Salt City Hoops » Los Angeles Lakers 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 » Los Angeles Lakers Jazz 103 – Lakers 99: A Most Satisfying Win, With Complete Highlights Mon, 19 Mar 2012 18:00:05 +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

Utah Jazz 103 Final

Recap | Box Score

99 Los Angeles Lakers

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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Jazz-Lakers Preview: The 70-Millionth Meeting of the Year Sun, 18 Mar 2012 18:37:09 +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

Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Preview:
Jazz at Lakers, Game 4 of 4 | ESPN Preview
7:30 PM MT | TV: Root Sports

ESPN LA’s Andy Kamenetsky and I preview today’s Jazz-Lakers matchup. Here’s what he had to say on the Land O’ Lakers blog. Follow the Kamenetsky brothers at @ESPNLandOLakers.

Spencer Hall: How do you feel about the departure of Derek Fisher?

Andy Kamenetsky: I’ve expressed my thoughts at length about Fisher’s departure in this article (self-promotion alert!), but I’ll provide the nutshell-ier version. On a personal level, I don’t like seeing Fisher go. He’s among my favorite athletes I’ve ever covered, and I immensely respect him. And as a Laker fan who’s watched Fish since his rookie season, he’s been borderline impossible not to root for. And basketball-wise, even at 37 the man still has a knack for hitting huge shots, and his voice carried universal weight in the locker room.

Having said that, the Lakers needed to make this move. Fisher’s overall production, especially on offense, had fallen off a cliff. The Lakers have stretched their luck to the breaking point with point guard such a glaring weakness. When Ramon Sessions checked in Friday for the first time as a Laker, the Staples Center crowd literally gave him a huge round of applause for essentially just dribbling the ball. I’m not exaggerating. Sessions isn’t an elite point guard, but he’s a massive upgrade as a scorer, distributor, and rim attacker. (The difference in speed and athleticism goes without saying.) Moreover, Sessions makes Steve Blake better in the sense that he’s now just expected to be a solid backup, rather than a reserve everyone hopes can cover for a starter’s deficiencies.

With Fisher potentially out of the rotation, moving him was a no-brainer. Putting aside the financial motivation to shed his salary, there’s only so much leadership he can continue to provide as a bit player, and I’m not positive he’d have taken the demotion well. He’s a prideful man with a lot of belief in his abilities, so the transition could been humiliating. Not to mention, a source of resentment, pro’s pro that he may be. You’d hate to see Fisher become the bad guy, and it’s unfair to ask Mike Brown to bench a leader of the locker room whose trust he’s still trying to earn. The whole situation reeked of potential awkwardness and needed to be avoided.

SRH: How is it possible that no LA salon has gotten their well-manicured mitts on Pau Gasol for a very special makeover?

AK: As someone on the last legs of an uphill battle against hair loss, I can’t make any snide remarks about freewheeling nature of Pau’s locks. (At least none that don’t stem from rampant, blatant jealousy.) But what matters most isn’t Gasol’s hair, but the head beneath that mass. Pau’s been the first to admit his name swirling around the rumor mill has taken a mental toll, and at times, that anxiety has spilled onto the court. With the deadline passed, Gasol still in a Laker uni, and replacing Fisher as a captain to boot, his nerves should be considerably settled. He’s actually played pretty well throughout the drama, but the fewer the distractions, the easier the process becomes. I expect Pau to step up even more over the final 22 games.

SRH: What kind of chemistry vibe do the new-look Lakers seem to have?

AK: Based off one game, good. And I imagine the trade deadline in the rear view mirror will only help. I mentioned before how the trade rumors have affected Pau, but the same could be said about the entire team. The potential for change has been a looming, open secret since training camp, and to say it’s worn on players would be massive understatement. Beyond the natural disinclination most players feel towards being traded, this group in particular really wanted to stay together. They didn’t get their complete wish, but at least the big three remained intact, so it’s not a total makeover. Either way, with the dust now settled, everyone can take a deep breath, exhale and feel comfortable again. I can’t imagine that not being a positive

Read my answers to Andy’s questions at ESPN LA. Follow Andy at @ESPNLandOLakers.

