Salt City Hoops » Jefferson http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Mon, 22 Sep 2014 16:08:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Jefferson http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com Take it to the Court: Playing Ketchup http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-4/ http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-4/#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 16:42:09 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3288 Author information
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Take it the Court is a new weekly column on SCH featuring the arguments, opinions, and random musing of a Utah Jazz fanatic.

D-Will takes a seat (Ravell Call|Deseret News)

It has been a slow posting week for Salt City Hoops – but the Jazz haven’t had the luxury of time off.

The Streak Ends at 7.

On Friday, the Jazz looked flat in the second half against Dallas.  I can’t pretend to know what the player’s were thinking, but it seemed as if they just expected their streak of stellar second-half play to continue.  In the first half, the Jazz were step-for-step, every bit as good as the Mavericks.  But as Jerry Sloan has pointed out so many times in his career, the game is 48 minutes long – and a good half won’t win too many games against the NBA elite.  Bizzarro-Deron showed up on Friday – and put up AK47 type numbers – 12 points, 5 boards, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block (and 4 turns).  While the extra production in steals, boards, and the block might have helped your fantasy team, it was an uncharacteristically poor outing for D-Will, who shot just 30% from the field, including 1-3 from downtown.  Conversely, Dallas looked every bit the serious contender – don’t say we didn’t warn you.  Both D-Will and CJ are products of Dallas and both were Mavs fans growing up.  Dallas’ victory over Utah made Marc Stein a fan, too.

Deron Williams and Point of Hope Assist Santa

(Scott Winterton|Deseret News)

Deron Williams shook off the loss and made the holidays a little brighter for some of Salt Lake’s less-fortunate on Saturday.  Together with his Point of Hope Foundation, D-Will hosted 20 low-income single moms and their 40 kids for dinner (at Flemmings) and gifts.  The Ebeneezer Scrooge in me insists that NBA players only provide this type of charity for the tax write-offs and additional jersey sales.  Deron and his wife, Amy, though, appear to be genuinely happy to use their wealth and fame to do good.  If you’re looking for a good charity this holiday season, consider Point of Hope.

A New Streak Begins?

Compared to this game, AK's hair looks pretty! (Tom Smart|DesNews)

My personal affinity notwithstanding (my pops played college ball with Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins*), a visit from the Grizzlies was just what the doctor ordered.  Sure, the game was ugly.  Big Al and Millsap combined for 19 points.  AK was 1-10, with the sole bucket coming off of a baseline dunk. Deron never really got into the groove – and was hit with 2 quick pesky fouls in the first quarter and another in the second (though he did abuse the much smaller Mike Conley and finished with 27 points and 8 dimes).  The most important stat of the night? W.  Yep. Utah got back to its winning ways.

*For those of you out there that are impressed with completely useless random information, Memphis Head Coach Lionel Hollins (“Train”) spent two years as a Rebel at Dixie State College of Utah in St. George.  He went on to Arizona State University, a sixth overall selection in the 1975 draft, and he even contributed to division rival Portland’s sole championship in 1977 (the first year following the ABA-NBA merger).  Train also earned an All-Star nod in ’77.  His #14 now hangs in the Rose Garden rafters.

LeBron & Company Looking for a Little Revenge

Millsap literally ran all over the Heat (AP)

The Miami Heat come into SLC looking for a little payback.  In what SCH has dubbed “the Greatest Game in the History of the Universe,” the Jazz shocked Miami when Paul Millsap took his talents to South Beach.  After the loss to Utah, many thought the sky was falling for LeBron and company – they lost to the Celtics (for a second time), the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Pacers, the Magic in Orlando, and the Mavs in Dallas.  They’ve since pushed there record to a respectable 14-8.  The Heat boast the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference – but there are SIX teams in the West with better records (Spurs, Mavs, Jazz, Lakers, Nuggets, Hornets) and would be tied with OKC for the 7th spot in the West.  Miami enters tonight’s contest with a wave of five straight victories (and haven’t lost yet in the month of December).  You can be sure that the Three Stooges Amigos will bring it.  I wouldn’t count on a huge comeback by the Jazz tonight – the better course would be to just play all 48 minutes and not let the Heat get ahead.

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Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

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Take it to the Court: Thanksgiving Edition http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-3/ http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-3/#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 16:34:51 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3181 Author information
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Take it the Court is a new weekly column on SCH featuring the arguments, opinions, and random musing of a Utah Jazz fanatic.

