Salt City Hoops » Denver Nuggets The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Denver Nuggets Jazz steal a wild one from the Nuggets, remain undefeated at home Tue, 27 Nov 2012 16:10:13 +0000 Author information
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

Jazz 105 – Nuggets 103
ESPN Recap | Box Score

Where to begin on one of the strangest Jazz home games in recent memory? To paraphrase Stefon, this game had everything: World-class matador defense giving up 65 points in the first half, a home crowd booing their team (and deservedly so) until midway through the third quarter, a star player (Denver’s Iguodala) getting ejected for talking to a referee disguised as Al Jefferson. Coach Ty Corbin getting a technical and being faux-restrained by owner Greg Miller (as seen in the clip above). The Manimal running wild on both ends of the floor. Jamaal Tinsley (15 points, 3-6 on 3s, 35 minutes) playing like it’s 2003. A terrible final play by the Nuggets that had Ty Lawson getting Randy Foye in the air and then inexplicably passing the ball out and running out of time without even getting a shot off. Standing ovations and a wild playoff atmosphere in the fourth quarter. Also, is that Robert Whaley in the crowd?

In the end, Al Jefferson somehow willed the Jazz to the inexplicable win. Jefferson’s team play and unselfishness is wildly underrated. Check out the clip below showing Al Jefferson taking himself out of the final play to give Derrick Favors a chance to defend:

It’s time Jefferson gets more credit for putting the success of the team ahead of his own interests. It’s a rare thing to see a guy in a contract year who goes out of his way to mentor the two guys (Favors and Enes Kanter) who are in position to take his job. In this game specifically, if not for a stellar Jefferson performance (28 points on 10-15 shooting), the Jazz might have been behind by 30 at some point.

The game was also notable for being the second straight game that Paul Millsap didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. It pains me to say it, but on this night it was the right choice. Millsap got abused all night long by the Manimal and finished with just 5 points and 5 rebounds. After the Jazz gave up roughly 7,000 points in the paint in the first half (actually 46, but still a ridiculous parade of dunks and layups), something had to change.

Speaking of change, what’s happened to Gordon Hayward? I make a lot of jokes about his performance always being directly tied to school breaks at Butler, so I’ll give him a few more post-Thanksgiving games before ringing the alarm on his disappearing act. 4 points in 28 minutes isn’t getting it done.

Derrick Favors, on the other hand, was a beast. His 19 points and 7 rebounds off the bench were a beautiful thing to watch, as was his battle with the aforementioned Manimal.

Also great to see a vintage performance by Jamaal Tinsley. The best part about watching an old man like Tinsley be successful is the way he plays to his strengths. The flaws in his game are obvious to anyone paying attention, but he’s disciplined enough to stick to the things he does well (limiting turnovers, getting guys easy baskets in transition, working hard to improve his outside shot, making a strong effort on defense even if he’s overmatched).

A great result despite the emotional roller coaster. All that matters is the W and somehow the Jazz are 8-7 and still undefeated at home. Up next this week: At New Orleans on Wednesday, at OKC on Friday, and at Houston on Saturday.

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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
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Morning After Drill: Everything is Everything Sat, 05 Feb 2011 16:25:19 +0000 Author information
Jeff Lind
Wow. I almost forgot what it felt like to go into a good team’s house and win. Turns out it feels pretty amazing. Here are a few thoughts after last night’s game.

