Salt City Hoops » Raja Bell http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:42:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Raja Bell http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com Jerry Sloan’s Greatest Accomplishment http://saltcityhoops.com/jerry-sloans-greatest-accomplishment/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jerry-sloans-greatest-accomplishment/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 14:45:25 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=6535 Author information
Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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2003-04 utah jazz roster

“I think I’m finished.”

With four simple words, John Stockton casually and unceremoniously closed the curtain on an historic NBA career.  In true Stockton style, calling no attention to himself, he made the announcement at locker cleanout day as offhandedly as he would answer a question about his previous night’s dinner choice.  The announcement, combined with the move made to L.A. by Karl Malone, the yin to Stockton’s yang, poignantly trumpeted the end of an incredible Utah Jazz era.

If losing two hall-of-fame players and the entire team’s identity in one offseason weren’t bad enough, Utah’s remaining roster was as underwhelming as they came.  The Sports Illustrated 2003-04 NBA season preview predicted the Jazz to finish dead last in the west, and quoted an anonymous scout from an opposing team, who was even less optimistic regarding Utah’s chances.

“If this team wins 20 games, I’ll be surprised,” the scout said.  “…This is probably the least talented club in the league.”

Utah’s opening night started lineup was comprised of 24-year-old Carlos Arroyo, who was attempting to fill the gargantuan shoes Stockton left behind at point guard; the overpaid and underwhelming Greg Ostertag at center and a talented but young Andrei Kirilenko playing out of position at power forward.  DeShawn Stevenson and Matt Harpring rounded out the starting lineup, with Raja Bell, Sasha Pavlovic, Jarron Collins, Ben Handlogten and Raul Lopez getting minutes off the bench.  The Jazz won that night, riding hot shooting (57%) and a balanced scoring effort to surprise many, even against an underwhelming Trail Blazers squad.  A 127-102 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the next contest seemed to put the Jazz back on the path to futility and frequent losses where the rest of the league seemed to think they belonged.

Leave it to a team led by Jerry Sloan to grossly exceed expectations.

Despite the dearth of All-Star-caliber players and bona fide scorers on the roster, the Jazz continued to kick, scratch and claw their way through every game.  The hard-nosed, high energy style of play Sloan was known for during his playing days seemed to possess the team on a nightly basis.  Consistent effort and unselfish play led the Jazz to win more games than they lost, albeit in the least aesthetically pleasing manner possible.  By the end of 2003, the Jazz were sitting at a surprising 17-14 record and, shockingly enough, in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race.

If the lack of natural talent weren’t a big enough obstacle Utah had to sidestep, Matt Harpring suffered a knee injury in early January that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  There are two incredible facts brought to light by this injury: the fact that Utah was a whisker away from making the playoffs after missing their second-best player for half the season, and the fact that Matt Harpring was the second-best player on a team with a winning record.  This is no knock on Harpring, as his aggressive play and perpetually revved up motor fit the Sloan system perfectly, but Harpring was nowhere near a franchise-level player.

Looking to take a flier on a once-prolific scorer and to acquire some much-needed three point shooting, Utah acquired Tom Gugliotta and Gordan Giricek in two separate draft deadline deals.  While the Gugliotta gamble never paid off, Giricek provided much of the scoring void left by Harpring’s knee injury and made Utah’s offense more dynamic by virtue of his three-point accuracy.

Through both draft day trades and sheer hustle and determination, Utah maintained its modest but above .500 pace.  Relying heavily on Kirilenko, Arroyo and Giricek, the Jazz continued to hover around the .500 mark until late in the season.  (Ironically, current Utah outcast Raja Bell was also a huge contributor to Utah’s offense, routinely pouring in 20 off the bench and garnering consideration for 6th Man of the Year.)  At 42-38, Utah was ever so close to cracking that top eight in the Western Conference and extending their season for at least four more games.  Unfortunately, an expected loss to the Mavericks and an unexpected defeat to the terrible Phoenix Suns ended Utah’s season and playoff bid.  Most likely by virtue of missing the playoffs, Jerry Sloan lost out on winning Coach of the Year. The award went to Hubie Brown, who led the Grizzlies, in-his-prime Shane Battier and young stud Pau Gasol in tow, to 50-32 regular season record and the same number of playoff wins as Sloan’s Jazz squad, 0.