Over the past several years, the Utah Jazz have teamed up with the Salt Lake Mission to provide Thanksgiving to thousands of underprivileged Utahns.  Thus, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a sampling of the Utah Jazz as your traditional holiday meal:

  • Turkey: I know you’re thinking Deron Williams as the main course, right?  Guess again…how about Jerry Sloan?  Don’t sleep on Sloan for Coach of the Year, tryptophan notwithstanding.  Surrounded by change (during his tenure, he’s seen different players, management, different uniforms, even a different arena, and later a new arena name), Sloan is as constant as the Thanksgiving turkey tradition.  This Coach won’t let his players nap on defense (or they’ll find themselves camping on the bench).  Turkey is Thanksgiving and Jerry Sloan is the Utah Jazz.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Half Millsap + half Jefferson = one tasty serving of “Jeffersap.”  Night in and night out, these two take turns filling the plates of opposing teams with tasty points and rebounds.  Together, they are the glue that holds the meal together – It would nice to see them both on the table at the same time, but at least we can always count on one or the other. Thru 15 games, the duo is averaging a combined 36 points and nearly 18 rebounds per outing.
  • Gravy train? Here’s where D-Will comes in.  You know that the key to turkey and mashed potatoes is a sweet tasting gravy to tie it all together.  Likewise, Deron is the link between Sloan and his two-headed Jeffersap.  When Williams is hot, he makes Sloan, Millsap, and Jefferson ALL look better.  You can bet that opposing teams wish they could go easy on Williams – just like passing by the gravy at your family feast, overlooking D-Will is a recipe for destruction.
  • Sweet potatoes: How come we only eat sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?  It must be some holdover from a long forgotten era – but it still makes the menu every November.  Raja Bell is the sweet potato in our analogy – a little old school, but the meal just isn’t complete without him.  With Raja on the bench, the defensive difference in Utah’s home loss to OKC was palatable.  Raja hasn’t had a defining game yet, but he makes his teammates better defenders.
  • Homemade rolls: Unless your willpower is stronger than mine (sweet, sweet carbs), you really can’t stop after one serving…just like Andrei Kirilenko.  When AK is playing well, the team wins – plain and simple.  Recall that is was AK’s inspired play that initiated the streak of comebacks.  Pair him up with some Gravy or Mashed Potatoes, even cranberry sauce – and you’ve got a winning combination.
  • Green Beans: Not everyone likes CJ Miles.  I have several FB friends who insist that he is the problem with the Jazz and needs to be shipped away as soon as possible.  And then he knocks down HUGE buckets to keep the Jazz from dropping a close one to division rival Portland, followed by a great showing against the Kings.  I, for one, am a fan of green beans AND CJ Miles.  My only qualm? I don’t want my green beans thinking that it is my gravy.  CJ, I love ya, but this is Deron’s team – you don’t have to be the hero every time you get the ball.  Be content to be a green bean, for crying out loud!
  • Cranberry Sauce: Like it or not, a little bit goes a long way; enter the Utah bench – Fes, Elson, Price, Hayward, Watson [reserve "white meat" jokes about Fes and Hayward for another time].  The Jazz don’t need huge minutes OR huge numbers from their bench players.  Instead, they need small doses of energy to keep things together.
  • Pumpkin Pie: If you don’t finish your meal with a slice of pie with some fresh whipped cream, you’re missing out.  There’s just something about Mehmet Okur [shouldn't HE be the Turkey?] that can put the finishing touches on the Utah season.  Sure, you may think there is no room for pie, but come on, you can always make room for a nice slice of pie – and a silky smooth jumpshot.  Word is, Memo is getting close.

My wish is that each and every reader out there has a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with more food than you can eat and plenty of friends and family to share it with.  From the staff writers of SCH, we’re grateful for you stopping by for the finest news and opinions on the Utah Jazz.

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Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

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Take it to the Court: A Revolving Door League http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-2/ http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-2/#comments Wed, 17 Nov 2010 19:52:03 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3122 Author information
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Take it the Court is a new weekly column on SCH featuring the arguments, opinions, and random musing of a Utah Jazz fanatic.

Eric Maynor takes on D-Will (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last Christmas, in one of its most generous presents of all time, Utah gift wrapped a promising young rookie – Eric Maynor – and sent him to a division rival, the Oklahoma City Thunder.  In return, the Jazz received the rights to Peter Fehse (he of New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig fame).  Fehse was drafted by the late-Seattle Supersonics in 2002, but he never played a minute of NBA ball (never will).  In that same transaction, OKC agreed to foot the insurance bill for Matt Harpring’s injured contract.  Such deals are not uncommon in the NBA – the bottom line is that the bottom line motivates many such moves each year.

In Utah’s Monday night loss, Eric Maynor was not incredible.  Compared to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Maynor looked downright pedestrian.  Still, in only 16 minutes on the court, E-May put up 8 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds (though D-Will and company did bait him into 4 quick personal fouls).

I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been had Maynor stayed in a Jazz jersey.  Sure, Earl Watson and Ronnie Price are adequate back-ups for Deron, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Utah gave up too much in their dispatch of Maynor… would that trade come back to haunt the Jazz at some point in the future?

For better or worse, Eric Maynor is only the latest in a long line of former-Jazzmen who have gone on to successful careers after their time in SLC:

