Salt City Hoops » Kyle Hunt http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:12:43 +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 » Kyle Hunt http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com How Steph Curry Stole the Show http://saltcityhoops.com/how-steph-curry-stole-the-show/ http://saltcityhoops.com/how-steph-curry-stole-the-show/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 21:21:55 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10211 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Flickr photo by Keith Allison

The Jerry Sloan retirement ceremony I attended at Energy Solutions Arena on Jan. 31 caused me to reflect on a number of painful truths, including how far the Jazz have fallen in just a few years.  Yes, the Jazz are focusing on “growing with the draft” in the future, but I couldn’t ignore what was staring me in the face during their contest with the Golden State Warriors.

The retirement ceremony itself was nothing short of memorable, but as Craig Bolerjack took control of the mic and spoke of the impressive coaching and playing career of Jerry Sloan, I felt as though the entire arena was being asked to shut a coffin on the once immensely talented Utah Jazz franchise. I felt emotional when the crowd erupted in cheers as Bolerjack passed the mic to legendary Jazz men Karl Malone and John Stockton to speak a few words of affection to their former coach. After a momentary pause to let the feeling sink in, I instantly found myself yearning for a return to the old days. I then realized the career achievements of Jerry Sloan (seventh best winning percentage in NBA history, six division titles, two NBA finals appearances, 16 consecutive winning seasons, eleven 50-win seasons, 17 trips to the playoffs, and the fourth most wins of all-time), were associated with another time period that was long gone. I had been there for the brightest days of the Utah Jazz, and suddenly the future appeared grim.

If the retirement ceremony wasn’t enough to persuade fans of the descending gloom, the performance of Stephen Curry was surely enough. I’ve had the opportunity to watch some of the greatest players in NBA history pass through ESA over the years. I’ve seen CP3 and Jason Kidd pick apart the Jazz defense; I’ve seen Kobe Bryant singlehandedly propel the Lakers to victory over the Jazz in a playoff game; I saw Grant Hill before all the injuries, and I’ve seen arguably the greatest player of all-time from row eight—Michael Jordan. I’ve also witnessed “Stockton to Malone” in real life. All of these moments were memorable in their own way, but watching Stephen Curry was something else.

Stephen Curry is slightly different than the other all-star caliber players in the NBA today.  Whereas a Lebron James immediately astonishes you with physical prowess and a Kevin Durant impresses you with wingspan and grace—Stephen Curry does neither of those, and yet he still knows how to dominate a game. He’s crafty, witty, shifty, and he knows the game of basketball inside and out. He’s just a regular kid that looks like he just graduated from high school, but his play speaks for itself. If you haven’t seen this kid play much, I assure you you’re missing something spectacular.

When I took my seat just behind the Warriors bench, I had a feeling I would witness a special performance. In the first quarter Curry came out firing like he always does, hitting a few quick 3 point shots and already progressing into double figures in points before the beginning of the second. He then, somewhat quietly I might add, cruised his way to more than 30 point by the end of the third quarter using a combination of off-the-ball screen curls, step back moves, crossovers, and pick and roll plays. Then, when the Warriors needed him most late in the game, Curry finished off his clinic with another fantastic array of 3 point bombs and underhand scoop shots to end the game with a whopping 44 pts. As I watched him play the Utah Jazz defense like puppets, I thought to myself, “where is our Stephen Curry?”

Maybe Utah’s Stephen Curry is Gordon Hayward. Maybe it’s Trey Burke. Maybe it’s Alec Burks. Or, maybe Utah’s Stephen Curry is not on the roster right now. Stephen Curry is a premier talent, but when he came out of college everyone said he’s too small, too frail, and not athletic enough. Now he’s an NBA All-Star, the Warriors are actually a decent team, and the Jazz are near the bottom of the NBA.  It’s obviously difficult for the Utah Jazz to attract top-tier talent, but clearly something needs to change. They already gave a huge paycheck to Derrick Favors. Is Gordon Hayward heading for a similar paycheck? If so, is it the right move?  I don’t know the answer to those questions, but for now I can only wish the biggest problem facing the Jazz this offseason would be deciding how much to pay Stephen Curry. Plain and simple, Steph stole the show.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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JazzRank #11: Richard Jefferson http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-11-richard-jefferson/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-11-richard-jefferson/#comments Thu, 10 Oct 2013 17:38:46 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7832 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Not everyone is privileged enough to reach stardom in the NBA. For every Lebron James and Kobe Bryant that are able to easily mesmerize crowds with an array of nightly acrobatics, there are millions of young men who play out their final game in a high school gym and hundreds more that sit at the end of an NBA bench for the duration of their careers. Only a select few players actually endure draft day with a smile, end up on a roster after training camp, secure a role as a starter, and through good fortune, enjoy a few all-star appearances. Any professional athlete will tell you it takes more than natural talent and pure luck to make an impression in the NBA, but even for those who actually achieve the status of “superstar”, the moment can pass in an instant.

