nothing more than salary cap relief.

    Exhibit 2: The Jazz trade Ronnie Brewer to Memphis for a conditional future 1st-round draft pick.

    Exhibit 3: The Jazz DON’T trade Carlos Boozer before the 2010 trade deadline, failing to acquire any assets in exchange for an all-star whom they were likely to lose for nothing in free agency.

    Exhibit 4: Jazz have thus far failed to trade Andrei Kirilenko and his valuable soon-to-be-expiring contract.

    Exhibit 5: Jazz fail to move up in the 2010 draft to acquire a potential star (i.e. Turner, Favors, Cousins) despite the fact that Philly was supposedly willing to trade the #2 pick to a team that would take Elton Brand’s contract.

    Exhibit 6: The Jazz NEVER acquire 1st-round picks for cash considerations. The Dallas Mavericks bought the #25 pick (Dominique Jones, a player I would have loved to see on the Jazz) for cash.

    Exhibit 7: The Jazz fail to work a sign-and-trade for Boozer, losing him to Chicago for nothing but a trade exception.

    Exhibit 8: The Jazz lose Kyle Korver (who, by the way, set the NBA record for 3-pt percentage last season) to Chicago for no compensation and reportedly didn’t even make him a respectable offer.

    I won’t enter this as official evidence since the jury is still out, but the Jazz also appear to be on the verge of losing Wesley Matthews for no compensation, as Portland gave him a bigger offer than Utah expected.

    I don’t recall ever feeling this frustrated with the Jazz organization, and I know many others who feel the same way. If Utah doesn’t match the offer to Matthews, they will have watched 5 key contributors from last season walk away with nothing to show for it but a lower payroll. How is Deron Williams going to respond to this?

    Greg Miller and Kevin O’Connor had better pull a serious rabbit out of their collective hat (wanted to use another word there), or they stand to lose a lot of fans this season. Perhaps more importantly, they stand to lose their franchise point guard in two years.

  • Gordon Hayward - Second Impression Gordon HaywardJuly 11, 2010 -
    If you read my last post, you know how I felt about the Utah Jazz drafting Gordon Hayward. Since then, I had the chance to catch a few of Utah’s games during the Orlando Summer League this past week. While I still feel the Jazz made a mistake in the draft, I did at least come away somewhat more encouraged about Hayward.

    His stats weren’t exactly attention grabbing, but Hayward played solidly and efficiently. I definitely get the sense he will be a much better player when surrounded by other good players. He plays a team game that is not effectively showcased in the less-structured summer-league environment. To his credit, he didn’t resort to the selfish tactics displayed by some of his teammates and generally stayed within the offense. The unfortunate result is that he didn’t get nearly the amount of touches I would’ve hoped for from the 9th pick in the draft.

    Here is my general assessment of Hayward’s performance in the three games I watched:

    • Poise and confidence – He played under control and didn’t seem intimidated (despite the fact that he looks like a boy among men)
    • Shooting – He definitely has a nice stroke, and he shot over 50% for the week
    • Basketball IQ – He seems to have a great understanding of the game and generally made smart, team-oriented plays
    • Ball Handling – He has a good handle for a 6’8” player and made a few nice moves with the ball

    • Strength – He appeared physically outmatched at times
    • Athleticism – I’m not sure he will be able to get to the hoop against most NBA wings
    • Upside – Tough to judge this from a handful of summer league games, but I just don’t see this kid ever being more than a decent NBA role player

    Of the three games I watched, I was particularly interested in Utah’s matchup with Indiana. The Pacers had the 10th pick in the draft (immediately after the Jazz) and selected Paul George, the player I had hoped the Jazz would take. This was Hayward’s worst game of the summer league. He looked totally outmatched by George, who scored 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and looked every bit the part of a solid NBA prospect.

    As I said, I still believe Utah made a mistake drafting Gordon Hayward with the 9th pick. While my impression of Hayward has definitely improved, I’m afraid passing on Paul George will come back to haunt the Jazz.

    Gordon, PLEASE prove me wrong.


Coach Sloan Press Conference

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Featured Photo
Hey, can you believe neither of us is with the Jazz anymore?