  • Who can forget undrafted rookie sensation Wesley Matthews?  Just last night, he showed Portland that he was worth every penny of his new contract – he put up 30 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a block.  Talk about stuffing a stat sheet.  B-Roy was watching as his understudy went off.  As I’ve said before, I hope the kid has a long and successful career – as long as he’s off when he plays the Jazz.
  • Much to D-Will’s chagrin, Utah shipped off Ronnie Brewer for peanuts last year.  Now, he’s teamed up with Boozer and Korver in Chicago.  The Bulls are off to a 6-3 start, though Korver and Ronnie B. have seen only limited minutes off the bench, and Boozer has yet to get out of his business suit.
  • Carlos Arroyo played 145 games for the Jazz from 2002-2004.  During that time, he averaged 8.9 points and just shy of 5 assists.  In his “break-out” 2003-04 season in Utah, he averaged better than 12 points and 5 assists per outing.  A bit of a journeyman, he had stints in Detroit, Orlando, TAU Cerámica (Spanish ACB), and is now running the point for LeBron and Friends in Miami.  Arroyo’s greatest successes on the court came in international play.  He was the flag-bearer for the Puerto Rican National Basketball Team, as well as named to 2004 All-Olympic Team – the same Puerto Rico squad that beat up on USA’s Nightmare Team.  In PR’s victory over USA, Arroyo contributed 25 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. [Note: USA basketball went on to win the Bronze medal, prompting the reorganization of the team – leading to the current "Redeem Team"]
  • Mo Williams was slated to become one of Utah’s many second round draft steals – selected 47th overall in 2003.  Instead, he played in only season with Utah – averaged 5 points and 1.3 assists in limited minutes.  After a few successful years in Milwaukee, Mo was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and played alongside ‘Bron – even earned an All-Star nod last year (as an injury replacement for Bosh).  Now he’s left to pick up the pieces after the James gang bolted for sunnier weather.
  • Long before DeShawn Stevenson tattooed a backwards “P” on his cheek for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates(?), he tortured Jazz fans with his amazing talent and lackluster effort.  From 2000-2004, Stevenson played in over 200 games as a Jazzman.  He too became a journeyman, and has since spent time in Orlando, Washington, and is currently with the Dallas Mavericks.  Though still plagued with common energy and uncommon ability, DeShawn has had a successful run in the NBA since leaving the Wasatch Front.  Who would have thought that sheer talent (without the accompanying drive) would see this guy last a decade in the league?
  • How many people recall a little fella named Dell Curry sporting a Jazz uniform?  The Jazz drafted the 6’5″ Curry with the 15th overall pick in 1986.  Playing in only 67 games in the ’86-’87 season, Dell Curry went went on to spend 14 more years in the league.  In the 1993-94 season, Curry’s outstanding bench effort earned him a trophy for the Sixth Man of the Year with the late-Charlotte Hornets.  Dell Curry ranks 28th all-time in 3-point field goals made.  Perhaps his greatest basketball achievement?  Siring Golden State phenomenon Stephen Curry.
  • With the third overall pick of the 1982 NBA draft, the Utah Jazz selected Dominique Wilkins from the University of Georgia.  Unfortunately for Jazz fans, cash problems kept them from ever seeing the Human Highlight Film in a Jazz uni.  Several months after the draft, Utah shipped the promising young forward to Atlanta for John Drew, Freeman Williams and cash – the rest is history.  It actually worked out okay for the Jazz – they picked up Karl Malone in the draft 3 years later.
  • If you’ll indulge me, lets go all the way back to the Crescent City in 1974.  Better known for his career pacing the sideline, Rick Adelman played 28 games for the New Orleans Jazz – averaged 6.3 points.  Now the guy makes his living as a Head Coach – having spent time at the helm of the Trail Blazers, Warriors, Kings, and now the Houston Rockets.  Next time he comes to SLC, be sure to show some respect to the former Jazzman.

Only time will tell if recent personnel decisions will come back to haunt the Jazz.  Eric Maynor looked every bit the part of a solid NBA back-up PG in Monday’s loss.  We’ll get our chance to see Wesley Matthews in action this Saturday as the Jazz travel to Portland.  I can’t wait to see the Chicago Jazz take the court at ESA, though we’ll have to wait until February for that match up (long enough for Boozer to be injured a few more times).

It’s a revolving door league – some great players go and some poor players stay.  You can bet, though, like Eric Maynor showed on Monday night – the great players that leave will come ready to play and show their former team that it was a mistake to let them move on.

– –

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

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Take it to the Court: A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-1/ http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-1/#comments Fri, 12 Nov 2010 21:06:55 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2847 Author information
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Take it the Court is a new weekly column on SCH featuring the arguments, opinions, and random musing of a Utah Jazz fanatic.

In the preseason, Big Al Jefferson stated that he hoped to be the “Robin” to D-Will’s “Batman.”  As any kid who has spent time watching Saturday morning cartoons can attest, Robin was never Batman’s greatest teammate.  Recall that Batman teamed up with Superman, Wonder-woman, Aquaman – even Scooby Doo.  For all the arrogance of Ironman (née Tony Stark), his greatest allies were Thor, Captain America, and Nick Fury (to name a few).  Would the X-Men be as popular/successful as the X-man?  For all of Batman’s prowess in policing Gotham, he had greater impact and magnified his influence by teaming up with other superheroes.  So you ask, what do these comics have to do with the NBA?  Observe:

During this off-season, we all watched in abject horror (or amazement) as LeBron announced his decision to take his talents to South Beach. One of the best basketball talents of all time, ‘Bron essentially espoused the Batman model (or, as some may say, the Legion of Doom model) of teaming up with other superheros (Dwayne “don’t call me Flash” Wade & Chris Bosh) in order to chase his championship. As impressive as the Heat experiment has been in the opening weeks of the season, not all is right in south Florida.