  • I like aggressive Deron. Seeing him push the ball up the court and keep the offense running seemed like a major lift. The rest of the team responded well and played harder on defense, cut faster on offense, and just played all around more aggressively. It seems more and more clear… as Deron go, the Jazz go.
  • The Jazz actually played defense. Yes, they fouled early and often, but I’d rather see aggressive defense out of the gate that results in fouls than no defense. That aggressive D turned into smart D though, and the Jazz ended up with some pretty key stops down the stretch that helped them maintain their lead. I was pretty impressed with the rotations, and hustle from everyone.
  • The Jazz felt like they were in control throughout that game. No come from behind antics. No heaves at the end of a wasted shot clock. They felt powerful, and they won every quarter but the first (and they only lost the first quarter by one point).
  • How awesome was it to see Deron go after JR Smith after his flagrant 2 on Bell? For such a moody guy, you rarely see that kind of emotion from Deron on the court. No hesitation, no wondering what the league would do… Williams saw his guy go down hard, and he went after Smith for it. I love the leadership he showed at that point, and throughout the night.
  • Jefferson was a beast last night. A BEAST. 28 points (12/20), 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Wow. He had some tough shots too… fall away jumpers, double teams, and face-up jump shots over defenders. Jefferson also played hard on defense, had a key block against Anthony, and took a few nasty charges. Pretty cool to see.
  • It was great to watch the Jazz shoot well from the free throw line (17/18). Refreshing.
  • The players complemented each other. Don’t know if it was AK being out, CJ being on, or Evans being up, but they were feeling it together.
  • Tough night for Hayward. He was a foul away from everybody and had absolutely no shot. I mean, you have to give the guy a bit of a break since he was playing against Anthony, but he REALLY looked out of his league.
  • Speaking of Anthony, that was the quietest 31 points I’ve seen in a long time. I was pretty shocked when I saw the final box score. Melo seemed like he was getting blocked, or forced into a tough jumper every time down the floor.
  • Raja. Where have you been?

Great night… it feels like good things are on their way for the Jazz. Tonight’s another big test, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team responds to last night’s solid play.

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Jeff Lind
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Jazz 88 – Nuggets 110: High Notes | Low Notes Thu, 28 Oct 2010 12:09:19 +0000 Author information
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

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

For those who endured all four quarters of the Opening Night Debacle, I salute you. You showed more intestinal fortitude than most of the Jazz players in the 110-88 shellacking in Denver by the Nuggets.

In similar fashion to the infamous Phoenix game at the end of last season, the Jazz played their poorest when the emotion and hype were highest. From a fan perspective, it’s madding to watch lethargic play on opening night, hot on the heels of the best preseason in club history. I can only image what it feels like for the ownership group, knowing they have $187,680,671 committed in player salaries, only to watch Andrei Kirilenko, CJ Miles, Al Jefferson, and Kyrylo Fesenko combine for 10 points.

With AK alone, that’s $217,353.66 to score only two more points than I did. Those same two points were a downright bargain from CJ Miles – his point total only cost a paltry $45,121.95. Al Jefferson, for his part, pulled in $158,536.59 to go along with his 6 points and 7 rebounds.

To their credit, the Nuggets came to play on night when off-the-court trade rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony seemed to overshadow the game. Melo’s quote was spot-on: “The fans, they want to see basketball,” Anthony said. “They don’t want drama. I don’t want drama.”

The only drama from Melo was a 23-point soliloquy as the Jazz opted to watch from the gallery.

Luckily for Utah, tonight’s home opener against the Phoenix Suns offers the chance to bounce back and re-discover the chemistry that fueled the strong preseason.

Notes: Our own Jeff Lind joined me on the ESPN Daily Dime Live chat Wednesday afternoon. You can check the transcript here.

High Notes | Low Notes

by Mychal Lowman

"Help I've fallen in a 20 point deficit and can't get up!"

Low Notes


The Jazz should have had the clear advantage on the glass with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and Nuggets playing without Kenyon Martin and the Birdman. Instead, Denver backup Sheldon Williams had 16 rebounds and Al Harrington had 7.

Points in the Paint

36 points in the paint for the Jazz won’t win many games. When the offense is humming it looks like a layup drill — easy baskets abound for everyone. On this night, the Jazz looked confused on offense and rarely made cuts made to the basket when someone was working in the post.

On the other side of the ball they allowed 42 points in the paint. Teams shouldn’t feel safe going to the basket with bigs like Jefferson, Fesenko, or Elson roaming the middle. Games that make fans miss Jarron Collins are an indictment on the current roster. Hard fouls, guys.


