The new era of Jazz basketball is a quarter-season old following Utah’s Wednesday night loss to the league’s best team, so any attempt to discern the identity of this squad is probably a bit premature. Still, I can never resist the temptation to check in on a topic that’s an important indicator of play style. Continue Reading…
Archives For Dan Clayton
Goodbye, kids’ backpacks. Ciao, glittery manicures. Adieu, kicking balls into the stands and forcing the kids to fetch them. Hasta luego, rookie rites of passage.
The NBA put an end to the tradition of rookie hazing last week when it sent a memo to teams outlining a long list of hazing and bullying behaviors that will not be tolerated. In response to alleged harassment and racially insensitive behavior on the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the NBA outlawed even the more innocent forms of initiation that many teams employ, including the Jazz (exhibits A and B).
So do we care? There hasn’t been much discussion about this piece of NBA culture going away. In fact, Portland rookie CJ McCollum wasn’t even aware of the memo when TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott mentioned it to him a week later. Here’s some food for thought on the tradition, its merits, its liabilities and more.
The risks – Hazing gone bad
Hazing, like most things, is a phenomenon that exists on a spectrum. Few people try to defend severe types of initiation that include abuse, criminal behavior or psychological trauma. Somewhere way at the other end of the spectrum you have college guys in diapers and NBA rookies in backpacks. But harm can be done even by these innocuous forms.
The first and most obvious risk is that we don’t all have the same sensitivities, which makes it easy for me to think I’m firmly in the good-natured fun part of the continuum when I’m actually crossing the line. That’s what happened in Miami. In his post-suspension interviews, Dolphins guard Richie Incognito has basically said, Oops, I was just having fun with a friend and teammate, and may have gone too far, but I shouldn’t be suspended. (In fact, he formally appealed his team-imposed suspension.)
Another risk is that it could actually erode team trust (instead of building it) and gnaw at a player’s confidence (instead of building it). This last point should be particularly troubling for a team like the Jazz which needs its current rookies to play a pretty impactful role on and off the court. Think about Trey Burke, who sometime in the next month or so will be asked to lead the Jazz’s sputtering offense and try to turn things around. If his peers view him as a punchline because of his veteran-imposed underclass status, can he lead like the Jazz need him to?
Bill M‘s response to this thought on Twitter made me laugh: “If I was Jabari (Parker) or (Andrew) Wiggins on Jazz next year after a 10-72 (season) and JL3 pulled out the Miss Kitty backpack I’d laugh at him… Trey should hand his back.”
Neil added, “Nobody on this team has the the pedigree to pull rank on any rookie.”
Aaron agrees: “I was thinking about this and no way would I carry a pink backpack around. I’ll bring donuts and bagels, and look for a mentor and respect the vets, but no way would I carry the backpack.”
That’s my point about how hazing could actually derail a young player’s legitimacy as a leader. Wouldn’t fans want Burke to arrive at camp and thoughtfully tell the vets, “I’ve thought about it and I need to be viewed as a leader. I can’t be seen that way if I have pink fingernails and am forced to retrieve balls from all over EnergySolutions Arena. Respectfully, I can’t do what I need to do for this team and be your punching bag for the sake of tradition and fun. Now let’s go over those sets together so I can learn them.” Isn’t that exactly the type of response you’d want a franchise player to proffer?
Are there benefits?
Most people who respond to my rants about rookie rites of passage respond with some variation of, “But it’s harmless!” I would argue that harmless isn’t the same as beneficial, and I want to know — are there actual benefits that come from this less rigorous end of the hazing spectrum?
I have talked to players about this before — albeit casually — and the prevailing answer has been that it’s fun for the broader team and an entertaining way to get to know the incoming players’ personalities.
I posed the question on Twitter and got some good responses. The ever-savvy @Lord_Chadeous and I had a lively debate wherein he recalled his initiation week experiences at college. He said the experiences were some of his fondest memories, and pointed specifically to the way the ordeal gets candidates out of their comfort zone.
Other answers I got from the tweeps included building camaraderie, establishing mentor relationships, and giving new players a sense of credibility. Additionally, I found some interesting stuff online about theoretical benefits, including a Cornell study where they looked honestly at the pros and cons of hazing; some of the key themes here were establishing discipline and a respect for the structure of the organization.