As has been discussed ad nauseum (here and elsewhere), earlier this week, Paul Millsap exposed the weakness of Miami’s front-line (I’m looking at you Bosh).  The Jazz somehow overcame a HUGE deficit and 39 points from the basketball-player-formerly-known-as-Flash.  A fluke?  Perhaps.

But Miami’s other losses in the young season (two at the hands of the Boston Senior Citizens, and one to CP3 – the other best PG in the league) demonstrated just what is wrong with throwing a bunch of superstars together…a lack of chemistry.  Against the Hornets, Miami allowed CP3 to put up 19 dimes and 13 points – Okafor posted a double-double – three other players scored in double figures.  In two games against the Shamrocks, Miami has looked the part of the pretender – not the contender that was promised.  In an alpha-dog league, no one is quite sure where their place is in the Heat-pack.

When ‘Bron decided to go to Miami, many (myself included) thought him a coward for teaming up with his “Super Friends.”  What would this mean for the future of free agency?  Would Carmelo and CP3 make good on Paul’s toast to NYC and joining Amar’e with the Knicks?  Was parity in the NBA a thing of the past?  How could the Utahs and San Antonios of the league compete with the NY Yankee model being copied in the NBA  (hard cap)?  Perhaps the league could consolidate into 6-8 “super-teams,” and leave the “average” NBA talent in the D-League (and send the D-Leaguers off to find work in the “real world”).

In today’s megalithic NBA, superstar Free Agents have the ability to demand outlandish salaries.  Granted, the value of a dollar is the same for me as for LeBron James – but what can he buy with $125 million that he can’t buy for $115 million?  Really?  If you have the basketball talents of Kobe Bryant, LeBron, Dwayne (and to a lesser extent, Deron Williams), why not simply pick a home and have your similarly talented friends come play with you?  I’m sure games of H.O.R.S.E after Miami’s practice are much more spirited with Dwayne Wade and LeBron James going at it…I mean really, who wants to face off against Lazar Hayward in Minnesota when you could be playing the King just steps from the beach?

Business as Usual

MJ made it clear that he never would have called up Magic or Bird to from a triumvirate championship monster.  Magic said that he was too concerned with figuring out how to beat Bird to consider teaming up with his rival.  Bird, too.  If you take those comments at face value, you’d think that Magic, Bird, and Jordan single-handedly won championships (combining for 14 ‘chips in 18 years).  For all their contributions to their teams, though, last time I checked, basketball is a team sport…and all three had the benefit of stellar supporting casts.

  • Magic teamed up with all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not to mention another Hall-of-Famer, James Worthy. They had a pretty great Coach, too – Slicked-back Pat (Riley).
  • Larry Legend didn’t do it all himself – he was part of one of the best front-lines in NBA history – surrounded by Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale.  The Celts won the ’86 title on the backs of FIVE future Hall of Famers (the aforementioned, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton).
  • MJ?  His ‘chips never came until Chicago traded away rookie (and future Jazzman) Olden Polynice to Seattle for a former walk-on at NAIA’s Central Arkansas.  Under the tutelage of Jordan and Zen-master Jackson, Scottie Pippen developed into one of the all-time greats.

Forgive me, then, if I find MJ, Magic, and Bird a little disingenuous in their musings about not teaming up with the greats – instead, only wanting to beat the greats.  Surely each of their many successes were aided by the superstars around them.

Here is the key difference, though: MJ, Bird, and Magic had teams that were carefully built by the organization to serve a specific purpose.  Is the union between Kobe and Pau Gasol more holy because it was brokered by management rather than between friends?  You bet.  Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan have earned a spot in NBA lore playing together at the behest of their organization – not in choosing to play with their best friends.  I may be alone in this, but I would trust the championship basketball IQ of Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, and Pat Riley over the IQ of young superstars who can’t see the forest for the trees [Author's note: In Riley's defense, who would turn down LBJ or Chris Bosh?].  Personally, I’d look to Professor X for guidance before asking an unstable, aggressive and emotional Wolverine.

Super Heroes or Super Villains? (Marc Serota/Getty Images North America)

A Superhero Model for Winning Championships?

As all too familiar to Karl Malone (and broken-hearted, betrayed Utah loyalists), simply assembling the best players onto a team doesn’t necessarily lead to the O’Brien trophy.  The Mailman’s foray to Laker-Land with Gary Payton, Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson didn’t result in the automatic ‘chip he had hoped for.  In 2004, a Detroit TEAM made up mostly of Bruce Waynes and Clark Kents ousted their rivals of Batmans and Supermans (err..Black Mamba, Glove, Diesel, Mailman, Zen-Master).

Utah, New Orleans, and Boston have shown the league just what it takes to beat the Heat: playing team basketball (and attacking their weak front line).  Miami is vulnerable.  In the words of Whiplash, Ironman’s nemesis in the recent Hollywood film, Iron Man 2:

If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in him, there will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.

Remember, Miami – for all the advantages of playing on the beach, never forget your proximity to the sharks.