A rare photo of AK in the wild. He was barely on the court.

22 turnovers. The timing on the D-Will to Jefferson pick-and-roll was out of sync. Most of the team seemed surprised at the passes going their way.

Tweet of the game:

High Notes

Paul Millsap

He didn’t have a dominant game or lead the Jazz to a comeback, but it was nice to see the same old Paul who doesn’t quit on a game no matter how dire the circumstances. Also of note, while everyone was picking up fouls in this game (seriously, the referees were giving out fouls like Oprah gives away cars), Millsap didn’t get called for one. I know it’s early but it could be possible that Millsap has finally earned respect from the officials in this league to not get called for phantom fouls.

Jeremy Evans

He got most of his minutes in garbage time but the kid is fun to watch. His crazy jumping ability and hustle is making a splash like Millsap in his rookie year (if Millsap was forced on a diet consisting of only bread and water). Also, I think Golden Corral or Chuck-O-Rama needs to sponsor this kid. They could do a before and after picture like they do with Jared from Subway with inverted results

Just One Game

Deron Williams knows it's just one game.

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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
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Division Previews: Denver Nuggets, Northwest Division – Western Conference Thu, 21 Oct 2010 21:00:49 +0000 Author information
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.

J.R. is going to miss Carmelo

Key Matchups

D-Will vs Chauncey Billups

This very well could be the only key matchup of the season series between the Jazz and the Nuggets.  With the likelihood of Carmelo being traded before the trade deadline this matchup could be the reason to come see this game.

Last regular season Chauncey Billups made the Jazz pay when he was healthy.  He averaged 27 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds a game against Utah.  In the playoffs, however, Deron Williams flipped a switch and became dominant in this matchup.  Chauncey might as well have been a bowl of Wheaties because D-Will was eating him for breakfast in that series.  Deron was averaging 26 points, 11 assists, and 3 rebounds a game.  Chauncey still is a killer 3 point shooter but Deron Williams has taken his game to the elite level and is considered by most (including Tim Leglar) to be the best in the NBA.  Chauncey has been with the olympic team training and competing all summer.  That will wear him down as the season progresses.

Advantage: Deron Williams

Carmelo vs Anybody*

Did you know that after this season there will only be 2 players from that epic 2003 draft from the top ten picks that still remain with the team that drafted them?  Dwyane Wade and Chris Kaman  There were four franchise changing players in that draft.  Four!  Can you believe that? Out of those 4 teams that drafted those franchise changing players only one still will have one playing for them.  In fact that one team with have 3 of those franchise changing players.  The Miami Heat.

While in the past I have been skeptical of Carmelo being a franchise player my view of him changed slightly when I saw his playoff numbers and watched his playoff performance against the Jazz.  Simply put, his team did not show up at all in the playoffs.  The fact that Denver was in a position to compete on most nights was a credit to Carmelo Anthony.  After his team’s no show in the playoffs, I do not blame him at all for being skeptical about the future in Denver.  His playoff numbers per game:

30 pts  8 reb  3 ast 2 stl

On any given night in the playoffs he accounted for at least a third of his teams points at least.  The fact that the series was competitive was a credit to his will to fight back.  The Jazz will have trouble guarding him.  If he is still in a Denver uniform.  Tomorrow we could be editing our New York preview and adding him to their key matchups.  Who knows.  But if he is in a Denver uniform, or any uniform, expect him to do damage.

Advantage: Carmelo Anthony

*I was very tempted to make this Carmelo vs Fesenko.  “Fesenko? Fesenko? Man…”

High Notes | Low Notes

Denver’s offseason has played out like a season of Real Housewives of Orange County.  It was as messy as J.R. Smith’s neck tattoos.  Where do I even start?

Head Coach George Karl undergoes treatment for throat cancer.

Fired their front office and replaced them.

Ownership went from Stan Kroenke to his 30 year old son.

Signed Al Harrington.