After a strong collegiate career, NBA All-Rookie second team honors, two straight NBA Finals appearances, passing Kerry Kittles to become the second all-time leading scorer in Nets history and finally enduring an end-of-career crisis, Richard Jefferson arrived in Salt Lake City to finish out what was once deemed an impressive career. No one cares much about Jefferson’s arrival today, but if this acquisition would have been made years ago, the Mayor might have shut down the city and thrown a parade. In his best years, Jefferson averaged over 22 points per game and around 7 rebounds. In 2012-2013, no one on the Jazz achieved numbers superior to those of Richard Jefferson’s prime. In fact, the only player to come close was everyone’s favorite—Big Al Jefferson (no relation to Richard), who averaged 17.8 points per game on 15 field goal attempts per night. What’s more impressive: Richard Jefferson scored more with fewer shot attempts.

If you’ve followed NBA basketball for some time, you probably remember the old days when Richard Jefferson could get to the hoop at will and use his exceptional athletic ability to finish at the rim even with multiple defenders blocking his path. He wasn’t the best shooter and didn’t have the most refined skills, but he still managed to put up all-star numbers, even though he was never recognized for it. He contributed heavily to the success of the New Jersey Nets in the early 2000’s, propelling them to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 with the help of Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, and an often injury-plagued Kenyon Martin.

Yet people still throw flak his way, saying he was never a superstar because he didn’t make an all-star game. This might be a fair argument if it weren’t for the group of talented players that epitomized the mid 2000’s and surely stood in his way. There is Tracy Mcgrady, who averaged nearly 30 points per game for the better part of the decade; Vince Carter, who averaged about the same amount of points as Jefferson, but was a clear fan favorite; then there’s Paul Pierce, Dwayne Wade, Gilbert Arenas and Lebron James—four remarkable players who singlehandedly achieved great things with mediocre teams. When you put it that way, Richard Jefferson never had much of a chance. Once the late 2000’s hit, a combination of injuries and loss of self-esteem transformed Jefferson into nothing more than a shell of his former self—a self we wish he could reconnect with this year, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit will never occur.

As I think about what this upcoming season can bring, I recall a Richard Jefferson moment I had last year. Though the Warriors were winning by a large margin at the end of a playoff game, Jefferson still remained on the bench. The cameraperson seemed to be just as entranced as I was, because he repeatedly shifted the focus to Jefferson sitting apathetically on the bench.  I had already lost interest in the game, so I began to reflect on the great moments of his career. I remembered his potential when he came out of the University of Arizona. I reflected on his strong play during the early years, and then I remember seeing him decline after jumping from New Jersey, to Milwaukee, to San Antonio, and then to Golden State. Suddenly I found myself caught up in what he could have been in the latter portion of his career, and I wondered what went wrong.

From where I’m sitting, it’s difficult to tell if the Richard Jefferson sitting on the bench today is even aware of his own situation. He doesn’t look a day over 24, except when I look into his eyes. The eyes, like no other human feature, never fail to show what a man truly feels inside. In this moment, they tell me everything I need to know about how far he has fallen. As I look into his eyes I see the promise of youth, the agony of coming so close to glory, the regret that accompanies unmet expectations, and finally the humiliation that comes with rejection. I feel his lack of confidence, and seeing his regret causes me to reflect on my own. So right now, I want Richard Jefferson to succeed. Even if it’s just for one season, I want him to prove all the critics wrong, to silence the doubters, and be the Richard Jefferson of old so he can walk away from the game with dignity.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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A Few Players the Jazz Would Love to Have Back http://saltcityhoops.com/a-few-players-the-jazz-would-love-to-have-back/ http://saltcityhoops.com/a-few-players-the-jazz-would-love-to-have-back/#comments Sun, 22 Sep 2013 21:44:50 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7742 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Everyone makes poor relationship decisions at one time or another. Whether it’s letting an unhealthy relationship go on too long or cutting a good thing short, we’ve all experienced the feelings of relief, nausea, and confusion that directly follow a breakup. Sometimes you end a relationship because it’s truly for the best, but other times you regret the decision almost as soon as you say “goodbye”.  Interestingly enough, relationship mistakes are just as common in professional sports as they are in the dating world.  No one will soon forget the famous “Curse of the Bambino” that resulted from the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth, or the Oilers parting ways with Wayne Gretzky, or the Oklahoma City Thunder refusing to pay James Harden his money last summer.

If you think about it, the Jazz have also made their share of relationship mistakes over the course of their history. Some of their dismissals have been applauded, while others have left a painful sting that won’t soon diminish. It’s never easy to find a player who puts up consistent numbers, but once you do, you need to hold onto them like the whole future of the franchise depends on it—because it does. As Jazz fans, we’re not torn up about parting ways with players like C.J. Miles, DeShawn Stevenson, or Kosta Koufos, but we do care about the ones that actually made an impact. If the Jazz want to avoid vetting their roster of talented players unnecessarily, someone needs to point out where they went wrong. To help with this, I’ve compiled a list of the players the Jazz should have never let go.