– –

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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Too soon? http://saltcityhoops.com/too-soon/ http://saltcityhoops.com/too-soon/#comments Thu, 11 Nov 2010 17:00:24 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2974 Author information
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Paul Millsap

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SCH Division Preview Hub http://saltcityhoops.com/sch-division-preview-hub/ http://saltcityhoops.com/sch-division-preview-hub/#comments Tue, 26 Oct 2010 21:45:53 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2611 Author information
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New Season - New Logo

The Salt City Hoops staff has been hard at work previewing each of the contenders in the NBA.  Sure the season starts today, but come playoff time, only 16 teams will get to play in the second season – and have a shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy and a place in the hall of NBA champions.  Add the Utah Jazz to this list, and there are 19 teams fighting for 16 spots.  Who will be left on the outside looking in?

We’ve evaluated the key matchups, sounded the high notes and the low notes, revisited (sometimes painfully) the history between the franchises, scrutinized the players and coaches, and given you an outlook for the coming season.  Here, then, to kick of the 2009-2010 NBA season are links to each of those previews:

Atlantic Division: Boston CelticsNY Knicks

Central Division: Chicago BullsMilwaukee BucksIndiana Pacers

Southeast Division: Atlanta HawksCharlotte BobcatsMiami Heat | Orlando Magic

Northwest Division: OKC ThunderDenver NuggetsPortland Trailblazers

Pacific Division: LA LakersLA ClippersPhoenix Suns

Southwest Division: Houston RocketsSan Antonio SpursDallas Mavericks

Be sure to check back during the season to see how we did in our prognosticating!

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Division Previews: Phoenix Suns, Pacific Division – Western Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-phoenix-suns-pacific-division-western-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-phoenix-suns-pacific-division-western-conference/#comments Tue, 26 Oct 2010 19:58:10 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2588 Author information
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

The Once and Future PG Kings

Key Matchups

Steve Nash v. D-Will

This matchup showcases two of the very best point guards that play the game.  Steve Nash is a senior citizen by NBA standards – he’s 36 years old and his résumé includes a 14 year tenure in the league.  If you watch the guy napping on the sidelines while he rests, you’d think he was preparing for the stretcher to come haul him away. Despite his aching back and limited minutes, Steve Nash continues to impress.  Last season, he averaged 16.5 points and 11 assists.  Sure, running mate Amar’e Staudemire bolted for the Big Apple and a huge payday, but in the uptempo Suns’ offense, Nash will literally run circles around opponents and put up huge numbers for such a little guy.  Though Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz run a much more structured offense, D-Will in the open court looks an awful lot like a young Steve Nash: great decision making, court vision, a deadly pull-up J, and the ability to make his teammates better.  Despite the age difference, Grandpa Nash vs. D-Will is always fun to watch.

Robin Lopez v. Big Al

With the departure of Amar’e, Lopez will be forced to play more minutes than last year (he only logged 24 mins/game last year).  This just may be the season that Robin Lopez emerges as one of the better big-men in the West.  In his limited court time last year, Lopez put up more than 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block.  Lopez might be an inch or two taller than Jefferson, but Big Al is much stronger.  Al Jefferson ought to have his way with Lopez in the paint – and should be able to score and rebound at will.  Where Utah wins this matchup, though, is with its bench.  Currently, the depth chart for the Suns at center is anemic – actually, it’s just Lopez (although 6’11” power forward Channing Frye can play some minutes at center).  Utah’s bigs ought to overwhelm the Phoenix front line, especially once Okur returns from his injury.

High Notes | Low Notes

Although Phoenix watched its team dwindle in free agency, it received some pretty nice pieces to fill out its roster.  Setting Suns include the aforementioned Amar’e, Brazilian speedster Leandro Barbosa, and Louis Amundson.  In return, Phoenix acquired Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress.  While the additions appear to offset the key off-season losses, Phoenix is an injury or two from missing the playoffs.

History

Phoenix leads the all-time series 81-71, including a victory over the Jazz in the season finale last year (heartbreaking for Jazz fans).  Recall that the winner of the final game of the regular season would clinch home court advantage and the third seed in the Western Conference.  The loser would be relegated to fifth, opening the playoffs on the road.  In that ever-so-important game, Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder, Carlos Boozer, watched from the sidelines with a strained oblique – the same injury that you get after too many Halloween sweets.  You know the rest.  Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur got into foul trouble, and the Jazz struggled to find their rhythm.  Phoenix went on to win the game, clinch the third playoff seed (and home court advantage) – and fight their way into the Western Conference Finals (only to be ousted by the juggernaut Lakers).  Anyone else wish Al Jefferson was playing in that game instead of Boozer?

Player/Coach Notes

Phoenix’s roster includes four players drafted in the top ten:

  • Jason Richardson – 5th overall by Golden State in 2001.
  • Grant Hill – 3rd overall by Detroit in 1994.
  • Channing Frye – 8th overall by the New York Knicks in 2005.
  • Josh Childress – 6th overall by Atlanta in 2004.

Steve Nash has missed just 10 games in the past 3 years.

Of active NBA players, only Kurt Thomas and Shaquille O’Neal are older than 38 year old Grant Hill.