The infamous LaLa toast at Carmelo’s wedding mentioning that they should form their own Big 3 in New York.

Sources say that Carmelo is making demands to leave Denver.

Woman by the name of Kat Stacks, known for her late night “escapades” with big time stars, flirts with ‘Melo on his official twitter page.

LaLa responds to Kat Stacks threatening her.

On Melo’s twitter there’s a response saying, “I got 5k for whoever see @ihatekatstacks and slap the **** out her pigeon face ***. Real talk. U ***** with the right one now,” with a picture on his official yfrog account of 5 thousands dollars.

Melo’s twitter mysteriously is removed from Twitter.

A new official twitter of Carmelo’s is renewed and Carmelo claims that it was hacked and not him.

[Author's Note: Talk about a PR nightmare.  And you wonder why the NBA is not thrilled about their players using twitter.  Also, if this whole thing was really a practical joke and not a giant cover up, who would have the time to punk Carmelo Anthony and have 5,000 dollars cash lying around to for the yfrog picture?  My money is on Ashton Kutcher.  He is a stay at home dad to Demi Moore, known for punking, is really rich, and is very twitter savvy.]

Carmelo refuses to sign extension with Denver.

Then reports to camp and says he never wanted to leave Denver.

Clear as mud?


Jazz lead the series 95-65 all-time; 1-3 last season; 4-2 in the playoffs.

The Jazz and Nuggets have been the class of the Northwest division for the last few years.

Last season it appeared the Jazz would be easily swept out of the playoffs by the Nuggets.  The Jazz were without two of their starters, Kirilenko and Okur.  The Nuggets, however, were fighting through a bigger injury to their roster.  Head coach, George Karl, was undergoing treatment for throat cancer.  Without the leadership of George Karl, the Nuggets, being led by assistant coach Adrian Dantley,  quickly fell to an injury plagued Utah team that had found a pulse through a surging Deron Williams.

In the offseason the Jazz were linked to a 4 team trade that would have sent Kirilenko to Denver and brought Boris Diaw, currently of the Charlotte Bobcats, to Utah.  This proposed deal fell apart and AK is still a member of the Utah Jazz.

Player/Coach Notes

George Karl is returning to the pine this year after receiving treatment for throat cancer.  There was a story during the playoffs on George Karl watching the playoffs at home.  It actually made me feel bad that the Jazz were winning that series.  It felt unethical that they should be without such a great coach.  It broke my heart.  I personally feel that George Karl is one of the league’s best coaches.  He is a class act.  The fact that he can rein in so many different personalities in that locker room and get them focused on winning is amazing to me.  I personally wish him the best of luck this season.


Even with George Karl back at the helm this year I don’t see this being a good season for the Nuggets.  A tumultuous offseason will bleed into the regular season.  Carmelo Anthony will be the elephant in the room as long as he wears a Nuggets’ uniform.  Denver will not be able to truly move forward  this season until a trade is made involving Carmelo.  Denver will attempt to learn from Cleveland’s unfortunate offseason pain and get value for Carmelo before he leaves Denver with nothing once this season ends.  This will still be a competitive team with George Karl as Head Coach, but, without Carmelo, the Nuggets could be watching the playoffs on television much like their head coach did one summer ago.  I see the Jazz going 3-1 against the Nuggets this season.

Follow Mychal on Twitter!

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The AK47 Trade Dilemma Fri, 24 Sep 2010 23:21:57 +0000 Author information
Jeff Lind
There are a lot of emotions shooting around the Jazzosphere today. Shock, horror, happiness, exasperation… you name it, somebody in Utah’s expansive fan base is feeling it.

Francois Durand/Getty/NBAE

If you’re wondering what’s going on then you’ve gotta get up to speed. Early this afternoon, Marc Stein reported the following on Twitter:

Stein followed up his tweet with this article that outlines the trade. Broken down, this four team blockbuster includes sending Carmelo to the Nets, Derrick Favors and Andre Kirilenko to the Nuggets (and multiple 1st round picks), Boris Diaw to the Jazz and Devin Harris to Charlotte.