  1. Deron Williams - This is complicated. Clearly Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams had a strained relationship, but looking back, couldn’t someone figure out a way to mend it? Deron Williams is the best player the Jazz have seen since Stockton and Malone and the only one to take the Jazz past the first round of the playoffs since that era. During his career in Utah he averaged over 20 points, 10 assists, and 1 steal per game. There is no doubt in my mind Williams could have done great things with the young team of today. I heard recently that Williams actually endorsed Sloan for the Nets head coaching job after they released P.J. Carlesimo. Now that Sloan is in Utah again, couldn’t we work something out?
  2. Dominque Wilkins - Unfortunately, the Jazz didn’t even give this one a chance. Utah drafted “The Human Highlight Film” with the third overall pick in 1982 but shipped him off to Atlanta the very same day.  Just imagine ‘Nique performing his nightly acrobatics in a Jazz uniform. In his glory days, Nique averaged nearly 30 points per game and just over 6 rebounds.
  3. Kyle Korver - Say what you want about his rock star hair, but Kyle Korver can shoot lights out. In his final year with the Jazz, Korver averaged 53% from beyond the arc – setting a single season NBA record. He also currently holds the 12th position on the list of all-time leaders in 3 point percentage, in addition to his 87% average from the charity stripe. How did the Jazz allow Korver to leave as a free agent?
  4. Al Jefferson-Granted Big Al and Korver both left as free agents, but the Jazz could really use Jefferson’s strong post play and consistent rebounding in 2013-14. In his three seasons with the Jazz, Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. On a team filled with young talent, Big Al would have been a much needed veteran presence and a nightly scoring threat. Hopefully someone else can step up in his stead, or else…

 

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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One Movie Line That Could Change History for the Utah Jazz http://saltcityhoops.com/one-movie-line-that-could-change-history-for-the-utah-jazz/ http://saltcityhoops.com/one-movie-line-that-could-change-history-for-the-utah-jazz/#comments Sun, 15 Sep 2013 23:20:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7657 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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The movie I’m thinking about is definitely one of the most popular sports flicks of all-time, though If you’re like me, you probably haven’t watched it more than once or twice in your entire life. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m certain you’ve at least heard the most famous line—the line that echoes throughout the story—a line that could set the Utah Jazz on a course for bigger and better things in the future if they heed its underlying message. The line goes like this—“If you build it, he will come.”

The line is simple, somewhat vague, but strikes straight at the heart of anyone who has watched the popular baseball film, Field of Dreams. In the film, a voice repeatedly utters that phrase to Kevin Costner’s character to urge him to build a baseball field so his father, along with the old Chicago White Sox, can have a place to play baseball. At the surface level, it doesn’t seem like this quote could possibly mean anything for a Jazz team that is not even slightly concerned with the world of baseball. However, I’ve determined the repetitive message in Field of Dreams can apply to the Jazz just as well. If I was in fact interpreting this quote for the Utah Jazz today, I would say—If you can continue to build on the talent already present on your roster, eventually you will land a true superstar that can take the franchise to the top. After all, every team needs a superstar to win.

The thought first hit me while I was tuning into SportsCenter the day Dwight Howard fled Los Angeles for Houston. I suddenly realized that every team needs a superstar to win. And not only to win championships—just to make the playoffs year in and year out. You can apply that knowledge to any situation in professional sports, including the situation the Jazz are facing at this very moment. Let’s be honest—the Jazz haven’t consistently won games since the Williams and Boozer era, when they had not one, but two superstar players on their roster.  Looking back at history, can you think of any teams that have come close to a championship without at least one unbelievably talented player with all-star credentials on their roster?

Every team on the list had at least one future Hall of Famer, and in many cases two or three. On the other side, the Jazz have struggled to find their identity after losing Malone, Stockton, Boozer, Williams, and more recently—Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, who left as free agents just a few months ago. That being said, being forced to move on without veterans in the here and now does give the young talent an opportunity to build something special, and hopefully down the road, acquire some better talent. I hear Lebron James becomes an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of next season. You never know. “If you build it, he will come.” Right?

Now comes the point where I might take some flak from hardcore Jazz fans. I’ve dreaded saying this, but I don’t think we have any potential league superstars on the current Jazz roster. Keep in mind this is not the fault of the Jazz front office. They do manage to attract talented players here and there, despite Salt Lake City’s utter lack of appeal in the eyes of the NBA’s elite. But if the franchise really wants to win in the long-term, management eventually needs to bring in something better. Who do the Jazz have on their current roster?

Gordon Hayward—An extremely talented player who still seems to struggle taking over as a leader.

Enes Kanter—Unproven and already dealing with injuries.

Derrick Favors—a defensive juggernaut who has yet to prove much offensively.

Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams—Nearing the tail-end of their careers and will likely contribute close to nothing this season.

Alec Burks—Has potential, but probably not superstar potential.

Trey Burke—Can he really carry a team without a legitimate superstar in the mix?

I know it might be a little early to tell what this young Jazz team can really do, but I think it’s safe to say they’re still missing a few pieces to the puzzle. The best thing the team can do next season is play well enough together to make waves. Once the waves begin, maybe the whole team in unison will hear that soft, muffled voice, “If you build it, he will come.” I’m still not exactly sure who “he” is, but I sure hope it’s someone who can be that superstar to take the team to the next level.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Great Moments Get Remembered and Legends Never Die http://saltcityhoops.com/great-moments-get-remembered-and-legends-never-die/ http://saltcityhoops.com/great-moments-get-remembered-and-legends-never-die/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:16:43 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7529 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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I remember holding my breath and leaning against the back of the couch for a moment, just to let the feeling settle in.  It’s not a usual occurrence, watching a defining moment of athletic greatness live on television. Did the shot actually go in, or was I imagining something? I continued to feel a mixture of emotions as I stared at the 24 inch TV set resting on an old entertainment center in the corner of my dusty living room. The feeling was new, but somehow it felt old, like when you feel the first chilly sign of winter creep down the back of your neck in late November.  John Stockton, one of the greatest players of all time, had not quite finished his series of celebratory embraces after knocking down a deep three point shot to advance the Jazz past the Houston Rockets and into the 1997 NBA Finals. I on the other hand, had never felt more shock, awe, and thrill in all of my life.