All of those answers are probably correct. What I wonder is if there’s a better way to achieve those benefits without incurring some of the risks described above. Yes, it’s fun; aren’t there other ways to have fun as a team? Yes, a culture of discipline can be vital; aren’t there other ways to teach discipline and adherence to a system? Yes, it might bring the group together; Mike D’Antoni and his Laker rookies say that they have been focused on different types of team-building.
And specifically in response to the comfort zone point, I wonder if the time being invested in expanding a player’s comfort zone in completely irrelevant ways couldn’t be applied more meaningfully. I’d definitely like for Rudy Gobert to expand his comfort zone, but I’d rather he expand his offensive comfort level rather than get comfortable wearing pink nails to practice. Does the latter make him a better pro?
Enes Kanter was cited as an example of how hazing actually helped mold a better basketball player. The theory is that his unique big brother-little brother relationship with Al Jefferson actually sped up his learning curve. I’m not sure I buy the premise. Is there any evidence that Kanter would have learned less or at a slower pace if Big Al hadn’t denied him chicken? The man was picked third in the NBA Draft, presumably because he already possessed some basketball skills and a desire to improve; how do know his growth as a player (which, by the way, was fairly modest from his rookie year to year two) has anything to do with Jefferson picking on him in good fun?
I get that the NBA is an exclusive fraternity, and I get that earning your place in an elite club of 400-450 requires building some credibility. But the NBA isn’t just a fraternity; it’s a job, and these guys are professionals.
Imagine you just got hired with a new company because they saw your résumé and skills and thought you were someone who could help the organization reach its goals. You’re excited to contribute and you show up for your first day of work.
You arrive to a group of coworkers that excitedly tells you, “We’re happy to have you, but you have to prove you belong. You’re required to bring donuts every day. We’re also going to throw staplers all around the office and make you run around and retrieve them. Your colleague Joe here will be your mentor and on-the-job trainer, but he will also be allowed to tease you mercilessly and require you to run errands, carry his stuff and tote embarrassing accessories. After about a year of this, we’ll finally respect you as our coworker and our equal, and then you’ll be able to do the same to the next set of new guys. Here’s your cubicle.”
Would anybody stay at that company? I wouldn’t.
Yeah, there are probably some positive things that come out of the more innocuous brand of rookie ribbing: fun, camaraderie, expanded comfort zones, etc. But aren’t there other, more productive ways to team-build that don’t bring the risk of non-productive submission or worse: blatant abuse, like what happened in Miami and other, more severe cases? There are a variety of team-building ideas and methods to welcome new aspirants into the NBA brotherhood other than demeaning them in ways small and large. There are other ways to have fun and bond. Most obviously, there are certainly other ways for a rookie to earn their place in the basketball community that have nothing to do with backpacks and donuts.
To me, it’s just not worth it. Let rookies prove their worth in the 94 feet between baselines, and let teams build camaraderie by actually building camaraderie. We’ll miss the cutesy features about backpacks, but maybe this will make it easier for young players to establish themselves quickly as credible leaders, something that could help the Jazz now and in the long haul.
Today we continue looking at all 15 Jazzmen in terms of their likelihood of being traded between now and June 30.
This is not a ranking of trade value; that list would look a lot different, as will be clear as soon as we crack this list at #15. Rather, it’s a guess on how likely the Jazz are to a) want to move a player, b) have takers for said player, and c) get the right type of assets back to get a deal done.
We already looked at 15 to 6 and some possible scenarios in Part I. Here now are the five most likely Jazzmen to be traded in the next eight months.
These three can only be traded between now and late February, but their status as expiring contracts make that more likely, particularly if the Jazz will take on long-term salary in exchange for assets.
5. Andris Biedrins. With one year and $9M remaining, Biedrins represents the Jazz’s best pre-deadline chance of turning next summer’s cap space into more assets. To do so, they’d have to gamble that they’d get more now than they’ll get in July, but the gamble could net them an extra pick or something similar. If Biedrins could still play some basketball, this would be an easier deal to orchestrate, but it’s been about four years now since there was a carrot at the end of that stick.
Throughout the preseason, the SCH staff brought you JazzRank, a series of player profiles released in rank order of expected basketball impact.
But there are many ways to rank a roster, and today we look at all 15 Jazzmen in terms of their likelihood of being traded between now and June 30.