Since Mr. Stein’s original tweet, there has been a whirlwind of discussion, news, and speculation on what this means for the Northwest Division, and (for we Jazz fans) what this means for the Utah Jazz. If you know Utah basketball, you know that ever since he signed his max money deal, AK has been a polarizing character. In one breath we complain about his lockeroom tears, but in the next we praise his ability to stuff the stat sheet with blocks, steals, rebounds, and points. When he’s playing well he’s the linchpin of the defense and a prime spark plug for the offense. When he’s injured we talk about his softness and inability to play up to his potential. The Utah fan is a fickle beast and the singular absolute of Jazz fanaticism is that we only love you until we don’t. The funny thing is we’ve never figured out how we collectively feel about AK.

At SCH, we asked a few of our contributors for some FOR/AGAINST thoughts regarding this potential trade. Here’s what they had to say:


From Chris (@elkirkmo):

AK is one of my favorite players on the Utah Jazz. It’s partly because I speak Russian, and he is Russian… it’s as simple as that. Despite my personal bias, a three-way trade moving AK and his massive contract to Denver would be doing us a huge favor, especially since we’d be replacing AK with a guy with another Russian name. Boris. Diaw is younger (by a year) than Kirilenko and puts up similar numbers that we’ve come to expect from Kirilenko. He has playoff experience and stands out as a nightly triple-double threat. Some will point to Kirilenko’s ability to post a 5×5 (at least 5 of 5 categories), but he certainly hasn’t put up those numbers lately (although he has posted a lot of time in a shirt & tie on the bench). The main concern I have is moving AK to a division rival, the Nuggets (maybe it’s the because Nuggs are pretty gangster and AK seems pretty soft). Bottom line: The Nets would be doing the Jazz a massive favor. They’d allow us to dump our injury-prone money pit for a equally matched player and a smaller contract. Thanks, Carmelo.

From Mychal (@my_lo):

We know that being a small market is a tough job for most teams. Being a luxury payer in a small market is an even tougher one.  Being a luxury payer in a small market during a recession with just months to go before a potential lockout is a monumental task for ANY team.  Is this a cost cutting move?  Yes, but this cost cutting move has a good return.  The key here will be getting Boris Diaw back on track developmentally. He’s still 27 years old.  If he could get a good workout at P3 for an offseason (which by looking at his international play, it might be required by Jazz management) he could turn back into the fantasy monster he once was. Many Jazz fans are infuriated at the thought of losing AK for Diaw, but these are the same fans that booed Hayward because he wasn’t Monroe… and why did we want Monroe?  He’s a phenomenal passer for his size. I’d argue that Diaw has the same phenomenal passing skills Monroe did, and has the same workman’s ethic that that Sloan covets.  Additionally, don’t forget that a certain player named Odom gives the Jazz fits every year in the playoffs. Diaw is one guy who can match up against Odom (and Artest), so while at it’s core this is a cost cutting move, Diaw is a player that could thrive in the Jazz’s offense and provide match up headaches for opposing teams.  Imagine this lineup: D-Will, Miles, Diaw, Millsap, Jefferson.  That’s a BIG lineup.  There are a lot worse things the Jazz could do to clear cap space (see: E. Maynor).


From Jefferson (jeffersonboz AT gmail DOT com):

This deal would likely save the Jazz from the dreaded luxury tax (an estimated total savings of $13 mil), but Utah will be trading a dangerous player to a division rival.  Sure, the Thuggets will be in a process of rebuilding WHEN – not IF – Carmelo packs his bags, but adding a player like AK47 to their already athletic young team is just plain crazy.  If the motivation is to get AK’s exorbitant contract off the books, an equal or better deal can likely be had at the trade deadline.  In the meantime, the Jazz could have another run with a veteran defender that finally has added some bulk.  Boris Diaw is an undersized 6’8″ listed as a power forward (much less muscle than Millsap).  For Utah, he’d have to play on the wing.  While his three point shooting is a respectable .332, it seems a little redundant with C.J., Raja, and the Rookie.  If money is the only motivator, a better option will likely come along.  In any event, AK’s contract is set to come off the books next year – and he’s expressed a desire to stay in Utah for a lesser salary.  Why not give the Jazzmen a shot to get off to a good start with the new guys?