Outlook

The Jazz will get an early look at the Suns for the Utah home-opener on October 28th.  Unfortunately, this comes on the second night of a back-to-back (the Achilles Heel for past Utah teams).  That first home game has the potential to set the Jazz on course for another solid season at ESA, and start off the back-to-back record on the right foot.  Utah gets its second and third (and final) looks at Los Suns just before the All-Star break with a home and home set.  Phoenix is a bit of an enigma to me.  If they stay healthy and cohesive, they can run with anyone in the league – thought to be outside the playoff race last year, the Suns made a unlikely run to the Western Conference Finals.  One injury to a key player, though, and Phoenix will have to re-tool to compete in a pretty tough Western Conference.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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Division Previews: San Antonio Spurs, Southwest Division – Western Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-san-antonio-spurs-southwest-division-western-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-san-antonio-spurs-southwest-division-western-conference/#comments Mon, 25 Oct 2010 22:00:29 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2553 Author information
Jefferson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Manu and Millsap demonstrate Spurs and Jazz Basketball - If you're not bleeding, you're not playing hard enough. Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Key Matchups

Tim Duncan v. Al Jefferson & Company

Tim Duncan (AKA the Big Fundamental, AKA a quiet, boring, dominant MVP) is getting old.  He’s 34 years old and this will be his 14th season in the league.  For his career, he’s averaged 21.1 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds.  Much to the chagrin of John Stockton and Karl Malone, David Robinson pegs Duncan as the best power forward ever to play the game (for a extended discussion comparing Duncan and Malone, check out this posting).  Duncan is a lock for the Hall of Fame, for sure.  Last season, his numbers dropped a bit, but he still averaged 17 points and 10 boards.  He may be getting old, but don’t count him out – his fundamentals serve him well, on both offense and defense.

In the sweep-clenching game last year, Duncan scored just 14 points (leaving his career point total at 19,999 – he’d pass 20K two nights later against Houston).  In that effort, Duncan went 1-5 against Millsap (for 2 points) and 1-7 against Okur (for 5 points).  Against other defenders, Duncan went 3-3 for 7 points.  Al, Paul, Memo and company will guard Duncan by committee, as usual.  The youth and depth of the Jazz ought to translate to reduced output from the Senior Statesman from San Antonio.

Tony Parker v. D-Will

When healthy, Tony Parker must be included in the discussion of the top five point guards in the league.  Unfortunately, Mr. Eva Longoria watched a good chunk of last season from the bench.  Never finding a rhythm during the year, he posted average numbers – 16 points and 5.7 dimes.  A breakout season may be looming – his contract expires at season’s end and Parker will be playing for a raise. If he stays healthy, he ought to have a pretty decent year.  Playing against Utah in only 3 of the 4 games last season, Parker averaged 21 points and 3.3 assists.  Parker gives up nearly 30 pounds to D-Will, so look for D-Will to work him into the paint and find the open man once the double-team comes.  Deron didn’t dominate him as he could have last year, but he was the far superior play-maker.  If this matchup is decided on the court (rather than by injuries), this should be fun to watch.

High Notes | Low Notes

Age

Like Boston, San Antonio is flirting with the upper-age-threshold for success.  The starting five for the Spurs (Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, and Duncan) combine for 53 seasons of NBA experience.  Granted, there are still some miles on their collective tires, but the tread is starting to wear thin.  Despite their age (or because of their experience), the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Finals last year, only to be swept by Phoenix.

Consistency

This team is good.  The organization is sound.  Coach Pop knows what he’s doing.  The players know that they are on a perennial playoff team that can contend for a title.  Unless their age and/or injuries catch up with them, San Antonio will continue to be a winner.

History

The Spurs lead the all-time series 82-72.  Prior to last season’s four-game sweep on the Spurs, Utah hadn’t won in San Antonio since February 28, 1999.  It was the first season-sweep of the Spurs since 1993-1994.   During that dominance of the Jazz, the Spurs reached Dynasty-Status, winning championships in 1999 and 2003 on the backs of Duncan and the Admiral David Robinson, and ‘chips in 2005 and 2007 with stars Duncan, Parker and Ginobili (“GINOBILI!”).

Player/Coach Notes

Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich are the two longest tenured coaches in the league.  Though the coaching carousel continues each season, the benches in San Antonio and Salt Lake City never seem to change.

Tim Duncan was one of three players to post their 20,000th career point last season.  Joining him in the feat were Dallas’ Dirk Nowitski and Boston’s Ray Allen.

Notorious sixth-man Manu Ginobili will actually start for the Spurs this year.  He started only 21 games last season when filling in for an injured Tony Parker.  Much like Sloan, Coach Pop likes to toy with the line-up.  Don’t be too surprised if Manu returns to the bench, but still puts up starter’s minutes.