I’m 26 years old and a writer now, though I still reflect on the memory of that day in May 1997 when I began to appreciate the greatness of John Stockton as a 10 year old boy. In many ways it’s the highlight of the sports moments I’ve experienced in real time, though I’ve witnessed quite a few memorable moments in my day. I rushed the field when Max Hall defeated the University of Utah with a last second bomb at Lavell Edwards Stadium in 2009, I spilled a bowl of popcorn on my mother while watching the infamous Boise State hook n’ ladder against Oklahoma University in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and then there’s John Stockton’s shot on Houston in 97’—perhaps the most precious memory of all.

People often tell me that game meant nothing, but I couldn’t disagree more. Of course we all know the end verdict—The Jazz came out of the Western Conference Finals triumphantly only to have their hopes dashed by the greatest player of all time accompanied by his band of misfits, the Chicago Bulls. But though the finals series ended in disappointment, it still solidified Stockton as a legend in my mind. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized what John Stockton meant to the Utah Jazz, as a franchise and as a community. Before then, the reality that we laid claim to one of the greatest point guards of all time hadn’t completely sunk in. Even now I think it’s quite possible that Stockton’s steal and assist records will never be surpassed, even by some of the up and coming stars. Many have tried, and more have failed.

Looking back, I don’t mind so much that the Jazz lost the subsequent series to the Bulls. They were clearly outplayed by a better team and a leader who lived and breathed winning. Of course at the time I thought the finals appearance in ’97 was the beginning of a bright future. I pictured the Jazz and the Bulls playing in the finals for years on end, with each team raising multiple championship banners, but it was not to be. Even though the Jazz never quite climbed to the top of the ladder, Stockton’s shot in ’97 taught me an important lesson about legends. It taught me that sometimes it doesn’t matter how it all ends. Sometimes a second of greatness played out by a legend like Stockton helps people reaffirm their love for the game of basketball. That’s all that really matters in the end, right?  The legends have a tendency to turn our attention to the joy sports can bring. When you witness a moment of greatness, it’s something you talk to your friends and family about at a dive burger joint 40 years later. You remember where you were the day John Stockton sent the Jazz to their first NBA finals. You remember what it meant to you—what the game itself means to you.

I felt a part of that ’97 Jazz team like I’ve never felt connected to a team ever before or ever since. The Jazz were my team from the early days of my youth, through adolescence, and finally into adulthood. I could name off their complete roster from top to bottom in under 20 seconds. When I imagined myself as an NBA player, I thought of myself as Stockton.  I wanted to be quick, witty, crafty, unselfish, and intuitive, just like him. Though I never made it to the NBA, watching Stockton’s career unfold helped me see the way the game should be played. It also taught me to cherish every sports moment and love the game no matter what joy or frustration came as a consequence of being a fan. After it happened, I never wanted to let go of my love for the sport or the memory of the moment.

Right now I’m 10 years old, watching Stockton hit a game winner in 1997. Did the shot actually go in, or was I imagining something? The feeling is new, but somehow it seems old, like when you feel the first chilly sign of winter creep down your neck in late November. I see the shot drop into the basket and Stockton leap into the air. As he finishes his series of celebratory embraces, I let the moment sink in. As a basketball fan, it’s one of those moments I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I stare for a second more and then shut off the dusty television set. When it clicks off, I’m 26 again, trying desperately to hold on to one of the greatest sports moments I’ve ever witnessed.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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5 NBA Free Throw Routines Worth Remembering http://saltcityhoops.com/5-nba-free-throw-routines-worth-remembering/ http://saltcityhoops.com/5-nba-free-throw-routines-worth-remembering/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 00:52:12 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7597 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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If you think about the greatest NBA free throw shooters of all-time, you’ll notice a few attributes in common. As is customary with any great athlete, they’re usually the first player to arrive at practice and also one of the last players to leave. They spend hours of time mastering the fundamentals and form of the free throw shot so they can shift to auto-pilot as soon as they step to the line. But the greatest free throw shooters of all-time not only master the physical portion of a free throw, but also the mental, which at times includes using a quirky routine to dull the pressure and boost confidence. When we witness these wacky free throw routines as fans, often our first instinct is to panic. We first let out a muffled yelp, then attempt to put our hand through the television and slap the player on the face for looking so ridiculous in an NBA game. Once the shot arches up and drops in however, suddenly the panic is replaced with admiration. At first we feel embarrassed for them, then the embarrassment turns to curiosity, and finally the curiosity transforms into downright amazement. Time after time we see these same players step to the line, face a hostile crowd in a high pressure situation and use their quirky free throw routine as a parting shot to everyone in the world who’s hoping they’ll miss.