From Brian Henderson:

Spend the money! Keep Kirilenko. Don’t get too trigger happy, KOC. Kirilenko is one of the anchor’s of this team, notwithstanding his contract. This trade would be a bad deal for the Jazz. Diaw is not a better player than Kirilenko and at just a year younger, that argument is a wash. I maintained in a post this summer that AK is the linchpin for the team’s success this season and I stand by that argument. It takes time to learn Sloan’s system. Kirilenko has it down. We can’t cobble together a championship team by haphazardly plucking players from the garden of NBA delights, however much the team would like to get some of that bread back from AK’s contract. The money is not hurting the Jazz; it’s already been earmarked. I believe Kirilenko could produce the best season of his career, if he is healthy, and with the current cast of characters around him. If he does, and the other pieces work (Jefferson, Lil’ Gordy, and the Return of Raja), this will be the smartest non-move KOC has ever made, and AK will have earned his paycheck.
Let’s just look at pure career production between the two:

Boris Diaw (8 years)

MP-30.0/game, FG-49.6%, 3P-33.2%, FT-71.4%, RPG-4.8, APG-4.0, SPG-.7, BPG-.6, TO-2.04, PPG-9.6

Andrei Kirilenko (9 years)

MP-30.8/game, FG-47.1%, 3P-30.7%, FT-76.3%, RPG-5.7, APG-2.8, SPG-1.4, BPG-2.1, TO-1.99, PPG-12.4

You may see a wash, but I see that Kirilenko blocks more shots, steals more balls, and scores more points. Kirilenko is a fantastic passer in this system. The Jazz don’t need to give up his production and system smarts for an extra assist a game on paper. The $8.8 million plus luxury tax cost seems a fair price to pay for that. Sometimes it’s not about saving money. Especially for a small market team, if the Jazz want to go big or go home, they should spend that money on AK. Otherwise, in the words of SNL’s Sean Connery during Celebrity Jeopardy, “You’ll rue the day you crossed me, Trebek!”

From Jeff (@jefflind):

I personally hate this trade. HATE it. Deron Williams has specifically stated that the organization needs to show that they’re committed to getting better if they want him to consider sticking around after his three year deal, and I don’t see how losing Andre at ANY cost makes the team better. Consider 3 things: First, it’s AK’s contract year, so he’ll be playing his guts out. Second, this large contract will be a valuable trade piece throughout the season. If things don’t go well, blow up the team later. There will still be suitors… especially heading into a lockout year. Third, Diaw is a nice player, but he’s no Kirilenko. That’s the bottom line. I’ve hated AK’s contract since the day he signed it, but we’ve suffered through it’s maxness for this long. Let’s not get crazy and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What does it all boil down to? Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I know, is that we won’t have long to speculate on it:

Check out these other sites for fan reaction and news.

SLC Dunk

Marc Stein on Twitter

Brian Smith on Twitter

The Salt Lake Tribune Story


Follow Jeff on Twitter!

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Jeff Lind
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Kickers Fri, 17 Sep 2010 15:47:36 +0000 Author information
Jeff Lind

Chen Wang, Deseret News

During my senior year of college, some friends and I came up with a rudimentary way to gauge the toughness of a test. We didn’t have a name for it, but it was brilliant.  It was based on a simple question: Would you rather take a particular test, or get kicked in the face by that   course’s professor? Pretty soon the answer to “How’d the test go” transitioned from, “I’d rather get kicked in the face” to a statement of how many kicks you’d rather have to the face. The harder the test, the more face-kicks you’d have accepted to have gotten out of it. It was stupid, but it made sense to us. Kicks to the face are a pretty good metric because A) they impose a true negative cost (nobody wants to get kicked in the face), and because of our aversion to kicks in the face, B) one average kick to the face is a decently objective unit of measure. You weren’t being dramatic when you said “I’d rather have taken two kicks to the face than take that test”; you really would be willing to take the kicking.