This is not a ranking of trade value; that list would look a lot different, as will be clear as soon as we crack this list at #15. Rather, it’s a guess on how likely the Jazz are to a) want to move a player, b) have takers for said player, and c) get the right type of assets back to get a deal done. Continue Reading…
There are WojBombs and then there are WojBombs.
Much of Jazz nation spent Halloween with one eye on the candy bowl and the other eye on Twitter, hoping news would surface on the 10 p.m. MDT deadline for the Jazz to extend Gordon Hayward’s rookie contract. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, famous for his breaking news Tweets we lovingly refer to as WojBombs, finally broke the silence… with bad news.
The Jazz and their fourth-year wing couldn’t find mutually agreeable terms in their extension negotiations, so Hayward remains under contract until June 30, at which point he’ll be a Restricted Free Agent. At that point, Hayward is free to negotiate and even come to an agreement with any team in the NBA, but the Jazz will have the right to match any deal he’s offered to retain Hayward.
What does all that mean? Is Hayward bolting? Can the Jazz somehow keep him? The Jazz online & social communities were buzzing with questions all evening, and we’ve pulled some of the most common questions for this special edition Q&A on Hayward and next summer’s Restricted Free Agency. Answers are from Dan Clayton and Andy Larsen.
Why couldn’t Hayward and the Jazz agree to terms?
Simply put, they had different perceptions of Hayward’s value, and given that there was no open market to regulate his price via supply and demand, it got to a point where neither party wanted to accept the other’s assessment of Hayward’s value.
We don’t know the exact figures, but we can piece them together. Deadline day whispers hinted as a Jazz offer somewhere in the $40M+ area, with incentives that could get Hayward closer to his magic number if he hit certain triggers (like making an All-Star team or scoring 20 points per game). We also know from Hayward’s end that the asking price was somewhere less than Hayward’s max deal, because his agent Mark Bartelstein has told multiple sources that they weren’t discussing max deals. A max four-year deal for Hayward would have been around $61M. So that tells us Hayward’s camp was probably asking for something in the 50s. We also know that the two parties were “several million dollars apart” (Wojnarowski again).
My educated guess from absorbing all that: the Jazz were probably willing to beef up their offer but preferred to stay in the 40s, and Hayward’s team didn’t want to drop out of the 50s.
Have you heard the phrase about “knowing just enough to be dangerous”? That’s where we as a Jazz community are right now.
We finally have real basketball to dissect, with the first 48 minutes of the new-era Jazz behind us. This is potentially dangerous ground because, hungry to find meaning, we ought not draw hasty conclusions based on a single evening’s worth of data points. I try to avoid pulling anything too specific from a solitary game, but there were some general themes on display last night.
1. This team has enough talent to compete.
They might not win a whole bunch of games, but Utah’s young core is going to go for it and, particularly at home, they’re going to be in a lot of their games. The final outcome might have been a let-down, but the first night of real 2013-14 Jazz basketball was fun, encouraging and competitive.
Let’s take a look at a couple more general themes reiterated by last night’s game.
The Jazz are days away from their Halloween Eve debut, but I have neither tricks nor treats planned for my last column of the preseason. Instead, I’ll be doling out some free advice to several Jazz players.
I know, I know: it’s a little bit like the guy who hands out toothbrushes or pencils instead of candy. But after watching seven preseason games, I’ve noticed some things that not a lot of people are talking about.
Sure, there are obvious points of development for each Jazz player that we’re all talking about. But there are some more subtle things, too, and some of them represent some fairly low-hanging fruit in terms of ways some guys can improve in a hurry.
What fans are talking about as Favors’ steps to improve: Fans and pundits are rightly worried about Favors’ ability to stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble. So far this preseason, Favors has committed 4.6 fouls per 36 minutes, just a lick under last season’s 5.0. This has an effect on his minutes, but also on his defensive aggressiveness.
What fans should be talking about: But I’m just as worried about another trend I noticed throughout the preseason. Favors is almost always the last one to make it to the Jazz’s offensive end, and sometimes he’s precisely the 13th guy to cross the midcourt line – after all 4 of his teammates, 5 opponents and the 3 zebras. Much has been made of what pages Favors should be taking from Karl Malone’s book, but perhaps the most important note he should take is how many of the Mailman’s 36,928 points came because he simply outsprinted everybody, even on plays where he was the rebounder.
