By Fareed Taghvaee
Special to Salt City Hoops
Despite a late rally by the Phoenix Suns, the Utah Jazz held on in Arizona to beat the Phoenix Suns 105-100 in preseason action. The Jazz were paced by Al Jefferson with 16 points and 5 rebounds, CJ Miles scored 13, and Othyus Jeffers added 12. The two teams meet again on Thursday at Energy Solutions Arena….and on TV, no less! (FSN Utah at 7:00 local time).
Although Jeremy Evans is clearly a fan favorite, and Ryan Thompson has the family pedigree, I am going out on a limb and predicting that Othyus Jeffers will make this team. The reason Wesley Matthews made the Jazz last season as an undrafted rookie (aside from the injuries) was he accepted his role, was cool, calm, collected and did what he needed to do to make the roster. Though he’s clearly no Matthews, there is only one Jazz player playing this way thus far, and it is Jeffers. He’s the guard version of Houston’s Chuck Hayes. He is under-sized, cannot shoot, but is all hustle; he is Rudy personified. He busts his butt when he is in the game and gets all of his points and stats through the flow of the offense. Thus far he is the only wing that is actually moving without the ball and cutting to the basket. There is a lot of time left, but I am calling my shot that Jeffers makes this team. One gigantic factor will be the contract issue. He stands to make roughly $600,000 more than Ryan Thompson this season.
Last night I was ready to totally write off Demetris Nichols (and in fact I did), but he shook off his poor night and came to play in his first opportunity with extended minutes. He played some great help defense and hit some big shots while Utah made a rally in the second and tried to hold onto their lead in the fourth.
Gordon Hayward is a gamer. He struggled again with foul trouble and his offensive game, but managed to make a positive impact with his intangibles. His playmaking abilities in the Jazz half court sets are going to make him a great asset for this team. If he can learn to score within the offense (Harpring curl, Korver spot up) he will be a beast. A white, cherubic, beast.
Kosta Koufos is relegated to vocal exercise for Tas and Skeets and hoping for garbage time in Minnesota, but Jeremy Evans will bear the torch for fans of Boom Beaches [sic] everywhere. He scored 6 points (off 2 dunks) and snagged an offensive rebound in less than two minutes. [Editor’s note: That comparison should in no way be interpreted to mean that Koufos was some kind of offensive microwave.]
Color me unimpressed with Ryan Thompson. He seems like a solid player, but he doesn’t stand out in anyway.
Deron Williams and Paul Millsap were under the radar, and some could voice concern over Millsap’s back-to-back quiet nights. It’s early in the preseason, Millsap has struggled while Jefferson seems to be finding his place after a slow start. Part of that has to do with foul trouble, but the Millsap Paradox seems to be on display.
AK continues his steady play having 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block. It is worth noting that Fes, AK and Raja Bell were in the second unit for the second straight night.
Raja Bell could quietly have a big year. If he can defend and hit his shots he could easily have a 12 ppg season.
Fes impressed tonight because he played through adversity and had a good night for a backup. Fes needs to buy into a role. If he does nothing more than simply rebound, defend, and slam home the ball on offense it will be a huge win for the Jazz. He was trying to be too cute tonight, which might be his basketball epitaph if he doesn’t counter with beastly play on the court.
The battle at point guard between Ronnie Price and Earl Watson is interesting to say the least. Sloan doesn’t care about playing a certain player first or last. In the past he has played the veteran PG later in the game. In fact, Ronnie Price played the similar role last season. Price was great tonight. His unit was by the far the most efficient for the Jazz and brought them back from a sluggish start to finish the half up. He finished the game with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists (all in the second quarter). Earl Watson has been steady, but with no sizzle.
CJ Miles again has a Jekyll and Hyde first and second halves. M.I.A. in one half and explode in the second. Inconsistency and CJ Miles go hand in hand. Once again are bound for another season marred by inconsistency and faux hope? Hopefully Miles builds on his excellent playoff series and does not revert to his previous self.
In reference to @tribjazz ’s tweet that Millsap has been having quiet performances on back to back nights…
“Do you think Millsap is distracted by news of the Chilean miners?” @LostTacoVendor