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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Jazz 87 – Lakers 90 Thu, 12 Jan 2012 06:32:04 +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
Los Angeles Lakers 90 FinalRecap | Box Score 87 Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap, PF41 MIN | 14-24 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 29 PTS | -3

Amazing again. Millsap is becoming a fixture and I hope he’s always a Jazzman.

Gordon Hayward, SG20 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 2 PTS | -5

As I tweeted after the game, Hayward is going to have nightmares about getting the ball on the break with only a few seconds left and only Matt Barnes to beat, and not getting it done. There were several moments in the game when it looked like he was playing hot potato with the basketball and couldn’t get it out of his hands fast enough.

Al Jefferson, C43 MIN | 5-17 FG | 1-2 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -5

A double double, but 5-17 shooting killed way too many possessions. The dreaded six-foot shot-put made its return, with very poor results. The worst was this post-game quote: “They defended me really good tonight and it got to the point where I didn’t want to take shots anymore and just get the ball to my teammates.”

Raja Bell, SG33 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -8

Rose to the occasion early in his matchup with old nemesis Kobe Bryant, scoring the first four Jazz points and getting under Kobe’s skin. Still, Bryant put up 40 points a night after scoring 48 and was equally energized by the matchup. To Raja’s credit, his tough defense was hampered by several tough calls that may or may not have been the remains of karmic payback for his brutal clothesline on Kobe from years ago.

Similar play from Raja against any other opponent probably would have been lock-down defense. I agree with his post-game comment: “If he’s going to take 31 shots to get 40, then that’s pretty much all you can do. Anyone shooting 31 shots should get 40.”

Devin Harris, PG31 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 3 PTS | -14

Harris seemed poised to play tough early in the game, but seemed to disappear as the game went on.

Earl Watson, PG22 MIN | 0-4 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 4 PTS | +11

Brought a nice change of pace to the game and continues to be one of the best back-up point guards in the league.

Josh Howard, SF34 MIN | 6-14 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | 0

Howard continues to be the spark plug as well as the LOL-dribbler. I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse ball handler among players who are frequently handling the ball. Still, his crazy play seems to be the only thing that un-stagnates the Jeffersonian offense.

C.J. Miles, SF16 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-1 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +7

CJ has been the invisible man lately.

Derrick Favors, FC12 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | 0

Played tough defense and showed glimpses, but was overshadowed in key moments by Bynum and Gasol.

Enes Kanter, F10 MIN | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +2

Some story as Favors. Great to see the commitment to defense, but for all the talk about rebounding, four isn’t enough on a night that had a lot of misses.

[Update: Um, four rebounds in 10 minutes isn't bad at all. In my fevered post-game state I sometimes make horrible assessments.]

Four Things We Saw

  1. Mark Eaton, Dieter Uchtdorf, and Masha Kirilenko walked past the locker room after the game. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Masha, but the word on the street was that she was in town with friends and family for a vacation. Andrei is still in Russia.
  2. Derek Fisher had some interesting, thoughtful comments about his time in Utah and his relationship with Gail and the late Larry Miller after the game. 1320 KFAN’s @tonyparks1320 and KSL’s @jarommoore asked some good questions and got some nice answers. I’ll post the transcript and a link in a separate post.
  3. It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Jazz and their fans, but it’s nice to see how much progress the team has made since opening night against the Lakers.
  4. The annoying presence of five million Laker fans in the building created the weird effect of sounding like simultaneous home games.

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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A few words with Andrew Kamenetzky Fri, 01 Apr 2011 05:48:24 +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
Tonight’s Jazz-Lakers game gives us a chance to check in with Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles and the Land ‘O Lakers blog. The fortunes for the Jazz are down right now, but I had a few questions about the Lakers.

1) In the wake of Jerry Sloan’s retirement, the Jazz have no identity and no rudder. The Lakers still have a few good years left with Kobe, but how do you expect the culture of the team to change after Phil Jackson leaves? Also, who is the most likely replacement and who would be your personal choice as coach?

Actually, the culture shouldn’t change too much after Phil leaves. Don’t get me wrong. It will be an entirely different world without Jackson — particularly for the media, who get treated to choice copy on a daily basis from The Zen Master — but fundamentally, the culture has been defined most by winning, and everyone remaining seems determined and qualified to maintain the status quo. Plus, the roster is primarily composed of veterans who seem aware their window at a collectively elite level may not be “shutting,” but it’s certainly not limitless. Lamar Odom in particular has mentioned a desire to maximize this opportunity, and I don’t think he’s alone. Thus, everyone should be motivated to help create a smooth transition.