My free advice: There’s an easy extra few points a game to be had just by beating your man up the court.
Editor’s note: This is the seventh in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Marvin Williams is #7.
If you believed the summer 2012 rhetoric about Marvin Williams (and let’s be honest, most of you did), the move to the mountains was supposed to work wonders for the former #2 pick. The story went like this: after settling for seconds on a system-less, iso-heavy Hawks team for seven seasons, the Jazz’s structure was supposed to get more out of Marvin than Atlanta ever got.
And all that might have been true if the Jazz were still the structured, systematic squad we imagine them to be, but Marv didn’t come to that Jazz. He came to the JefferJazz. Continue Reading…
Editor’s note: This is the fifth in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Rudy Gobert is #9.
Enchanté, Monsieur Gobert.
Now seems like the perfect time to get to know Rudy Gobert, who comes in at #9 on Salt City Hoops’ preseason player ranking.
That ranking could be high or low for Gobert; his impact is probably among the most difficult to forecast given a number of factors. First, we’ve heard mixed messages about his readiness level. Second, it doesn’t appear clear yet whether he’s penciled into head coach Ty Corbin’s early season rotation or not.
Here’s what we do know: so far he has played just 17 minutes in the preseason, the least of any of the serious contenders for spots in the 4/5 rotation. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably lead the pack, but even Jeremy Evans’ and Andris Biedrins’ minute totals (62 and 34, respective) suggest that Gobert might be on the outside looking in at the 4-man rotation up front.
In the long run, that might be okay. The Jazz have the option of being patient with Gobert as both a basketball player and an asset. They really only have until February to see how Biedrins can be leveraged as an expiring chip. The reality is that only one of these guys will get a rotation spot. One will be the fourth big, logging 15-20 minutes a night, and the other will wait for garbage time or foul trouble to make his brief appearances.
Whether Gobert is able to wrest minutes away from Biedrins probably depends on these three areas:
- His elite skills: Rebounding, shot-blocking
- Areas for improvement: Below-average athlete, limited offensive arsenal
- Jury’s out: Overall defense, screening
Neither guy has been a factor so far on offense – the end of the floor where the Jazz, so far, desperately need help – but both have been decent rim protectors and rebounders in their limited preseason minutes.
Gobert has averaged a rebound every 3.4 minutes so far in the preseason, which is exactly the rate he boarded at in Summer League. Rebounding and shot-blocking are two stats that Kevin Pelton says translate fairly well into regular season projections, so we’re likely to see a similar rate of rebounds in whatever minutes Gobert logs this season.
That’s good news for Swat Lake City, too: Gobert blocked over 4 shots per 36 minutes in Summer League. If that rate held, he could play just 12 minutes per game and still wind up in the top 20 for blocks per game. That might be his biggest claim right now to unseat Biedrins as the fourth big, although in non-statistical terms, Biedrins’ positional D looks a bit better than Gobert’s right now.
Gobert also has to watch his foul rate if he’s going to earn minutes away from his Latvian peer. The first problem with his foul rate is that he won’t be able to stay in the floor. Right now he’s averaging a foul-out every 17 minutes. But just as important is the impact those fouls will have on his defensive efficiency, since a lot of those fouls come while challenging shots. He’s the type of fouler that’s going to put a lot of guys on the line.
After watching Summer League and preseason, it’s clear that the other type of foul Gobert will struggle with is the moving screen. When you’re shaped like an 86-inch-long string bean, it’s hard to look like you’re holding a straight-up position, and as a result it’s easier for the refs to detect motion when there is little or none. One of Gobert’s top priorities right now should be learning how to set effective, legal screens. If he does that, and continues rebounding at the rate he has held up in July and October, it will be hard for Corbin to keep him chained to the bench.
On offense, his role will be limited. In France, he primarily scored off of cuts and putbacks, which is why he had an extremely low usage rate (he used just 6.7 possessions per game in French league competition, 9.3% of Cholet’s total). He had a crazily efficient 72% True Shooting percentage on those 6.7 possessions because he basically only attempted a shot when he got the ball at point blank range. And as a 60% free throw shooter, you don’t want him going to the line much more than you want Biedrins heading there (although Gobert’s form looks better so he probably has a better chance of improving from the stripe).