Even though the free throw is perhaps the simplest shot in all of basketball, at times it can also be the most difficult, even for the NBA elite. Perhaps we’ll never find out why great free throw shooters sometimes use nutty routines. It could be a coping mechanism to deal with the high level of pressure, or an act of superstition, or it could be used as a strategy to draw attention away from the actual shot. Even though player free throw percentages have remained somewhat consistent over the last few decades, as players continue to face increasingly hostile crowds and more pressure situations, they will undoubtedly step outside of the box in the coming years to rediscover new ways to shoot the free throw. If history has taught us anything at all, it’s that there is no right or wrong way to do it. As long as it goes in, we’ll keep your name in the record books. Just for fun, let’s take a look at five of the greatest free throw shooters of all time and the quirky routines that made them popular. An article published in the New York Times five years ago stated that free throws make up nearly 2/3 of a winning team’s points in the final minutes, so I say anything that can help improve free throw accuracy is worth a try.

5.  Karl Malone—Malone is probably best known for his athletic prowess and mid-range jump shot, but his outstanding career free throw percentage of 74% percent leaves little to be desired. Each time Malone stepped to the line he would utter a few secret words under his breath before shooting the basketball. I don’t think anyone has ever figured out exactly what Malone whispered in those moments, but whatever he said, it worked. It’s in the 20 second mark of the video below.

 

4. Jason Kidd—Kidd is undoubtedly one of the best point guards in NBA history and his strange free throw routine has only made him more famous over the years. After experiencing a few setbacks in his personal life, Kidd began blowing kisses at the foul line to let his wife and kids know he was thinking of them. While it didn’t work out with his wife, the free throw routine worked pretty well. Kidd ended up with a career FT average of 75%. Kidd’s free throw routine is shown at the 12 second mark of the above video.

 

3.  Gilbert Arenas—Aside from being completely crazy and pulling a gun on his own teammate, Gilbert Arenas is a pretty decent free throw shooter. When he first begins his free throw routine, you’d think he’s about to work on a ball handling drill instead of shoot a free throw. He passes the ball around his body three times before finally heaving it toward the basket. Even though it’s odd, this routine helped him achieve a career FT average of just over 80%.

 

2. Jeff Hornacek—Similar to Kidd’s ritual, Jeff Hornacek would rub the side of his face at the line as a way to say hello to his children.  Hornacek explained in an interview in 2000 that his famous face ritual was a way to let his kids know he loved them. I’m sure the routine isn’t the sole reason behind Hornacek’s success at the line, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. Nothing like saying hi to your children while knocking down a pair of clutch free throws. Check out the 5 second mark of the video below.

 

1. Rick Barry—Haven’t we all attempted a few Rick Barry free-throw shots while playing a game of H-O-R-S-E at the local park? Rick Barry used the underhand scoop method to shoot his free throw and did it with incredible consistency. His career average of 88% earns him the top spot on this list of quirky, yet successful free throw routines. Maybe once I have children, I’ll teach them all to shoot free throws like Rick Barry just for the heck of it. Couldn’t hurt right?

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Shaquille O’Neal and the Death of the True NBA Center http://saltcityhoops.com/shaquille-oneal-and-the-death-of-the-true-nba-center/ http://saltcityhoops.com/shaquille-oneal-and-the-death-of-the-true-nba-center/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 15:39:50 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7455 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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In June of 2011, at age 39, Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement from the National Basketball Association. It’s possible a few basketball experts were already aware of the negative impact Shaq’s decision would have on the future of the NBA, but it’s safe to assume most were probably more optimistic than they’d like to admit. After the retirement became official, the basketball world attempted to dull the pain by talking about the rise of Dwight Howard, the consistent numbers of Brook Lopez, and the promise of Andrew Bynum, but little did they know there would be no replacing the man called Shaq. For the NBA, the retirement of Shaquille O’Neal didn’t simply mean the end of a colorful career characterized by showmanship, controversy, winning, and utter domination, but it also signaled the end of a remarkable era of big men. Whether you realize it or not, the day Shaq retired is the day the world mourned the death of the true NBA center.

The center position has changed drastically in the years following Shaq’s retirement. Basketball analysts often debate the cause of the gradual change in post play style, but many believe it’s a direct result of European influence. In the past, European pros learned to shoot, handle, and move without the ball at an early age while their stateside counterparts watched film of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem. Now it seems U.S. and European development coaches alike put a strong emphasis on facing the basket while engaging a low post defender to initiate an aggressive attack mode and open up offensive options. It’s true this course of action can often lead to distinct advantages, namely forcing defenders to leave the painted area and providing the offense with another strong ball handler on the floor, but is this style of play better than the traditional post game that made players like Shaq, Abdul-Jabbar, Olajuwon, Robinson, and Ewing all-time greats?

We’ve seen greatness on the block a few times over the last decade or so, but if you stopped to blink once during the short window you probably missed the magic. We saw a quick glimpse of special post play from Yao Ming before his career ended, but that’s all it was—a glimpse. Yao brought a perfect mix of mid-range shooting and strong post play to the table, but a severe foot injury finally put an end to his short-lived career. Yao was good. The greatest coaches in the league often praised him as the future star center of the league, but injury prevented those expectations from ever being fulfilled.  I’m not suggesting Yao was at the same skill level as Shaq when he left the game, but we’ll never really know what could have been. During those days we also witnessed the aging version of Arvydas Sabonis, the bad attitude and poor work ethic of Andrew Bynum, and the super hype of Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez, though they’re probably the best in the game right now.

