Seven games into the NBA season, all losses, and it’s tempting to believe that something significant needs to change. Such is a good time to take a deep breath, remember that seven games really is just a beginning to a season of eighty-two, and recall that sometimes seemingly small and simple things can produce startling results.
In that spirit, I would like to offer each Jazz player as well as their head coach, Tyrone Corbin, a little advice about a small thing they might consider working on as the season unfolds and they seek to improve. After all, if change is needed (and a winless team should tweak something), who doesn’t appreciate that change being small and simple?
My advice: Lead by making the right basketball play, not the superstar play
Perhaps driven by the Jazz’s decision not to extend his contract, Hayward led the team in shots in the first week plus of the season, at 115 attempts (16.4 per game). After starting slowly, he’s becoming more efficient, going 35 of 69 on the road trip. Even so, those games were clear losses. Hayward is the acknowledged leader of the team, but sometimes he can best use that leadership by directing the ball elsewhere, primarily the post. His 6.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game show he can contribute in other ways. To prove his worth, Hayward doesn’t have win games for the Jazz with elite scoring – he just has to help the team win games with his all around play. Sometimes that means shoot the right shot, other times pass, always defend, and sometimes it even means deferring to someone else. Just make the right play.
My advice: Watch the feet
In the first week+ of the season he averaged 12 points on 41% shooting, 9.6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1.4 blocks per game. Not great, but good and consistent with an average of a double double thus far. To get better, I suggest he make a like a diver and “keep those feet together!” His offensive game is so much more effective when he’s methodical and under control, from his free throws to his post moves. In particular, when he’s close to the basket he has a tendency to compromise his base either by splaying his feet too wide or shuffling. He just needs to settle down. He’s bigger, stronger, longer, and more athletic than pretty much everyone on the planet. If he takes time to maintain his base, everything from the little lefty hook to the power move with a shoulder in someone’s chest will fall all year.
My advice: A pass is better than being blocked… really
Thus far, Kanter has been a superhuman menace on the offensive glass, pulling in nearly 5 a game. The only problem is he’s rivaling that number by the times he’s getting blocked. The Jazz struggle to score (they’re averaging 87.7 points per game, lowest in the league), and the extra opportunities Kanter claims can be extremely important going forward. But taking the rebound straight back up into a waiting defender’s hand isn’t helpful. If there are guys around Kanter, he shouldn’t feel obligated to do his best Al Jefferson impression and slick and trick his way to an unblocked shot. Just pass it out and let the offense run again. He’ll get his shots.
My advice: Be patient using screens
Much of Burks’ production thus far has been Burks getting his own, slashing then finishing with a high degree of difficulty in the lane. Sure, he can do that, but he doesn’t always have to. In trusting Burks to initiate the offense, particularly in the fourth quarter, Tyrone Corbin is also sending more screens his way to help him get open. Far too often, the ISO-prone Burks starts his move well before the screen setter is in place. Alec just needs to wait that extra second for the screen to be set. Not only will it help keep his teammates from getting the increasingly common moving screen foul, but it will help him get better, less contested shots.
My advice: Be both verbose and calm
While it’s unlikely Jefferson continues to get 25.3 minutes of burn a night once Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams are healthy, Jefferson may continue to get minutes this season, thus settling the team with his experience. He can do the same off the court by opening his mouth. Jefferson is a naturally placid person. On a young team that will, almost certainly, endure losing beyond any of its players’ previous experience, Jefferson’s steadiness can be very important. He needs to talk frequently, in groups and one on one with his younger teammates, using his aplomb to ground highs and moderate lows. The young core of the Jazz need to learn to psychologically weather losing without growing accustomed to it, and helping this happen might be Jefferson’s greatest contribution this season.
My advice: Shoot the shots you should, no more, no less
Lucas is living both his dream and a nightmare. The career bench resident has been playing 27.4 minutes a game due to few other options at point guard with Trey Burke injured. What may have him up at night in a cold sweat is how he’s shooting given this opportunity: 33% from the field is bad, but 28% from three is atrocious. If Lucas is going to contribute to this team, it needs to be by spacing the floor and hitting some threes. He’s a career 36% shooter from three; it’s a job he can do given the open shots he gets on a team with numerous better offensive options. Unfortunately, starting in the Houston game he responded to his cold slump from 3 (one of his last 11 at that point) by taking more long two point shots, some difficult runners out of isolation. The Jazz don’t need Lucas to get his own. In fact, they need him NOT to get his own. Instead, they need him to do the one thing his career shows he can do: space the floor and hit the open three. That’s his shot on this team, and he needs to take it and not take too much else. His only chance to earn his keep is to restrain himself to his constructive role in the Jazz offense.