Along these lines, Brian Shaw is the consensus heir apparent, and despite inexperience, I’m good with that. Any successor will undoubtedly have Kobe’s seal of approval, and if Kobe signs off on Shaw (as I expect he would, given their long relationship), everybody else will fall in line. Plus, I suspect Shaw would run the triangle, which means a championship-caliber team won’t devote large chunks of next season towards learning a new system. (If the CBA issues actually do result in a lockout and games missed, this becomes even more important.) Continuity is an underrated commodity in winning championships, and Shaw in place allows the Lakers to maintain as much as possible with this core.

2) Which player would you like to see the Lakers target in the offseason?

That’s tough to answer, since we don’t know if the new CBA will eliminate the mid-level exception, the primary means for adding noteworthy new blood for a team so far over the cap. But broadly speaking, I’d love for the Lakers to find a better option for a backup/third string center.

This may sound like a trivial wish, but a) the Lakers are pretty stacked, assuming Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown stick around and b) Andrew Bynum’s injury history has emphasized the importance of true center depth. (If he’s back next year, Derrick Caracter is too short for the five.) Without a trustworthy option behind Drew, the burden has fallen almost entirely on Pau Gasol, and the toll from banging bigger bodies 40+ minutes on a nightly basis is obvious. I realize it’s difficult to find a credible big willing to sign on for sporadic PT, but in a world both dream and semi-realistic, that’s who I’d go after.

3) Which Western Conference team and which Eastern Conference team presents the most difficult matchup for the Lakers?

In the East, I’ve been feeling increasingly… wait for it… Bullish about Chicago. They have a star capable of taking over (Derrick Rose), a fierce defense with a quality anchor (Joakim Noah) and balanced depth. Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer are solid options to make Kobe work and no coach has enjoyed more success game-planning Bryant than Tom Thibodeau. Granted, this incarnation of the Bulls has no track record in the postseason (a very different animal than the regular season) and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have absolutely owned Carlos Boozer during the last few playoffs, so these strengths all relative. My money would still be on the Lakers, even without home court advantage. But I don’t take the Bulls lightly at all. They’ve been quietly impressive this season.

For the west, I need to see the April 10th matchup between the Lakers and Thunder before making up my mind. It’ll be the first time the Lakers will face OKC with Kendrick Perkins, and I’m curious to see his effect not just defensively, but on the offensive end as well.

Perk’s screens were a very underrated part of what made Boston’s offense go, and it’ll be interesting to see how well he can free up Russell Westbrook and especially Kevin Durant for better looks. To put things mildly, Ron Artest has made life miserable for the NBA scoring leader over the last two seasons and I doubt the Thunder can pull the upset with Durant consistently locked up. If Perkins’ presence somehow opens things up for KD (or just makes the defense exceptionally stout), the Thunder become the most worrisome Western conference team. Otherwise, I’ll give that respect to the Spurs, despite the current slump.

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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Exchange Week: Jazz in Hollywood Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:13:06 +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

Hollywood asks the tough questions at Sundance.

It’s exchange week between SLC and LA. We’re hosting Hollywood at Sundance and they’re hosting the Jazz against the Lakers on Tuesday night. Andy Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles exchanged thoughts with Salt City Hoops about the matchup between the Jazz and Lakers. I should have asked if he missed James Franco at all this week. Instead, here’s what he had to say:

SCH: Tuesday’s game is a rare time when both team teams have been struggling, so how do you (or do you) help fans maintain perspective while things seem to be falling apart?

AK: I laugh because it’s true.

No doubt, things get pretty intense in this neck of the woods when the Lakers drop a few games. Former Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Ross Siler used to cover the Lakers for the L.A. Daily News, and he once described each Laker game as Game 7 of the Finals to fans. Pretty accurate depiction.