The other reality of Gobert’s game that hasn’t been discussed a whole lot is his overall lack of athleticism. He tied for the second-slowest sprint in Chicago last May (behind Kelly Olynyk) and also had the second worst lane agility test (DeShaun Thomas). He also had the lowest max vertical and second lowest standing jump (again, behind Olynyk). You could argue these matter less given his size and length, but the reality is that the Frenchman is a bit slower and more earthbound than his NBA peers on the whole.
At the most broad and oversimplified level, Biedrins and Gobert are actually similar players right now. Both are good rim protectors (albeit in different ways) and neither guy is going to do much on offense other than shoot ducks in the proverbial barrel. So who plays those minutes now probably depends on whether the Jazz are more interested in realizing Gobert’s potential or preserving Biedrins’ value as an asset. Both are noble pursuits, but I think they may opt for the latter since there’s a tighter clock on Biedrins’ trade possibilities..
Either way, we’ll get glimpses of Gobert all season and his elite NBA skills (rebounding and shot-blocking) will likely have us asking for more.
One preseason win doesn’t mean hardly anything, but try convincing me of that at 9:30 p.m. on October 11, 2003. You couldn’t.
That was the night, exactly a decade ago, that I covered my first game as a beat writer for Utah’s Mundo Hispano newspaper, a now-defunct local publication. Mundo hired me, basically for gas money, to cover a Jazz team with some Latino talent. The editor would request access on my behalf and, if all went well, the first game I’d cover as a paid journalist would be preseason contest #2, the Seattle Sonics visiting the suddenly starless Jazz.*
The erstwhile Jazz PR crew granted Mundo‘s credential request but forgot to assign me a seat. They told me to find any open spot for the night and I, mostly oblivious to the fact that the Delta Center media sat anywhere else but the courtside rows that have since been converted to luxury seats, slid into a second-row seat, just behind Hot Rod Hundley’s spotter. From that seat, I watched the Jazz ignore predictions of how historically awful they would be and inject some hope into a town that Hall-of-Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone had just left.
I thought about that game a lot as the Jazz opened their preseason with a 101-78 win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Almost ten years to the day after that game, the exhibition Jazz again tempted hope in the face of similarly low expectations.
Setting the Stage: October 2003 at the Delta Center
The Jazz played mostly from behind in a tight fourth quarter, but a Mo Williams jumper made it just a one-point deficit (89-88, Sonics) with just over a half minute to play. After a missed shot by Seattle, Mo actually had a chance to take the lead, but missed a layup. Andrei Kirilenko secured a second shot opportunity with just seconds to play, but Reggie Evans stripped the ball away, leaving the Jazz to foul.
Only a second remained when the Jazz recovered Evans’ second miss and called a timeout to advance the ball. During that timeout, you couldn’t tell it was “just” preseason at all — except for the fact that superstar Ray Allen had been sitting since 5:52 in the 4th. The anxiety in the arena over what might happen next was palpable. The stakes were lower, I suppose, but at the same time they really weren’t; here was this team picked to win eight games all year that was out to prove that the basketball world had it all wrong. I guess that’s why the next play is one I still vividly remember a decade later.
Matt Harpring checked back in for Ben Handlogten to inbound. There was a screen set on the side of the key for Raja Bell to pop out for a catch-and-shoot. That’s all Bell would have time for, but that’s all he needed. The shot dropped, the Jazz won, and a sheepish kid reporter who grew up watching Jazz basketball tried to hide his ear-to-ear grin among the cadre of veteran reporters he quite accidentally surrounded himself with.
The Jazz won seven of their eight preseason games that year, and none of those were the reason the team would contend for a playoff spot and ultimately secure a winning record. But you could sense that night that people might have gotten it wrong when evaluating this makeshift roster with its brilliant coach.
Back to the Present: October 2013 at EnergySolutions Arena
Once again the Jazz headed into a preseason game amid unflattering forecasts for their upcoming season. In fact, hours before the game, Vegas linemakers updated the over/under for the Jazz, deciding that 28.5 wins was too high for this team and changing it to 27.5. That’s more than the eight-win prediction from before, but it’s hardly the feedback you want to get precisely as you’re tightening up your laces for the first exhibition game.
As it turns out, the oddsmakers didn’t bother them. The Jazz overcame a clunky offensive start and rode their bench to a double-digit halftime lead. Six players reached double figures, including rookie Trey Burke, but more impressively, the team defense held Golden State to 32.6% shooting.