My advice: Get those hands up!
Gobert has been an exercise in the erratic to start his NBA career, as expected. But there’s no question he changes shots anywhere in his vicinity. He’d do so more often if he understood his arms are so incredibly long they can be a defensive factor even when he hasn’t a clue what’s going on (which happens fairly routinely to the rookie). Just the sight of Gobert stretched to his tallest warps an offense’s execution. Too often, Gobert plays with his hands down in the post, looking to time shots and stab upward for blocks. He needs to raise those babies and keep them up! The Eiffel Tower never compromises it’s height, and the Steiffel Tower shouldn’t either.
My advice: Feed the post
Uncle Jamaal has started since the Houston game. The result since: 9 points on 19 shots, 20 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 steal, 8 turnovers, and 10 fouls in 98 combined minutes. He clearly isn’t in either rhythm or shape yet. Hopefully, both will come. Even once they do, Tinsley should not be a major factor on the court this season. But in the time he does get, it would be nice if he’d demonstrate how to pass into the post, particularly when teams front Favors. Hayward, Burks, and, once he’s healthy, Trey Burke will carry the burden of distributing the ball to the team’s two star-in-the-making bigs in the post. As of now, none have shown much aptitude at this. If Tinsley could arrange for a few demonstrations, hopefully the results will reinforce how important this is going to be for the Jazz going forward.
My advice: Play hard without fouling hard (or at least as much)
Harris is looking like this team’s DeMarre Carroll, or the closest available equivalent. But if he wants to maintain a role on the court all year long, he’s going to have to measure his effort and physicality in order to limit his fouls. He racked up 19 personal fouls in his first 108 minutes of play. (That’s more than six fouls per 36 minutes!) When Brandon Rush, Jeremy Evans, Marvin Williams are available, Harris will be severely challenged to earn any minutes whatsoever. In that time he’s given, he needs to offer energy without a disproportionate number of whistles.
My advice: Learn from Alec Burks
Clark played nine total minutes in the first three games of the season combined. I assume he isn’t happy with that allotment, particularly with the team hurting for guard minutes with Trey Burke out with a broken finger. Personally, I wish we had seen a little more of Clark already, and hope he gets more opportunity before Burke returns from injury. But neither Clark nor I determine that – which is where Clark can learn a great deal from Alec Burks. Burks endured an incredibly frustrating season last year, rife with DNP-CD’s and frequent criticism for mistakes when he did play. He responded with patience, hard work, and humility, which has paid off this season with 30 minutes a night and trust from the coaching staff in the fourth quarter While Clark struggles to establish his niche in the league and on the Jazz, periodic sage advice from Burks might help.
My advice: Be a part of the growth, not just an evaluator of it
Corbin’s tenure as head coach of the Jazz has been tempestuous, no question. While the quality of his performance is easy to debate, that he receives frequent criticism from fans is not. When criticized, it is easy to turn defensive, hiding vulnerability and mistakes and projecting strength. This isn’t the season for that. This season is about growth, and all of Corbin’s young players are out on the court, all their growing pains public. But the fans forgive their mistakes because they see them in the context of growth. Corbin should be a part of this process. It’s easy to forget this is only his third full season as a head coach. There is every reason to believe he can improve at his job just as his players can theirs, especially as he no longer has to balance a locker room split between youth and veterans. When talking about mistakes and areas of growth, Corbin should include himself, informing Jazz fans about his own improving understanding and proficiency with his young team. By attributing team struggles to “we” and the successes largely to “they,” meaning the players, not only can he strengthen his relationships with his young team, but he will help fans see his own development pacing that of the players. Who knows, a few fans might even start cheering for him as well.
My advice: Get healthy. And NO BOWLING! (See: Bynum, Andrew)