Then there’s Dwight Howard.

I love to talk with people about Dwight Howard, because I love seeing their faces go red when I speak my mind. I’ll just put it out there—I’m not a Dwight Howard fan. I respect his rebounding ability and his defensive mind, but those two positives can’t completely correct a less than impressive offensive game. The man can’t shoot and the man most definitely can’t score, unless of course he rebounds one off the back iron and puts it in for a garbage bucket. Dwight would sooner dribble the ball off his foot than complete a smooth drop step move from Shaq’s bag of tricks. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of willingness to develop his offense or if it’s a lack of ability, but either way Dwight should never be compared to Shaquille O’Neal, or any of the greatest centers of all-time for that matter.  Other than the glimmer of hope we witnessed with Yao, Dwight, Andrew Bynum, and a few good years from Al Jefferson, there hasn’t been much to celebrate over the last few years.

No matter which way you slice it, Shaq is clearly a different breed than the NBA centers of today. If I forced you to name a few of the best centers in the game today, how would you fare? Could you even name five? How about three? There is no doubt the list has grown quite short over the years. In a league that used to be dominated by the center position, we’re now at a place where Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert are the best big men in the game, and a center isn’t even recognized as an official position on the all-star ballot. Why you ask? Because the league doesn’t think there are enough talented players to vote for. When I conduct a quick scan of next season’s team rosters, I see more of the same. I see defenders that can control the paint on defense, like Anthony Davis, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, and even our own Derrick Favors, but nothing suggests a player with a complete offensive and defensive game.

Here are a few of Shaq’s notable career achievements just so we can remember what we’re missing.

  • 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 15-time NBA All-Star
  • His 28,596 career points currently stand fifth all-time
  • Scored more than 20 PPG and pulled down more than 10 RPG for 13 seasons (most in NBA history)
  • NBA MVP award winner in 2000
  • 3-time NBA Finals MVP
  • 5,250 post-season points scored (4th all-time)
  • Named one of the 50 greatest players of all-time

Maybe the best of the center position is behind us. Only time will tell.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Who Will be the Jazz’s Leader Next Season? http://saltcityhoops.com/who-will-be-the-jazzs-leader-next-season/ http://saltcityhoops.com/who-will-be-the-jazzs-leader-next-season/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2013 23:58:27 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7359 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Every successful NBA team needs a leader. The Celtics of the 60’s had Bill Russell, the Lakers of the 80’s had Magic Johnson, and the Bulls of the 90’s had Michael Jordan. A team without a leader is like a car without a steering wheel, an army without a general, and a Reese’s peanut butter cup without the peanut butter. An NBA team won’t get far without a clear leader, and frankly a Reese’s tastes horrible without the peanut butter cup. Although the Jazz don’t need to pull apart (or consume) hundreds of Reese’s candies to learn this lesson, they still have some leadership questions to answer before next season kicks off.

If you take a quick scan of next year’s Jazz roster, you won’t notice much of a veteran presence. Obviously the roster includes a few notable players that have been around the league for a bit, namely Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, John Lucas, and Marvin Williams, but none of those newly acquired veterans are expected to make a serious impact next season, let alone lead the team. So what exactly does a lack of superstar veteran presence mean for the Jazz of 2014-2015? Well, for one it means Al Jefferson won’t be waiting on the bench to relieve Kanter or Favors when they make a mistake. It definitely means Ty Corbin’s role will be more important than ever. It also means the locker room needs to find a new undisputed leader, and fast. I never thought I would say this about a team of twenty-something year olds, but time is truly of the essence.

When you think of the qualities a true leader possesses, does anyone on the current Jazz roster come to mind? Can you think of a player who embodies self-confidence, who gleans strength from the team’s success, who knows the correct way to deal with failure? If you think long and hard you might come up with a few names, but maybe more than anything this little thinking exercise proves that leaders don’t grow on trees. It’s not enough for a leader to simply be talented or to have a great mind for the game of basketball. In a lot of ways, a leader is responsible for the morale of the entire team, which is a heavier burden than scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds per game. He needs to command respect, act as a guide, and give the team confidence when the chips are down. So who can do that for the Utah Jazz?

This is perhaps the first time I’ve never been able to clearly identify the leader of an NBA basketball team. The leaders I’m familiar with are normally the loudest guys in the room, not to mention the most critical and obnoxious (take Kobe Bryant for example). Unless I’m missing something, this Jazz team doesn’t have anyone like that. The veterans mostly keep to themselves, and strangely enough, so do the youngsters. I’m not suggesting there is anything inherently wrong with a quiet leader, it’s just a rarity in the NBA. One thing is clear however—if the Jazz are going to experience any amount of success this season, they need a leader. The discussion about who should fill that role will go on for months, but in the meantime, I’ll nominate a few candidates for consideration.