In another quirky parallel to a game ten years prior, just in front of me sat a good friend making his own media row debut. Like 2003 me, Andy Larsen had already been a part of the Jazz media community for some time before donning his press pass on Tuesday, That made him no less giddy about the work of covering a Jazz game, something he later said was “an amount of fun no human being should be allowed to have.” I remember that feeling, Andy.
At any rate, the Jazz are in a reminiscent position, fresh off a convincing win that has people momentarily forgetting the bleak forecasts. But is the 2013-14 team ready to continue surprising like their decade-ago counterparts?
How to Replicate a Miracle
If the Jazz want to prove the experts wrong and have a Cinderella campaign, they have a model to follow right in their own history. Having covered the surprise squad of Kirilenko and Harpring myself, here are some things the Jazz need to do in order to repeat some auspicious history.
First thing is defense. That Jazz team had the 19th ranked offense in the NBA that year, but stayed in games because of its above-average defensive numbers. That’s quite amazing when you look at the list of mediocre big men who were shuttled in and out of the starting lineup all year.
The Jazz also led the league in rebound rate that year, and they hit the offensive glass at a rate that nobody since then has equaled. Seriously, their 34.1% offensive rebound rate is the best in the last 10 years. There are many paths to NBA success and some teams are good specifically because they get back on defense at the expense of offensive rebounds. But when you’re a below-average offensive team, squeezing some extra life out of a possession is very valuable.
Depending on inexperienced point guards like today’s Jazz, the 03-04 Jazz team actually didn’t get great play from its PGs – but they did get them to play within their limits and effectively. The team finished in the bottom third of the league for assist percentage and tied for second-worst in turnover percentage, but both Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez managed True Shooting percentages above 50%. That tells you that if Burke focuses on playing efficiently, this year’s Jazz can survive his rookie learning curve.
Perhaps the most important lesson the 2003-04 Jazz have for their current-day counterparts is offensive balance. Lacking a go-to scorer, that team depended on an offense-by-committee approach. An impressive 12 players scored at least 10 points per 36 minutes, and nobody took more than Harpring’s 13.2 FG attempts per game. While today’s Jazz would love for a natural scorer to emerge, they’re probably better suited for the equal opportunity approach. They appeared to get that on Tuesday, with seven players all finishing between eight and 14 points and with no one player accounting for any more than 13% of the team’s used possessions (Burke and Burks).
It was hardly a starless team, though. Kirilenko’s Win Shares were elite at 11.6. To put it in perspective, if you dropped his WS into last season, he’d be behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and James Harden. So the Jazz probably need someone to step up and lead them if they intend on another surprising year.
And the other star of that team, of course, was Jerry Sloan, who probably did the finest coaching work of his career that season. Despite his flaws, Sloan was able to get the most out of his entire roster: not just Kirilenko and Harpring, but also guys like Michael Ruffin and Aleksandar Radojevic. In a way it’s unfair that Ty Corbin will be judged against the bar of a Hall-of-Famer’s best season, but the reality is that he has more to work with than Sloan did 10 years ago and can answer a lot of questions by putting the puzzle together and surpassing some expectations.
There’s a good chance that Tuesday’s game has very little to do with the one I attended ten years ago, and that it winds up as merely a footnote to a bumpy season for the transitioning Jazz. But if we’re to remember the blowout of the Warriors as a harbinger of a team unexpectedly ahead of schedule, they can take some notes from the group I first covered. Defense, extra possessions through rebounding, balance, coaching and Burke playing within himself are probably the salient lessons coming out of the time machine from a decade ago.
* I had covered one game before – as an amateur writer who won Deseret News‘ 2001-02 “Cover a Jazz Game” contest. Before that, I was studying PR and had no intentions of heading into any kind of journalism, but as I shadowed Tim Buckley and Brad Rock for the night, I caught the bug and decided I would surely be back. Oddly enough, that game was also against the Sonics. I got to watch Stockton and Gary Payton battle it out and then headed to the locker room where I conducted interviews with, among others, Stockton (extremely gracious), Malone (intimidating as hell) and Greg Ostertag (hilarious, in a not-for-print sort of way). Then I worked for Spain’s Marca as a correspondent for a year, but my job at that point was to cover Lopez, who didn’t play in 2002-03. So the game in question was my first game as a paid journalist.