I’ve thought a lot about the NBA schedule since it came out. I’ve started thinking about teams the Jazz are going to play in terms of kicks to the face, and have wondered which teams the Jazz will later walk away from saying, “Whoa–I’d rather take three kicks to the face than play them again.” With all that being said, here are the five teams that I think the Jazz would prefer to accept literal face kicking off the court than figurative ones on:

“One-Kicker” – The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America

As a basketball fan, I can’t wait to see these two teams match up this year. After last April’s instant classic, I’ve been looking forward to seeing some classic head to head action with Durrant and Deron leading their respective squads. As a Jazz fan, though, OKC makes me nervous. They are a good, young team, and they’re going to be better this year. The Thunder don’t accept that they are too young to be that good; they are going to be pesky. They’re a team that will play all 82 games like it’s the final week of the season, and that’s dangerous for teams like the Jazz. The flex doesn’t allow teams to take mental breaks, so if we get caught sleeping on these guys, they’ll take advantage and steal a few games. If the west is as packed as it has been in the past few years, that’s trouble come playoff time. Ultimately, am I scared of OKC in the playoffs? No. Not yet. I see them as an over-hyped and underage group of guys that played above themselves last year.  I think they’ll be trouble this year, but they are still a year or so away from legitimately contending in the west (like Portland was two years ago). Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Thunder, and think they’ll be a western power. I’m just reluctant to give them the west until they show that they can take it.

“Two-Kicker” – The Boston Celtics.

Getty Images North America

This team is old, but in basketball, old isn’t always bad. Between Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaq, and Paul Pierce, you have almost 60 years of NBA experience. SIXTY! While the Jazz will have youth and athleticism on their side, the Celtics will have wily, old man wits on theirs, and for anyone that’s played pickup ball against an aging dad or uncle, you know–old man wits are terrible to play basketball against. Between KG’s mouth, Shaq’s size, and Rondo’s ability to penetrate the lane, you’re facing a team that is all-around obnoxious. Remember: they are still the Eastern Conference champions, and I’m not convinced that there’s another team that will significantly challenge them this year. Besides (and I’ll get to this later), they have length and size. Unfortunately, the Jazz have historically been terrible against length and size.

“Three-Kicker” – The Miami Heat.

Doug Benc/Getty Images North America

Yeah–you expected these guys a little further down. I know. I’m not dropping them for spite. I don’t blame LeBron for leaving Ohio, and I’m not upset that Bosh, Wade, and LBJ want to play together in a warm city that knows how to party. Sounds awesome, really. (I left my hometown for more green financial pastures, so it’s all stones and glass houses if I start complaining.) I just don’t see them as much of a threat to the Jazz as are some other teams. Saying that, the Heat will be an interesting team to watch this season and my eyes will be glued to the TV come tip off. Anyway, I make them a three-kicker for four reasons.

The first is Chris Bosh. He’s good, but he’s yet to prove that he’s elite. He’s been the paper tiger in this Super Friend runaround, and until he earns some stripes in some big game moments, I have a hard time getting too worked up about his anchoring the Miami Trifecta.

The second is that this is a small ball team. The Jazz can match up on that. Yes, the Heat have two of the best penetrating scorers in the league, and yes, they have Mike Miller (who plausibly could become the leading scorer on the Heat this year – read that sentence again), but that’s fine with me. The Jazz’s biggest issues come against long teams, not small athletic ones (ask the Nuggets what Melo’s People of Utah do with athletic teams).