In addition everything mentioned previously, the following stats and facts from the 2003-04 Utah Jazz season only further magnify just how monumentally impressive a job Sloan did with this roster.  These don’t need to be sprinkled with prose or expounded upon; they speak for themselves.

  • Ben Handlogten, a free agent with zero NBA experience who was signed a month before the season started, suffered a season-ending injury midway through the season.  It was considered a “major loss.”
  • For the 2003-04 season, the Jazz had the third-hardest schedule, according to basketball-reference.com
  • In 2003-04, every team in the Midwest Division went to the playoffs, except the Jazz.
  • Had the Jazz been in the Eastern Conference, they would have been the 4th seed.
  • The 2003-04 Jazz were the fourth-youngest team in the league, with an average age of 24.9 years.
  • At +5, the Jazz had the biggest positive differential in the NBA between wins (42) and expected wins (37), according to basketball-reference.com

In the annals of sports history, the 2003-04 Utah Jazz season will continue to go unnoticed and overlooked, overshadowed by the dawning of the LeBron James era, the triumph of the “star-less” Detroit Pistons over the star laden Los Angeles Lakers, and myriad other storylines.  Buried underneath all the focus on superstars old and new, against all odds, Jerry Sloan accomplished quite possibly his most impressive feat: wringing every lost drop of talent and effort out of a team that had no business even sniffing the playoffs, let alone nearly participating.  It’s a real shame Sloan doesn’t get more credit for this accomplishment.

But don’t expect him to say anything about it.

 

 

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Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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JazzRank 15: Raja Bell http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-15-raja-bell/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-15-raja-bell/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2012 05:09:17 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=5571 Author information
Jackson Rudd
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Unfortunately, we have to start JazzRank with Raja Bell, probably in part because we held the voting before preseason got going–or else he definitely would have at least fallen behind Chris Quinn (who at least threw an a perfect alley-oop to Alec Burks last Friday, which is one more highlight than Bell will pull out this year) and Darnell Jackson (who keeps getting enough playing time in these preseason games that we are becoming compelled to remember his name, despite his low chance of making the team), if not more.

Offseason Accomplishments:  Let’s see here… Since the season ended, Bell 1) burned through exit interviews with the spite of a spurned middle school ex-girlfriend, publicly calling out Ty Corbin’s coaching ability, leadership skills, and general manhood,  2) started hustling his resume to all of the contenders (read: Miami), pushing the glue guy angle right after he had sold out his previous team WHILE HE WAS STILL UNDER CONTRACT FOR ANOTHER YEAR, 3) balked at the chance to take a buyout, presumably hoping to cling to his 3 million dollar paycheck after testing the waters of free agency (read: Miami) and realizing he wasn’t as popular as he had hoped, 4) somehow showed enough willingness to compromise or something to keep the Jazz from using the amnesty clause to waive him and his salary from their books, and then 5) was deemed so toxic to team chemistry that he was barred from entering training camp with the rest of the team. He did graduate from Florida International in August and ran some basketball camps in India, so congratulations to Raja on that.

In the end, Bell’s second run with the Jazz is like Sufjan Stevens’ new, groundbreakingly bizarre Christmas song, Christmas Unicorn.  At first you think it’s cute and kind of funny, and then it keeps going and you slowly start thinking it is less and less cute until you suddenly realize you aren’t enjoying yourself at all and you’re listening to a social commentary that you hadn’t anticipated and never wanted and it keeps going and going and going and you want it to stop just so everyone can move on but it just keeps going and going and no one ever knows when it will end because Raja is still under contract and I don’t think anyone has made it to the end of the 12 minute song to confirm that it does, in fact, come to an end.

Patronus (you know, like from Harry Potter*):  Jellyfish

Stat to Watch:  Games Played.  The only statistical question worth asking right now is whether Raja Bell will suit up for an NBA game this year.

Three Potential Outcomes for the Season:

1.  The buyout never happens and Raja Bell hangs out with his family and brings in a cool 3 million while doing it.  Occasionally, at slow points in the season, the Salt Lake Tribune will follow up with him and ask Dennis Lindsey a couple of questions to try to stir things up again only to find there is not much to stir.  The lack of compromise hastens the end of Raja Bell’s career as no one is willing to take a chance on a 36-year-old a year removed from the speed of the game.  He goes on to get an assistant coaching job at his alma mater, FIU, and slowly moves out of the realm of public awareness.

