by Fareed Taghvaee
Special to Salt City Hoops
The Utah Jazz remain unbeaten in the preseason with a 99-94 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. All you need to know about the game is this: Gordon Hayward had a breakout performance with 26 points and 5 rebounds and Kobe Bryant showed he is still a beast by putting on a vintage performance in the third quarter. CJ Miles, Al Jefferson and Andrei Kirilenko added 15, 14, and 13 points respectively. These same teams go at it again Tuesday in Anaheim, and yours truly will likely be in attendance.
The rookie out of Butler had a big time game against the reigning champs. Let’s repeat that line again: 26 points and 5 rebounds in a win against the Lakers at Staples. Hayward had his best offensive night, but did it in the most impressive way. He got points coming off baseline screens, jumpers from the elbow, wide open shots and baskets in transition. He had what I thought to be the play of the game with the baseline fake on Devin Ebanks, which lead to an acrobatic layup.
Hayward should get at least ten minutes a game early in the season. Jerry Sloan clearly appreciates what Hayward brings to the game. We haven’t seen many Jazz rookies this smart, this early. Tonight Hayward showed a glimpse of the player he could turn into. He may never be a consistent 20 ppg scorer, but he could thrive in this offense. His ability to hit jumpers, get to the basket and pass could turn him into a 13-16 ppg scorer. And while he showed his potential tonight, consistency will be his his biggest challenge this season. His other challenge will be managing the boarding passes for the Gordon Hayward Bandwagon. It’s filling up fast.
Jerry Sloan played 11 players tonight, and the remaining spots in the rotation will be decided by as the winner of the backup point guard battle. Ronnie Price plays hard and makes energy plays, but his inconsistency and predictable poor decisions hurt his momentum. Earl Watson has been steady, but unspectacular. Watson had the unfortunate task of guarding Kobe Bryant in the 3rd quarter and had and excellent view as Kobe poured in 19 points before mercifully sitting out for the fourth quarter. To Watson’s credit, he maintained composure on the offensive end of the court and kick started the Jazz rally that carried into the fourth quarter.
Andrei Kirilenko has been energetic and solid. His mini stat lines look similar to the AK of the past. His consistency in the preseason is impressive and bodes well for the Jazz this season. A happy AK is a productive AK and he seems to be both happy and healthy. The energy he provides is best served from the bench, in my opinion. I think a strong week from Hayward could land him starting at three alongside Raja Bell.
Mr. Whatupdoe? himself has really played himself out of the starting lineup, but in a good way. CJ Miles’ ability to be a scoring punch and spark off the bench may have landed him a role on the bench. It is worth noting that CJ had a very sneaky stat line (15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals). A second unit featuring AK and CJ Miles would be very strong.
The new technical foul rules continue to muddy the game. Laker rookie Devin Ebanks was the latest victim. His late technical for a demonstrative gesture after being called for a foul all but sealed the game for the Jazz. Prior to his “outburst” there were veterans on both teams with similar reactions. Not to mention Lamar Odom hanging on the rim with no repercussions. Now I know that Kevin Garnett did get kicked out of a game because of the rule, but will there be a veteran exception? Will the rule even last? Read Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s screed against the new rules.
“Big Fez tells LA crowd about elbow to Odom, ‘if he dies, he dies’.” – @1BIGVIC
Jazz at Lakers, Tuesday, October 19, 2010.
The Pond at Anaheim at 8pm Mountain Time.