The third:  Who’s the alpha? This is a relatively untried experience in basketball. What happens when you jam three alpha dogs together on a single team and tell them to share? How will the King react when the media starts discussing his lack of production, or Wade’s inability to share the ball, or whatever. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh have been the guys in their respective cities since high school. Can they really share the spotlight with other true superstars? We’ll see. I think back on teams I’ve been on, or jobs I’ve worked at, and I’ve yet to see two or three mega alphas work together exceptionally well. Usually, something happens where one has to take the lead, and the other becomes resentful and bows out all together. It may not happen in this case, but until the Superfriends get on the court together, we won’t really know.

The fourth:  What happens if one of the Superfriends gets injured, even for a short time? That’s the danger of standing on a three legged stool to change a light bulb. One leg goes out, and you’re in trouble.

“Four-Kicker” – The Chicago Bulls.


In theory the Heat should have the four position, but with three members of the 2009-10 Jazz on their team, I can see the Bulls being an absolute killer for Utah late in the season. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If the Bulls run the flex, then they add three players that know it instantly and the Jazz end up playing it straight up. If they don’t play the flex, they still have three players that know it, and know where the off ball screens are coming. Three of their players know where our players like to shoot, or get the ball. They know where the Jazz like to run the floor. They know where Utah gets lazy and where they tighten up. I play a lot of pick-up basketball, and the guys that are most annoying to play are my brothers and good friends. They know my weaknesses and the subtleties (read: idiosyncrasies) of my game. The Bulls were good last season, and they did an excellent job this off season, heaping on the talent. (Quick side note: if you exclude Kurt Thomas, the Bulls have about 67 years of combined NBA experience. That’s only about 8 years more experience than the Big Three + Shaq in Boston. Those Celtics are old!)

“Five Kicker” – The Los Angeles Lakers (of Anaheim).

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

Man . . .  the Lakers. What do the Jazz do with them? They’ve forced us out of the playoffs for the past three years. They have what seems to be an impossible opposing system in the triangle, the best player on the planet in Kobe Bryant, a HOF coach, and the longest players in the league. If there was a team built specifically to dismantle the Jazz, it would look almost identical to the Lakers. It’s become comical, but I absolutely hate facing these guys. The blessing and curse of having an insane fan base is that opposing players hate you, and you always get the best out of opposing teams. The Lakers in particular are always bring their A-game against Utah because it’s a pleasure to beat the team and in turn, crush their annoying fans’ hopes & dreams. Other fans wonder why we’re so excited about the Bell signing? Well, to have someone that can hang tough as a defender on Bryant is why. It seems like we’re grasping at straws, but most of those last playoff exits came despite some well played games by the Jazz, and a lock down player like Bell could provide the tipping point that the Jazz need to get over the Laker hump (at least that’s what we tell ourselves). Until Utah starts beating L.A. consistently, they will keep the top spot as most terrifying team to play in the league.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

The upside to all of this is that as of today, the Jazz have a perfect record against all five of these teams, and Utah has gotten better this off season. In my mind, if Memo gets healthy, Raja stays tenacious, AK plays to his contract, Jefferson gets integrated, and Hayward really IS the baller we hear, then the Jazz could be scary come tip off. My guess is that there will be quite a few teams that walk away from ESA thinking, “Man… I’d rather get kicked in the face than play those guys again.”

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Jeff Lind
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NBA Playoffs: Round 1 – Chatting with the Nuggs Fri, 16 Apr 2010 18:54:49 +0000 Author information
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
I’ve been in a fairly catatonic state ever since the debacle against the Suns on Wednesday night. I’m trying to pick up the pieces and reconcile a world where the widow of the deceased owner has more fight and competitive spirit than the players her family pays millions of dollars to entertain. Whatever happened on Wednesday was definitely not entertainment.

There are still a few things to say about Wednesday, but in the meantime, let’s chat a bit about Saturday’s Game 1 for the Jazz in Denver against the Nuggets. I’ll be teaming up with my TrueHoop Network brother Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company to chat about the series on Friday at 1pm MDT. Join us and let us know what’s on your mind.

Author information

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
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