Jazz beat the Pistons – Critics remain vocal

March 12th, 2013 | by Spencer Hall

After a four-game road stretch that involved some of the most unlucky and frustrating collapses in recent memory, the Jazz finally picked up a win over the hapless Detroit Pistons. [Box Score]

Grantland’s Zach Lowe gives the Jazz his longform breakdown treatment and serves up some brilliant analysis and a few scathing reviews for the team he calls “the most interesting franchise in the league right now.”

Lowe addresses all the important issues surrounding this season for the Jazz: What happened before the trade deadline? What plans (if any) do the Jazz have for Jefferson and Millsap going forward? Should the Jazz continue to shoot for the Playoffs or slip into the lottery? Why do the Jazz play such terrible defense? Why are the minutes distributed with near-complete disregard for both the eye test and stats? Excellent stuff all the way around.

First, a little myth-busting about the conventional wisdom that the Jazz feel/felt forced to move Jefferson and/or Millsap before the deadline to avoid allowing them to walk “for nothing” in the offseason:

In other words, the Jazz aren’t going to cry if they lose Millsap or Jefferson for nothing in July. It’s an NBA cliché that losing an asset for nothing is bad, and that cliché is generally true; the Nuggets didn’t really want Nene, but they re-signed him anyway at a price they knew could move.

But a lot of GMs don’t view this as a universal rule, and it appears Utah is in this camp. Several front-office folks outside Utah framed the issue this way: Jefferson and Millsap are salary slots who also take a certain number of minutes. Letting one walk for “nothing” wouldn’t really net Utah nothing; rather, it would open up both salary and minutes Utah could fill with Favors and Kanter, and down the line with another signing — this summer or next. This line of reasoning holds special value for teams under the cap, because they can actually sign any players they can attract on the open market. Utah losing Millsap without replacement compensation is not the same as capped-out Chicago losing Omer Asik without replacement compensation.

And then the brutal assessment on coaching:

The team is probably already playing Jefferson too much, which brings us back to Corbin. Here’s a remarkable thing: Utah’s five most-used lineups this season have been outscored. Ditto for 17 of its 18 most commonly used three-man groups, and usually by margins much larger than Utah’s overall negative scoring margin.

Only two of the 80 teams that have qualified for the playoffs in the last five years have done so with their top five lineups being outscored: the 2008-09 Bulls, and … last year’s Jazz. This is very strong evidence that Corbin is basically just playing the wrong guys and wrong combinations in the wrong minutes distribution. His better defenders and all-around guys — Favors, Kanter, DeMarre Carroll, Gordon Hayward, et al. — deserve a larger chunk of the time going to Jefferson, Mo Williams (now back from injury), and others. Lineup data can be pretty noisy over short sample sizes, but the noise is getting really loud at this point. [emphasis mine]

The noise from critics is starting to reach the team. The Deseret News’ Jody Genessy elicited the wrath of an annoyed Corbin when asking questions:

With fire in his eyes and a feisty tone, the third-year Jazz coach shared a message about that before Monday’s tipoff. It’s one he’s been giving his team, which had lost four straight and seven of eight games before the schedule mercifully pitted the Jazz against the Detroit Pistons.

“I tell the guys, ‘You can listen to criticism, but most of the people that’s criticizing don’t have any idea of what you’re going through,’” Corbin said in his pregame media interview. “They probably haven’t never did anything at this level in their life. They can talk. Talk is cheap. We’ve got to go out and do what we’ve got to do.

For a change, the Jazz did that.

To be clear, I don’t think anything about Corbin’s comments is anything more than a team facing a tough test trying to stay together. I don’t think he deserves to get skewered for it, either. If that’s what the Jazz need to finally get motivated, then they should get speeches all the time. Corbin has always hated to answer questions. I think he just finally got sick of it and popped off a bit. His coaching strategy is very “work harder” and “get better,” very gut-based, so it frustrates him to give reasons for choices.

Regardless, it will be interesting to pay attention to how the team addresses the questions highlighted in the Grantland piece over the next few months.

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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4 Comments

  1. Geoff says:

    Great wrap up and thanks for the heads up on the Grantland article. Its nice to have Zach Lowe put into much better words than I can the season long frustrations I have had with Corbin. Both with his rotations and this teams lack of defensive consistency.

    The idea that you can beat more talented teams by “working harder” and “being tough” is dead. Advanced statistics are accepted and analyzed by every front office in the league and successful teams have a combination of talent, work ethic AND an understanding of efficiency rates.

    I have confidence that Dennis Lindsey will move this team beyond the stale ideas that did work under Sloan for many years – but don’t work any more. Its like the BYU football team. Once the rest of the NCAA learned how to execute the forward pass and a spread offense BYU lost all of the advantages it had and has been mediocre at best for decades.

    My last thought – Corbin is a DISASTER with the media. I hope that the media gets tougher with him and doesn’t succumb to small town pressure to simply support the only professional team in town. Just like the Jazz style of “foul a lot but play hard and avoid shooting the 3″ is dead – so is the idea that you can get paid millions as a professional head coach and have zero capability to communicate with the media.

    If Corbin is honestly trying to motivate his team with immature trite lines such as “don’t listen to any criticism from guys who have never played professionally” he is more pathetic than I thought. So what when Charles Barkley criticizes them? Or Karl Malone? What is Corbin’s great motivating message to his team then?

    Lets hope that Dennis Lindsey has the real power to duplicate what he was part of building in Houston and San Antonio. Because the Jazz are headed down the same road of permanent mediocrity and irrelevancy that BYU football has found itself stuck in.

  2. robin rodd says:

    Lowe’s piece provides some excellent evidence based analysis that supports what we Jazz fans have been seeing with our eyes this season.

    The quote about bad lineups is tragicomic.

    Corbin never says anything of substance in interviews, anything insightful about the dynamics of the game, using vague words like ‘energy’, ‘need to get better’. None of this instills confidence in me, a fan, that he knows what he is doing.

    At least if the Jazz let Jefferson walk, they would relieve Corbin of his strange desire to play Jefferson as much as he does.

    But it is a shame that the young talent we have does not have the right environment – coaching – to develop as players, and one more year with Corbin would be another year partly wasted as a result.

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  4. dirk says:

    blah blah blah…..just please someone put a sock in Harprings mouth so the losses won’t be so painful to watch. And may Koby’s ankle be not good. Oh and Hayward, grow a set and stand up for yourself! Scoring is only part of the requirements for winning games. I can’t believe Sloan comes to the games and has to sit through such “soft” efforts by such talented people. Good luck Ty.

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