Outlook

Many think that the window on their dynasty is closed.  With a elite head coach like Pop and quality, veteran talent, they could still surprise some people this season.  My best guess, though, is that age and injuries will keep San Antonio from seriously challenging in the West once the playoffs roll around.  The Jazz only face the Spurs three times this season (twice in Utah).  I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that San Antonio will steal one from Utah at home (maybe on Jan. 26th after the Jazz fly in late from a game against the Lakers on Jan. 25th?).  Utah showed us last year that it is capable of winning in the Alamodome – Utah takes this series 2-1 this year.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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Jefferson
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Division Previews: Los Angeles Lakers, Pacific Division – Western Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-los-angeles-lakers-pacific-division-western-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/division-previews-los-angeles-lakers-pacific-division-western-conference/#comments Fri, 22 Oct 2010 18:00:44 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2423 Author information
Jefferson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

Back for his second stint in Utah, Raja Bell has the unenviable task of guarding Kobe. (Jae C. Hong, AP)

Key Matchups

Laker Bigs vs. Utah Bigs

As was all too evident in last season’s playoffs, the Lakers are a nightmare to defend down low.  With Spaniard Pau Gasol, Andrew “Injury” Bynum, and Lamar Kardashian-Odom, the Laker-length has proved to be too much for anyone in the league to handle over the last two seasons.  Without sounding insensitive, though, Bynum hasn’t played a full season since 2006-2007 – so chances are he’ll miss some action this year for the defending champs.

The addition of Big Al Jefferson provides Utah some much needed size in the post.  Okur can stretch a defense, but Al isn’t afraid to rumble in the paint.  In order to truly compete with LA, Utah will need big games from Al, Andrei and Paul, with quality minutes from Fesenko, Elson, and Okur (when healthy).  If the preseason means anything (it doesn’t), Utah looked pretty impressive against LA in two road victories.  Utah’s big men held their own in the post – and Big Al seemed to overwhelm the much skinnier Gasol.

Kobe Bryant vs. Anyone and Everyone

Kobe is one of the best players in the league right now. Any discussion centering on Utah and Kobe will undoubtedly begin with Raja Bell.  While Raja is the designated defensive stopper, his attitude will be contagious with his younger teammates.  CJ and AK will take turns trying to stop the guy.  Deron Williams will have a go against him.  Coach Sloan might even throw a rookie or two on him.  Am I the only one that thinks Jerry Sloan would like a crack at him, too?  Limiting Kobe will be a team effort.  In 4 regular season games against the Jazz last season, Black Mamba averaged 5 fewer points than his average (he still put up 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5.3 dimes on the Jazz).  Not surprisingly, Kobe upped his scoring average to 32 points in a four game sweep of the Jazz in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.  I’m not sure there is any way to effectively “stop” Kobe…the key will be to limit his touches as much as possible and make him make the insane circus shots that he’s famous for.

High Notes | Low Notes

There’s not much vulnerability for the two-time defending champs.  The core from the previous two years is intact, and you can bet that LA will continue to impress come playoff time.  One of its self-perceived deficiencies was perimeter shooting…so LA went out and acquired Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.  Not counting the preseason victories, Utah hasn’t won at Staples Center against the Lakers in 16 tries.  On paper, the Jazz can match-up with just about anyone.  At ESA, Utah can compete with the best in the league.  For some reason, though, LA just seems to have Utah’s number.  Stockton and Malone defeated the Lakers in the playoffs in 1997 and 1998 (a sweep).  Williams and Jefferson and company have the precedent…now they need to get it done.

History

LA leads the all-time series 113-68. Utah went just 1-3 last year during the regular season against the eventual champs.  LA has eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.  During that run, LA has won 12 times, with Utah winning just thrice.

Not all is gloomy in the outlook vs. LA.  In preseason play, Utah overcame strong performances from both Kobe and Pau Gasol to win TWICE in California against the full-strength (if preseason) Lakers.  Granted, the preseason means nothing, but the Jazz played well against a full-strength Laker-squad.  If that effort can be replicated in the regular season (or, in answer to Jazz fans prayers, in the playoffs), there is hope.

Deron Williams nicely summarizes the feelings of all of Jazz fandom:

I hate ’em, you know…I hate the Lakers. They’re so good. I hate them because they win all the time. They’re a tough team. … We definitely talk about it. It’s not a secret. We hate the Lakers.”

Player/Coach Notes

Phil Jackson wins championships in threes. 1991-1993, 1996-1998, 2000-2002, [2009-2011?].  While history suggests that the Zen Master is due for his NBA record 12th championship this year, I suspect that Coach Sloan would not concede the season just yet. Sloan’s wins outnumber Jackson’s, but Phil has the rings and a better winning percentage.

Michael Jordan’s recent comments placing Kobe in the pantheon of the top ten all-time greatest-guards was just the type of backhanded compliment you’d expect from his Airness.  Wherever you rank those two, they’re both Jazz-Kryptonite.

Raja spurned the recruiting efforts of ‘Mamba, to return to Coach Sloan and the Jazz.

Kobe also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery (the third time on his right knee) this summer.

Outlook

Let’s hope Kobe and company go overboard on Turkey (tryptophan anyone?).  The Lakers first venture to ESA on November 26th (the day after Thanksgiving).  The Jazz next face LA at Staples Center on January 25, 2011 – the first night of road/home back to back with San Antonio on the back end.  With any luck, LA will play the April Fool – in Utah on April 1st.  The Jazz then travel back to Laker-Land on April 5th.  Expect Utah to win at ESA and challenge for a victory in LA.  My realistic prediction? 2-2 split at home.  If the Jazz have any shot at representing the West in the Finals (optimistic, I know), they’ll have to find a way to get past the Lakers in the playoffs.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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Jefferson
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Division Previews: Atlanta Hawks, Southeast Division – Eastern Conference http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-atlanta-hawks-southeast-division-eastern-conference/ http://saltcityhoops.com/divisional-previews-atlanta-hawks-southeast-division-eastern-conference/#comments Wed, 20 Oct 2010 15:30:42 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=2347 Author information
Jefferson
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In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.