With that in mind, I guess I help maintain perspective by reiterating how I truly feel about the regular season: It’s often a horrible barometer for what happens in the playoffs. Not that the first 82 games are meaningless or without purpose, of course, but it’s just dicey to use them as a road map. Last season, two bad losses to the Cavs convinced the entire basketball universe LeBron that the gang had the Lakers figured out and that Kobe was changing cities. Well, Cleveland didn’t even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. A LOT happens over the course of five months, so you have to take each loss (or win, really) with a certain degree of salt. That doesn’t mean you should gloss over bad performances or habits, no questions asked. Being critical of the team is part of my job. But I tend to assess situations through the prism of “is what happened fixable?” Assuming the answer is “yes,” and with a team this talented it typically is, my faith in the long view tends to be strong.

Plus, NBA basketball is supposed to be fun, and I don’t want to ever be responsible for sucking the joy out of that experience for our readers. You can be dead honest about how the team is playing without making it deadly serious.

SCH: Speaking of not serious, do you miss Sasha and Jordan Farmar? Vujacic made such an excellent villain; his cartoon persona was like a perfect storm of annoying for so many Jazz fans. And their recent performance for the Nets against the Jazz has me convinced they were the secret to the Laker success last year.

AK: As a writer who likes to blend comedy with analysis, Sasha is definitely missed. Dude provided me some of my best material since Slava Medvedenko and Von Wafer were teammates. Never a dull moment with The Machine.

On the court, however, I wouldn’t say either guy is truly “missed,” even though certain elements of their skill sets occasionally are at times.

For example, Steve Blake does a better job running the triangle than Jordan Farmar, if for no other reason than he’s willing to do it. Because Blake considers this priority one, the second unit has generally been more cohesive, particularly while at full strength. However, with Matt Barnes out, some scoring punch is missed, which means Farmar’s tendency to call his own number might come in handy. At the very least, Blake needs to be a “poor man’s Jordy.” He’s simply not shooting the ball enough.

Nor, for that matter, is he making enough of those rare shots. In theory, that outside touch could be provided by Sasha, but in practice, not really. Vujacic was buried in the rotation, and they really are a better bench unit with Blake running the show. He just needs to become more of a scoring threat.

Follow the Kamenetzky brothers on Twitter @espnlandolakers.

Jazz vs Lakers | ESPN Game Preview
8:30 PM MST | NBA TV
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Staples Center / Los Angeles

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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10 Things I Know Almost Half Way Through… Wed, 12 Jan 2011 17:22:10 +0000 Author information
Jeff Lind