2.  Raja Bell turns out to be as competitive as advertised and finally bites on the buyout option so that he can take the veteran’s minimum contract with Brooklyn.  He makes a valiant effort in his ten minutes a game off the bench and averages 7 points a game in Brooklyn’s first round loss to Philadelphia.

3.  Come January, when everyone is resigned to the outcome outlined in #1, Dennis Lindsey quietly makes a phone call to the Bay Area.  Bob Myers, the Golden State GM, picks up on the other line.  Of course, nearly halfway through the season, the Warriors will inevitably have lost all hope of a playoff berth and will be busily maximizing their losses through the rest of the year so that they don’t have to give Utah their pick.  The following conversation ensues:

DL: I know you guys are going to be looking to tank again this year.  I have a wonderful offer for you.

BM: How dare you!  We would never lose our integrity like that!  But, um, let’s hear the deal.

DL:  The offer I am about to make you will both ensure that you lose more games AND clear up cap space for you.

BM: Tell me!  TELL ME THE OFFER!!!

DL: Raja Bell for Harrison Barnes.  Straight up.  Well, plus maybe your second round draft pick.

BM: Done!

Lindsey hangs up the phone.  Kevin O’Connor sets down the cue cards he was holding for Lindsey and laughs maniacally.

/scene

 

 

 

 

*throughout JazzRank we are going to make the wild and totally indefensible assumption that, in the event of the actual existence of Hogwarts, and given proper training, all of the current Jazz players could develop the rare ability to cast corporeal Patronuses.  We apologize in advance to any Harry Potter fanatics who might be offended by such an assumption.

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Jackson Rudd
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Is C.J. Miles the key to the Jazz season? http://saltcityhoops.com/is-c-j-miles-the-key-to-the-jazz-season/ http://saltcityhoops.com/is-c-j-miles-the-key-to-the-jazz-season/#comments Fri, 03 Dec 2010 16:48:10 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3269 Author information
K.Malphurs
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C.J. Milesis not going to be the best player on this Jazz team.  At best I think he could be the 5th best player behind Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Andrei Kirilenko.  That, however, doesn’t mean that Miles isn’t the key to a season where the Jazz (hopefully) make the jump from good to great.  Why is a player who isn’t even a starter, or one of the best players, possibly the key to the Jazz season?

AP Photo

In trying to answer the above questions lets look at the Jazz lineup more closely.  Right now the Jazz have two below-average shooting guards in Miles and the starter Raja Bell.  Neither are particularly good shooters (32%-33% from 3 and less than 42% from the field for both of them), and neither stand out as above-average in any statistical category.  They both have less than average WS/48 (average = 0.10) with Bell coming in at 0.062 and Miles only slightly higher at 0.072.  It isn’t really that big of a surprise to see that the Jazz production by position has the shooting guard position as a -4.9 PER compared to their opponent.  The fault on this lies on primarily with Bell and Miles since they play the majority of the Jazz minutes there.

The shooting guard position isn’t a team strength, so let’s do a little more analysis and compare the two players who play there most.  Bell is a better shooter this year and overall from the line, the field and from three.  Miles is more athletic and thus has a higher rebounding %, steal % and block %.  He also has a higher assist % (12.1 compared to 6.3).  Still they aren’t too different when you compare the individual stats with Miles coming out only barely ahead. However, when you compare the team stats it is a completely different story.  The +/- when Miles is on the court is +133, while Bell is -48.  The team’s win percentage when Miles is on the court is 82.4% compared to Bell who comes in at 43.8% (check out some of the stats from 82games.com to see the differences in the play of the Jazz when both players are on the court).

For a little more clarity lets compare the Jazz starting lineup (Williams, Bell, Kirilenko, Millsap, Jefferson) with the starting lineup when Miles replaces Bell.  These are the top two lineups that Coach Sloan has used this year.  In 331.9 minutes the starting lineup has been outscored by 23 points.  They score on average 1.02 points per possession and give up 1.07 points per possession.  When Miles replaces Bell, the team (in only 62.3 minutes) has outscored the opponents by 51 points.  They score on average 1.36 points per possession (.34 points more) and give up 0.94 points per possession (0.13 less) to their opponents.  All it took for the Jazz to go from an average team to the 1996 Chicago Bulls is substituting Bell for Miles.  Now before anyone writes this let me stress that all of this is based on a small sample size, which could mean that everything changes.  Also, I recognize it just might mean that Bell is facing tough competition (the starting shooting guard) while Miles gets to play against the backups.  I know both of those things, but you can’t ignore numbers like that.