  1. Gordon Hayward - I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Jazz fans think Hayward should be the one to lead this young team into the future. Last season he really came into his own, averaging 14.1 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, and 3 assists. He’s been around Jazz land for a while so this offseason should officially signal the end of his learning period. I think this year will determine if Hayward can lead this team, or if he’s just another talented player. My only concern is his tendency to lose confidence at crucial points during the season. If he’s going to lead, the Jazz need to be able to count on him.
  2. Derrick Favors - Favors is undoubtedly one of the quietest players in the NBA today, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lead. He posted 9.4 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, and 1 assist last season and will look to improve upon those numbers as his playing time increases this season. Gordon Hayward once told The Big Show’s Spencer Checketts and Gordon Monson that Favors could go a whole practice without saying a word. Who knows, maybe we have another Tim Duncan in the making? One thing is for certain, he definitely has the talent and work ethic to do the job.
  3. Trey Burke - Even though he hasn’t played a single regular season game in a Jazz uniform, Burke still needs to be considered for the open leadership position. Everyone knows great point guards make great leaders. Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, and John Stockton have certainly taught us that over the last 20 years. If there’s one thing we know Burke can do, it’s lead a team. He led a Michigan team that no one expected to finish near the top of the Big Ten, or make it to the Final Four, but they did. Even though Burke is a newcomer in every sense of the word, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take control next season.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Could a Fashion Change Translate to Wins? http://saltcityhoops.com/could-a-fashion-change-translate-to-wins/ http://saltcityhoops.com/could-a-fashion-change-translate-to-wins/#comments Sun, 04 Aug 2013 23:38:56 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7279 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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Lately it seems NBA players are recognized more for their fashion than their ability to play basketball. Have you witnessed the trend?  In the last few years the once popular Nike Dri-FIT t-shirt worn by the NBA’s elite has been replaced by old school Converse shoes, plaid button-up shirts, suspenders, and wide-rimmed glasses that are reminiscent of Steve Urkel from the popular 90’s show Family Matters.

Take Russell Westbrook for example: He’s unquestionably one of the best point guards in the NBA—ruthless, dedicated to the game, and one of the fiercest competitors in the league, but after a contest you’ll likely find him donning a polka dot polo, short pants, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses that hardly fit on his big-boy nose, and a child-size backpack, which makes Westbrook look more like a school boy than an NBA all-star guard. Fans and media representatives might not think too much about the nerdy get-up, but there is most definitely a strategy present here. Instead of focusing strictly on Westbrook’s success or lack thereof, the suspenders and backpack suddenly become the prime topic of discussion at the post-game conference, no matter how poorly Westbrook or the Thunder performed. Once the spotlight is shifted elsewhere, these players wearing nerdy clothes can relax and focus on winning basketball games instead of talking to the media about the anxiety of facing the San Antonio Spurs in their upcoming game. Considering the Jazz will likely face quite the media blitz this year in response to drastic roster changes, could they implement a similar fashion-based strategy?

Evidence suggests that Russell Westbrook and his star teammate Kevin Durant began the trend of wearing clothes that are, quite frankly, better suited for adolescents than adult professional basketball players. Evidence also suggests that players who have willingly embraced the new era of fashion are highly successful on the basketball court, something the Jazz organization needs to look into. The Heat have represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals for the last three years, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013—championships which came after Lebron and D-Wade copied the attire of Westbrook and Durant. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, but undoubtedly would have made a return this year if not for Westbrook’s playoff injury. The Jazz, on the other hand, have not implemented a team-wide fashion change in the last several years, but they also haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs for a number of years. The new trendy fashion brought on by NBA stars has spread to cities all over the league—except Salt Lake City.

When is the last time you witnessed Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, or Derrick Favors wearing a school boy outfit at the post-game conference?  Unless my eyes are deceiving me, this has never happened.  I guess I’m saying it’s a shame that it’s never happened, because I think female fans would like to see Mr. Hayward in a pair of thick-rimmed Ray Bans. It might also ease the tension he’ll feel when taking on the leadership role this upcoming season. The more the clothes become the focus, the better it will be for the team. Just you wait.

Maybe I’m taking a shot in the dark here. It’s possible the Jazz organization is a little bit too professional for this sort of fashion statement. But perhaps the Jazz’s inability to let go and have fun is translating to rigid, stagnant play on the court. Don’t fashion experts always say the clothes make the man? Or was that a promotional plug to get me to buy new clothes?  If so, I’ll gladly sell the $1000 worth of clothes I purchased to look more like Kevin Durant. My wife keeps reminding me that I’m 5-10 with no vertical jump, not exactly a carbon copy of KD. Maybe Jeremy Evans needs some new pants.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of professionalism in pro athletics, but a flashy button-down shirt and a pair of nerdy glasses never hurt anyone.  I’m not sure how clothes translate to immediate success in the NBA, but everything I’ve mentioned clearly shows they do. It’s not like anyone is recommending going the Dennis Rodman or Birdman route. We’re just asking for a little more plaid and a little less leather.  It’s about time the players treated the fans to some revived fashion anyway, especially if it will help the team avoid answering that all too common question from reporters,“How can this young Jazz core survive against an NBA full of all-star veterans?”