The House that Larry Built

  1. With each passing week, the concept of Super Team is looking rosier and rosier. Fans throughout Utah’s base panicked this summer after hearing all about the superfriend’s super alliance. There was a certain contingent that felt if the Heat’s team worked well, guys like Deron Williams and Chris Paul would run from small markets to form their own super groups with other “elite” players. Well, we’re almost half way in, and the Super Team concept has proven to be anything but failure. Sure, they struggled out of the gate losing 8 of their first 22, but since then…. look out. The Miami Heat have now won 9 of their last 10 (Dallas), and 21 of their last 22! I don’t know what Deron thinks when he sees that team, but it makes me nervous. It’ll be VERY interesting to see how they do in the playoffs.
  2. Blake Griffin is the real deal. Have you seen that guy dunk (dumb question since if you’re reading this blog, you probably like basketball, and if you’ve ever even expressed an interest in basketball, then you’ve inevitably been forwarded one of his highlights)? The guy can jump out of the gym, and throw down harder than almost any player I’ve ever seen. I’ve actually found myself flipping over to Clippers games JUST to see what he may do next. Before this season, I’d never flipped to a Clipper game for ANYTHING let alone to see quality basketball. I’m very interested to see how he’ll do in the dunk contest. Blake’s strength seems to be in-game dunking, and it will be fascinating to see him try to build the same type of momentum when he’s not competing head to head with someone.
  3. This whole slow start issue is a weird problem to have. It’s common enough in the league, but most teams that have the issue don’t have a winning record. Those teams start slow, claw back, and eventually collapse. The Jazz, on the other hand, have exceptionally slow starts, but then follow them with mind bending second halves. So in one game you see a team go from the lottery, to top 3 in the west in a 48 minute time frame. Why can’t they bring the intensity of the fourth quarter to the first? From my seat they look lazy out of the gate (I’m looking at you Deron). The team seems to settle for A LOT of ill advised jumpers, while giving a horrendous perimeter defensive effort on the other end. When they play bad teams, it doesn’t really matter, but when they’re up against good perimeter shooters, it can get devastating FAST (read: Dallas). Forget the trade talk, get defensive stoppers out there early and put a hand in shooter’s faces on the perimeter (Hayward?). I think that solves the problem. Either way, I think this is a better problem to have than some, and one that can be fixed with mid-season discipline. I’d rather have a slow start problem, than a “lack of talent” problem, or a “can’t finish in crunch time” problem.
  4. The Lakers aren’t invincible. In their last 10 games they are 6-4, they have been inconsistent at times, and Kobe doesn’t seem to be as lethal as he has in previous years. Don’t get me wrong… they’re still A team to beat, but that Everest doesn’t look quite as insurmountable as it did a couple months ago… especially if Kobe really is dialing down his practice time with the team (and/or has bone on bone issues in his knee, as reported).
  5. The Jazz bench is key to success. I’m not ready to pin it on one guy (like CJ Miles, Earl Watson, or Fes), but collectively they have been the spark plug for the Jazz. Guys like Ronnie Price have fearlessly stepped up to better known, more established vets and shown them that every player is in the NBA for a reason. I love the chemistry of the second unit, and the desire to win. It’s no secret that they’ve saved the Jazz on multiple occasions from these pitiful, slow starts.
  6. I’m really, really liking Fes… as a player. He needs some good minutes in the second half of the year, because the Jazz will need him come playoff time. He had some good moments last year in the playoff’s, but he needs to gain Sloan’s full trust. Don’t underestimate the importance of having a good Memo and a serviceable Fes in any 7 game series vs. the Lakers or Spurs.
  7. I’d rather have a pouty Deron Williams leading my team than a giant-knee-brace-clad Chris Paul. Two things stir up ESPN’s Daily Dime chats more than any other topic: 1) who is the better point guard: CP3, or DWill, and 2) what tastes better on ice cream: chocolate or bacon. For now, the overriding opinion is that Paul is better despite H2H matchups, and durability (I’m called an apologist EVERY time I bring either of those things up). People love CP’s efficiency, and his pizzazz. Time will tell, but my stance will continually favor long term durability and very good efficiency over amazing efficiency over a few shortened seasons.
  8. Can we just collectively decide to rename the Coach of the Year award to the Jerry Sloan Coach of the Year award? Forget giving him the stupid thing, he has become the award. I mean, seriously NBA… this has become one of the biggest, longest running jokes. If we’re not going to change the name, then give him the freaking award while it still means something… the longer you wait, the more it’s going to look like Scorsese’s Best Director for “The Departed.”
  9. The Jazz gelled pretty fast, but they’ve had some rocky moments lately. They’re at a tipping point right now. They need Memo to get back, and play like we know he is capable of. If he does, and can stay healthy, then I think the Jazz have a legitimate shot at a deep run in the playoffs (as currently constituted). With Memo, the Jazz get deeper at the center and PF position, get a scorer who can put the hurt on opposing defenses in a hurry, a bigger spread on the offensive side of the ball (leaving Jefferson and Millsap space to destroy the paint), and add height.
  10. The Spurs are scarier than the Lakers right now. While the idea of facing EITHER in the playoffs is pretty scary, the Spurs have taken things to a new level, and are actually competing as a complete unit. They have discipline, heart, and all the pieces in place to win now. The Lakers are good, but currently they live and die by two or three key players (Kobe, Pau, and Odom). I look down the road, and I forsee more problems for the defending champs then I do for San Antonio.
  11. Oh… and Millsap is ridiculous (one for good measure). He should touch the ball 805 times per game.

Author information

Jeff Lind
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10 Things I Know One Week Into the Season… Wed, 03 Nov 2010 05:51:05 +0000 Author information
Jeff Lind

Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

1. The Lakers are still the Lakers. Before the season started, I questioned Kobe’s ability to perform with a weak knee and a bum finger. I mean, he’s human (allegedly), and has to break down at some point… right? Well, if it is right it looks like the breakdown won’t be coming this season.

