With each passing week, the concept of Super Team is looking rosier and rosier. Fans throughout Utah’s base panicked this summer after hearing all about the superfriend’s super alliance. There was a certain contingent that felt if the Heat’s team worked well, guys like Deron Williams and Chris Paul would run from small markets to form their own super groups with other “elite” players. Well, we’re almost half way in, and the Super Team concept has proven to be anything but failure. Sure, they struggled out of the gate losing 8 of their first 22, but since then…. look out. The Miami Heat have now won 9 of their last 10 (Dallas), and 21 of their last 22! I don’t know what Deron thinks when he sees that team, but it makes me nervous. It’ll be VERY interesting to see how they do in the playoffs.
Blake Griffin is the real deal. Have you seen that guy dunk (dumb question since if you’re reading this blog, you probably like basketball, and if you’ve ever even expressed an interest in basketball, then you’ve inevitably been forwarded one of his highlights)? The guy can jump out of the gym, and throw down harder than almost any player I’ve ever seen. I’ve actually found myself flipping over to Clippers games JUST to see what he may do next. Before this season, I’d never flipped to a Clipper game for ANYTHING let alone to see quality basketball. I’m very interested to see how he’ll do in the dunk contest. Blake’s strength seems to be in-game dunking, and it will be fascinating to see him try to build the same type of momentum when he’s not competing head to head with someone.
This whole slow start issue is a weird problem to have. It’s common enough in the league, but most teams that have the issue don’t have a winning record. Those teams start slow, claw back, and eventually collapse. The Jazz, on the other hand, have exceptionally slow starts, but then follow them with mind bending second halves. So in one game you see a team go from the lottery, to top 3 in the west in a 48 minute time frame. Why can’t they bring the intensity of the fourth quarter to the first? From my seat they look lazy out of the gate (I’m looking at you Deron). The team seems to settle for A LOT of ill advised jumpers, while giving a horrendous perimeter defensive effort on the other end. When they play bad teams, it doesn’t really matter, but when they’re up against good perimeter shooters, it can get devastating FAST (read: Dallas). Forget the trade talk, get defensive stoppers out there early and put a hand in shooter’s faces on the perimeter (Hayward?). I think that solves the problem. Either way, I think this is a better problem to have than some, and one that can be fixed with mid-season discipline. I’d rather have a slow start problem, than a “lack of talent” problem, or a “can’t finish in crunch time” problem.
The Lakers aren’t invincible. In their last 10 games they are 6-4, they have been inconsistent at times, and Kobe doesn’t seem to be as lethal as he has in previous years. Don’t get me wrong… they’re still A team to beat, but that Everest doesn’t look quite as insurmountable as it did a couple months ago… especially if Kobe really is dialing down his practice time with the team (and/or has bone on bone issues in his knee, as reported).
The Jazz bench is key to success. I’m not ready to pin it on one guy (like CJ Miles, Earl Watson, or Fes), but collectively they have been the spark plug for the Jazz. Guys like Ronnie Price have fearlessly stepped up to better known, more established vets and shown them that every player is in the NBA for a reason. I love the chemistry of the second unit, and the desire to win. It’s no secret that they’ve saved the Jazz on multiple occasions from these pitiful, slow starts.
I’m really, really liking Fes… as a player. He needs some good minutes in the second half of the year, because the Jazz will need him come playoff time. He had some good moments last year in the playoff’s, but he needs to gain Sloan’s full trust. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a good Memo and a serviceable Fes in any 7 game series vs. the Lakers or Spurs.
I’d rather have a pouty Deron Williams leading my team than a giant-knee-brace-clad Chris Paul. Two things stir up ESPN’s Daily Dime chats more than any other topic: 1) who is the better point guard: CP3, or DWill, and 2) what tastes better on ice cream: chocolate or bacon. For now, the overriding opinion is that Paul is better despite H2H matchups, and durability (I’m called an apologist EVERY time I bring either of those things up). People love CP’s efficiency, and his pizzazz. Time will tell, but my stance will continually favor long term durability and very good efficiency over amazing efficiency over a few shortened seasons.
Can we just collectively decide to rename the Coach of the Year award to the Jerry Sloan Coach of the Year award? Forget giving him the stupid thing, he has become the award. I mean, seriously NBA… this has become one of the biggest, longest running jokes. If we’re not going to change the name, then give him the freaking award while it still means something… the longer you wait, the more it’s going to look like Scorsese’s Best Director for “The Departed.”
The Jazz gelled pretty fast, but they’ve had some rocky moments lately. They’re at a tipping point right now. They need Memo to get back, and play like we know he is capable of. If he does, and can stay healthy, then I think the Jazz have a legitimate shot at a deep run in the playoffs (as currently constituted). With Memo, the Jazz get deeper at the center and PF position, get a scorer who can put the hurt on opposing defenses in a hurry, a bigger spread on the offensive side of the ball (leaving Jefferson and Millsap space to destroy the paint), and add height.
The Spurs are scarier than the Lakers right now. While the idea of facing EITHER in the playoffs is pretty scary, the Spurs have taken things to a new level, and are actually competing as a complete unit. They have discipline, heart, and all the pieces in place to win now. The Lakers are good, but currently they live and die by two or three key players (Kobe, Pau, and Odom). I look down the road, and I forsee more problems for the defending champs then I do for San Antonio.
Oh… and Millsap is ridiculous (one for good measure). He should touch the ball 805 times per game.