Maybe it’s time to follow Russ and KD’s lead on this one.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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The Top 5 NBA Coaches and the Attributes That Made Them Great http://saltcityhoops.com/the-top-5-nba-coaches-and-the-attributes-that-made-them-great/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-top-5-nba-coaches-and-the-attributes-that-made-them-great/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 18:34:19 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=7213 Author information
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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In my observation, the greatest coaches in history are always leaders first and basketball minds second.  The coaches who influence teams and win games tend to focus on what truly makes a team successful, which oddly enough doesn’t revolve around how many jump shots are taken within 16 feet of the basket, or whether a full-court or half-court press is initiated after half time.  Of course it’s unintelligent to dismiss game strategy as altogether unimportant. No one is suggesting every coach in the NBA should completely throw X’s and O’s out the window to achieve maximum efficiency, but strategies and tactics can only get a head coach so far in the NBA. In my opinion, a coach’s leadership style and ability to motivate players influences success more than what’s scribbled on the whiteboard during a 30 second timeout.  Just ask Doc Rivers.

Great coaches are 1/3 psychologist, 1/3 army general, and 1/3 teacher. If you take a close look at the greatest coaches in NBA history you’ll notice a few attributes in common: They manage the emotional and mental ups and downs of their players well, they lead and inspire players to make themselves better and fulfill a role to help the team achieve victory, and they offer constructive criticism to improve the overall game of players without causing undue frustration or permanent damage to egos.  If those requirements aren’t met within a specified period of time, a coach’s season and career usually go up in smoke. Just ask Vinny Del Negro.

I’m totally convinced no team can win without a great coach. Great players are important, but even the most talented NBA stars need an authority figure to guide them through the tough days when everything looks bleak.  A great coach knows the right things to say and the right time to say them. He also knows when to close his mouth and let his players figure out their own problems.  Just ask Tom Thibodeau. He’s done a fantastic job with Nate Robinson.

The issue is—great coaches are hard to find. Once you find the right coach (the one players will do battle with), you have to fight to keep him. There are always more attractive offers being shoved at them from every which way, or some life passion other than basketball just waiting to be fulfilled. But a great coach never leaves before his time. He stands by his players even when failure seems imminent and success looks impossible. If you’re a player blessed with the opportunity to learn the game of life and basketball from one of these coaching legends, you’ll be forever changed for the better.  Just ask anyone who’s played for Larry Brown.

Recently I’ve reflected quite a bit on my own sports career (however short-lived), to understand which coaches helped me grow and which made my situation worse. Those reflections inspired me to create my personal list of the top five coaches in NBA history. You can decide whether you agree or disagree, but one thing is for sure—there are five fantastic coaches on this list.

  1. Phil Jackson- People will forever argue that Phil Jackson is not a top-tier coach because he never built a team organically, but I strongly disagree. While he was privileged to work with several talented players (MJ, Pippen, Shaq, Kobe), he may have been the only one capable of helping them reach their full potential.  Remember—Michael never won before Phil, neither did Shaq or Kobe. Phil accumulated 11 championships and over 1,000 wins during his career. It’s difficult to argue a better choice at number one. Phil is known for his implementation of Zhen Bhuddism to improve player morale and performance.
  2. Red Auerbach-Red coached the legendary Boston Celtics for 20 years and helped usher in a new era of basketball led by Russell, Cousy, and Havlicek. He picked up nine championships and over 900 wins during his career. Everyone in the game of basketball honors and respects Mr. Red Auerbach as one of the greatest coaches of all-time.
  3. Pat Riley-Riley won the coach of the year award three separate times and won five NBA championships with the Lakers and Miami Heat. In addition to his success on the sidelines, Riley has also collected two titles as an executive for the Miami Heat. He is beloved by all his former players and everyone in the Heat organization. Riley is a master at inspiring players.
  4. Don Nelson-This three time NBA coach of the year never won a championship as a coach, but still managed to rack up over 1,000 wins during his career. Don gets fired up at times, but his players always respected him as the undisputed leader of the teams he coached.
  5. Jerry Sloan- Jerry is one of the most talented coaches in NBA history. Sloan is only the fifth coach in history to achieve over 1,000 career wins and the only coach to do it with only one franchise. Though Sloan led the Jazz to the NBA finals in 97 and 98, he never won a championship. Though he is no longer the head coach, fans still consider him the face of the franchise. Fortunately he accepted an advisory role with the Jazz a short time ago, a role that will keep him involved with management and players.

The Jazz certainly have a few questions to answer in the coming year, one of those questions being, “Who is the coach of the future for the Jazz?” Since Jerry Sloan’s departure the Jazz record has been less than impressive and the team has only made the playoffs once in the past three seasons, a playoff run that ended in a four game sweep. No matter what happens during the offseason or in training camp, the clock is clearly ticking for the coaching staff and even the players. Maybe we’ll add the current coach to the all-time greatest coaches list 15 years from now.  Either that or he’ll be fired by this time next year. Who knows? Just ask Ty Corbin.

Author information

Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt
Kyle Hunt is an avid sports fan who follows college and pro basketball extremely close. He is a regular college basketball contributor for the Deseret News and runs his own sports blog in his spare time. During the day Kyle works as a digital marketing analyst, improving the credibility and web presence of more than 25 high-spend clients.
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