2. The new instant replay rules are arduous. Am I the only one that feels like we’re watching replays at every possible break this season? I want to get the right call, just like everyone else, but I could do without the clear-path instant replay, the who-fouled-who instant replay, and the out-of-bounds-during-any-part-of-the-first-half-replay. Can’t we just let the refs call the game how they see it, and use these replays only during the last 2 minutes of the game (and -maybe- half)? Can’t we just agree that if you lose a game SOLELY because you didn’t get an out of bounds call in the first quarter then you don’t deserve that win?

3. Blake Griffin is crazy good. And crazy, crazy. The guy has no regard for his body, which should excite and terrify all Clippers fans. Excite because he can electrify the entire stadium with one monster dunk. Terrify because on nearly every one of those monster dunk he seems to come down all skiwampis. Every time Griffin comes down in a tweak like that, the fans in the Staples Center collectively gasp (all 66 of them). It’s delicious fear, and it’s a great show.

4. The preseason is meaningless. The Jazz preseason record = 8-0. The Jazz regular season record = 1-2.

5. The Thunder aren’t as good as the media wanted us to think. Yes they beat the Bulls and Pistons, but then the Jazz came to town and exposed how thin the Thunder’s bench was and how helpless they are when Durant is substantially defended. While there’s no doubt that the Thunder will get better, it’s clear that the path to the finals won’t be as simple as some talking heads wanted us to believe.

6. The Jazz aren’t as far along as I’d hoped. After an 8-0 preseason, the Jazz got our hopes sky high… and then got smoked in their opening game. Then they got smoked in their home opener. All of Utah fandome was hammering the panic button. Things looked bleak. Then OKC happened and we all realized that the Jazz aren’t so bad, that maybe we overreacted, and that they are actually pretty good. At least when the offense is flowing. Unfortunately, they just aren’t all that fluid yet. The first two games highlighted the importance of the team’s outside shooting, and what happens when those shots don’t fall. Opposing defenses triple team the Jazz’ low post players, the Jazz miss open shots on the perimeter, and it disables the entire offense. From the inside out, the Jazz need to have confidence in their perimeter scoring.

7. I’d rather watch a player whine to a ref than watch 27 technical free throws per game. Anyone that has watched the NBA this week has learned that the league is cracking down on whining players that complain and pester refs. As a player, you can’t raise hands after a call, make a sad face, or blink your eyes too quickly without the threat of a quick T. In theory less whining is great, but in practice these new enforcements extend games, bore viewers, and force fans to watch teams meander up and down the court shooting technical free throws. It’s misery. The league is attempting to bring an NFL-like professionalism to NBA referee calls, but instead they’ve created this perception of unequal power tilted in favor of the referees. I’m hoping that the rule eventually finds an equilibrium where we do see less whining coupled with more judicious whistle blowing from the refs, but for now it’s just annoying.

8. The West is still STRONG. The Lakers are undefeated, the Mavs have Dirk, OKC is an offensive juggernaut, the Blazers are thrilling in transition, the Spurs have turned back the clock, the Suns can dump 3’s on you by the bushel, the Jazz’ offense is undefendable (when rolling), and as long as the Nuggets have Carmelo they are contenders. Greeeeeeaaaaat. There aren’t any night’s off while playing in the Western Conference.

9. John Wall was the right number 1 pick. Did you see his home opener against Evan Turner and the 76ers? It was ridiculous. Yes he had 9 turnovers, but he also was one steal away from a triple double in his THIRD NBA GAME EVER (29/13/9). Um… yeah. He’s good. Finally, Washington has a sports team to get excited about.

10. Maybe the Jazz should have matched Wesley Matthews’ offer? Nah…

Author information

Jeff Lind
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Division Previews: Los Angeles Lakers, Pacific Division – Western Conference Fri, 22 Oct 2010 18:00:44 +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.

Back for his second stint in Utah, Raja Bell has the unenviable task of guarding Kobe. (Jae C. Hong, AP)

Key Matchups

Laker Bigs vs. Utah Bigs

As was all too evident in last season’s playoffs, the Lakers are a nightmare to defend down low.  With Spaniard Pau Gasol, Andrew “Injury” Bynum, and Lamar Kardashian-Odom, the Laker-length has proved to be too much for anyone in the league to handle over the last two seasons.  Without sounding insensitive, though, Bynum hasn’t played a full season since 2006-2007 – so chances are he’ll miss some action this year for the defending champs.