The Million Dollar Man - $119 mil over six seasons (AP)

Key Matchups

The Jazz get an early dose of the Hawks, playing in Atlanta on their first extended road trip of the season – four games against Eastern Conference playoff teams.  After visits to Miami and Orlando, Utah will visit Atlanta on November 12th (on the first night of a back-to-back with Charlotte on the back end).  Atlanta visits Salt Lake City on January 5th during the New Year home stand.

AK47 vs. Joe Johnson

Granted, AK and Joe Johnson play different positions of the floor, and have completely different games.  Still, I’ll be interested to see how Utah’s max contract mistake compares to Atlanta’s max contract man.  In the Summer of LeBron, who would have thought that Joe Johnson would have come away with the biggest payday of 2010?  Joe Johnson is a solid player, to be sure – consistent to say the least [averaged at least 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal in each of his past five seasons].  Johnson’s offensive success comes primarily from isolation plays – Utah can concede 20 points to Joe Johnson, especially if it means keeping the other players uninvolved in the offense.  In the Conference semi-finals last year, Orlando kept JJ quiet (only 12.8 points and less than 30% from the field).  That’s a lot of cheddar for someone who essentially choked in the biggest games of the year for his team.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Kirilenko fan…  I still remember watching his first game in Utah from the nosebleeds in the former-Delta Center. I turned to my Dad and told him that the young Russian was something special. Following the 2004 All-Star campaign, he definitely made a strong case for max money.  His first season after the max deal? Injury plagued – he sat out half of the games.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, and $17.9 million this year seems a little steep for a 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and a block.  AK only played in 58 games last year, but provided some much needed energy off the bench and found ways to contribute when his number was called.  I was worried that the trade rumors might have injured his famously frail ego, but he’s shown quite the opposite in the preseason.  AK has been firing on all cylinders, and if he stays healthy, will have a huge impact this season.  It doesn’t hurt that its a contract year, either.

Al Jefferson v. Al Horford

Standing 6’10” and putting up a double-double in points and rebounds, Al is one tough big man.  Which Al, you ask?  Why both, of course.  Al Jefferson is just a year older and averages a couple more points, but essentially, these two players share many of the same traits.  Al Horford has less experience in the league (he spent some time developing his game with Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer at Florida – and helping his team earn an NCAA championship).  Horford shoots nearly 80% from the free-throw line (Al Jefferson is just 70% from the charity stripe).  Horford has posted better numbers during each of his three NBA seasons.  It will be exciting to see these two mirror each other when the Jazz and Hawks take the court.

How will Al stack up against "Big Al"? (Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

High Notes | Low Notes

The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least in Atlanta.  This Hawks team will look quite a bit like the Hawks teams of the past.  Atlanta is not a great rebounding team – and it does not defend very well on the perimeter.  The core is young, but they have played together in the same system for a while now.  Even with a coaching change (see below), there’s not much different in Atlanta.  While the starting 5 are respectable, the bench leaves much to be desired.  Expect more of the same from Atlanta – a winning team that is simply not built for the playoffs.

History

Utah leads the all-time series 47-38.  Atlanta swept the season series from Utah last year.  Prior to 2010, Atlanta had not won in Utah since 1993 when Dominque Wilkins, AKA the Human Highlight Reel posted 43 points against the Jazz.  AK and D-Will watched that home dominance streak end in street clothes – in what was a very close game.  Joe Johnson scored 11 points in the final frame to overcome Utah’s lead and guide Atlanta to a victory.

Player/Coach Notes

Larry Drew was named Head Coach of the Hawks this summer.  Prior to being named Head Coach, Drew served six seasons as lead assistant to ousted Hawks Coach Mike Woodson – in other words, don’t look for any significant changes due to the leadership change.

Drew is just one of the hundreds of coaching changes in the NBA since Jerry Sloan was named as Utah’s Bench Leader.  In fact, with the retirement of Bobby Cox (GM of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves), Jerry Sloan is now the longest serving coach in all of professional sports.

Former Number 2 overall pick Marvin Williams will start at SF for the Hawks.  Marvin Williams never developed into the all-around player Atlanta had hoped.  I’m sure Atlanta would like to have the 2nd pick in 2005 back – leaving both D-Will and CP3 on the table for the Jazz and Hornets, respectively.

Outlook

Atlanta is mired in the best and deepest division in the Eastern Conference.  Atlanta is a playoff team, for sure, but I’d be surprised if they make it out of the first round in the upcoming year.  As a lower seed in the East, they will likely be paired with Boston, Chicago, Orlando or Miami – all of whom can beat ATL in a 7 game series.  I am not convinced that the Jazz have improved enough on the road to guarantee an early road win in November against the Hawks.  I do know, however, that the Jazz are capable of beating the Hawks – and should win both games this year.  Utah is too deep to allow Atlanta’s starting five to control a game.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [at] gmail [dot] com

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Jefferson
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