The addition of Big Al Jefferson provides Utah some much needed size in the post.  Okur can stretch a defense, but Al isn’t afraid to rumble in the paint.  In order to truly compete with LA, Utah will need big games from Al, Andrei and Paul, with quality minutes from Fesenko, Elson, and Okur (when healthy).  If the preseason means anything (it doesn’t), Utah looked pretty impressive against LA in two road victories.  Utah’s big men held their own in the post – and Big Al seemed to overwhelm the much skinnier Gasol.

Kobe Bryant vs. Anyone and Everyone

Kobe is one of the best players in the league right now. Any discussion centering on Utah and Kobe will undoubtedly begin with Raja Bell.  While Raja is the designated defensive stopper, his attitude will be contagious with his younger teammates.  CJ and AK will take turns trying to stop the guy.  Deron Williams will have a go against him.  Coach Sloan might even throw a rookie or two on him.  Am I the only one that thinks Jerry Sloan would like a crack at him, too?  Limiting Kobe will be a team effort.  In 4 regular season games against the Jazz last season, Black Mamba averaged 5 fewer points than his average (he still put up 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5.3 dimes on the Jazz).  Not surprisingly, Kobe upped his scoring average to 32 points in a four game sweep of the Jazz in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.  I’m not sure there is any way to effectively “stop” Kobe…the key will be to limit his touches as much as possible and make him make the insane circus shots that he’s famous for.

High Notes | Low Notes

There’s not much vulnerability for the two-time defending champs.  The core from the previous two years is intact, and you can bet that LA will continue to impress come playoff time.  One of its self-perceived deficiencies was perimeter shooting…so LA went out and acquired Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.  Not counting the preseason victories, Utah hasn’t won at Staples Center against the Lakers in 16 tries.  On paper, the Jazz can match-up with just about anyone.  At ESA, Utah can compete with the best in the league.  For some reason, though, LA just seems to have Utah’s number.  Stockton and Malone defeated the Lakers in the playoffs in 1997 and 1998 (a sweep).  Williams and Jefferson and company have the precedent…now they need to get it done.


LA leads the all-time series 113-68. Utah went just 1-3 last year during the regular season against the eventual champs.  LA has eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.  During that run, LA has won 12 times, with Utah winning just thrice.

Not all is gloomy in the outlook vs. LA.  In preseason play, Utah overcame strong performances from both Kobe and Pau Gasol to win TWICE in California against the full-strength (if preseason) Lakers.  Granted, the preseason means nothing, but the Jazz played well against a full-strength Laker-squad.  If that effort can be replicated in the regular season (or, in answer to Jazz fans prayers, in the playoffs), there is hope.

Deron Williams nicely summarizes the feelings of all of Jazz fandom:

I hate ’em, you know…I hate the Lakers. They’re so good. I hate them because they win all the time. They’re a tough team. … We definitely talk about it. It’s not a secret. We hate the Lakers.”

Player/Coach Notes

Phil Jackson wins championships in threes. 1991-1993, 1996-1998, 2000-2002, [2009-2011?].  While history suggests that the Zen Master is due for his NBA record 12th championship this year, I suspect that Coach Sloan would not concede the season just yet. Sloan’s wins outnumber Jackson’s, but Phil has the rings and a better winning percentage.

Michael Jordan’s recent comments placing Kobe in the pantheon of the top ten all-time greatest-guards was just the type of backhanded compliment you’d expect from his Airness.  Wherever you rank those two, they’re both Jazz-Kryptonite.

Raja spurned the recruiting efforts of ‘Mamba, to return to Coach Sloan and the Jazz.

Kobe also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery (the third time on his right knee) this summer.


Let’s hope Kobe and company go overboard on Turkey (tryptophan anyone?).  The Lakers first venture to ESA on November 26th (the day after Thanksgiving).  The Jazz next face LA at Staples Center on January 25, 2011 – the first night of road/home back to back with San Antonio on the back end.  With any luck, LA will play the April Fool – in Utah on April 1st.  The Jazz then travel back to Laker-Land on April 5th.  Expect Utah to win at ESA and challenge for a victory in LA.  My realistic prediction? 2-2 split at home.  If the Jazz have any shot at representing the West in the Finals (optimistic, I know), they’ll have to find a way to get past the Lakers in the playoffs.

Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com

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