Now if both players really aren’t that different why do the Jazz play so much better with Miles ?  Here are a few theories:

  1. Miles is a better defender- This is probably the most plausible explanation.  Miles is taller, quicker and just from watching the games looks to be much better on defense.  Opponents are shooting an eFG% of 37% when Miles replaces Bell in the starting lineup.  With Bell the starting lineup gives up 45% shooting.
  2. Miles shoots the ball- One of my main problems with watching Bell is that he doesn’t do anything.  It isn’t like he is playing poorly, but sometimes it would be nice if the shooting guard actually shot the ball.  He seems to be content passing the ball around the wing and doesn’t look for this shot nearly as much as Miles.  The numbers reflect this.  Bell’s usage rating is the 3rd lowest on the team at 14.4%.  Miles, on the other hand, is second behind Deron Williams with a usage rating of 26.7%.    Miles is 4th in field goal attempts despite being 6th in minutes.  Bell is 6th in field goal attempts despite being 5th in minutes. My theory is that defenses have to respect the threat of Miles shooting the ball (even if he isn’t an above average shooter) more so than Bell and that opens up the offense.  With extra spacing it gives Millsap and Jefferson a chance to dominate inside.  The defenses seem to collapse and guard the paint more with Bell on the court.
  3. He shoots the ball more from close range – Miles shoots 23% of his shots from close range compared to only 9% for Bell.  This has two advantages.  One it it is easier to shoot from up close (Bell makes 70% while Miles makes 61%).  The second one is that while I can’t proof this I think Miles moves more without the ball than Bell.  It seems to me that Bell stands outside the three point line and is strictly a catch and shoot player.  Miles is a little bit more dynamic and that movement is something that is critical to Coach Sloan’s offense.

The season is only 20 games in and the Jazz are playing great.  A 15-5 record makes me rethink my intial forecast of 50 wins and as a Jazz fan I have no problem with being wrong by guessing too low.  Part of the reason for the Jazz record has to be C.J. Miles.   Looking at those +/- numbers makes me think that Miles is really lucky, good or both.  Let’s hope for both and that despite pedestrian raw numbers there is some magic to the way Miles plays that allows the Jazz to continue their strong play with him on the court.  Overall I think that he is the key to the Jazz season.

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K.Malphurs
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Take it to the Court: Thanksgiving Edition http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-3/ http://saltcityhoops.com/take-it-to-the-court-3/#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 16:34:51 +0000 http://www.saltcityhoops.com/?p=3181 Author information
Jefferson
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Take it the Court is a new weekly column on SCH featuring the arguments, opinions, and random musing of a Utah Jazz fanatic.

Over the past several years, the Utah Jazz have teamed up with the Salt Lake Mission to provide Thanksgiving to thousands of underprivileged Utahns.  Thus, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is a sampling of the Utah Jazz as your traditional holiday meal:

  • Turkey: I know you’re thinking Deron Williams as the main course, right?  Guess again…how about Jerry Sloan?  Don’t sleep on Sloan for Coach of the Year, tryptophan notwithstanding.  Surrounded by change (during his tenure, he’s seen different players, management, different uniforms, even a different arena, and later a new arena name), Sloan is as constant as the Thanksgiving turkey tradition.  This Coach won’t let his players nap on defense (or they’ll find themselves camping on the bench).  Turkey is Thanksgiving and Jerry Sloan is the Utah Jazz.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Half Millsap + half Jefferson = one tasty serving of “Jeffersap.”  Night in and night out, these two take turns filling the plates of opposing teams with tasty points and rebounds.  Together, they are the glue that holds the meal together – It would nice to see them both on the table at the same time, but at least we can always count on one or the other. Thru 15 games, the duo is averaging a combined 36 points and nearly 18 rebounds per outing.
  • Gravy train? Here’s where D-Will comes in.  You know that the key to turkey and mashed potatoes is a sweet tasting gravy to tie it all together.  Likewise, Deron is the link between Sloan and his two-headed Jeffersap.  When Williams is hot, he makes Sloan, Millsap, and Jefferson ALL look better.  You can bet that opposing teams wish they could go easy on Williams – just like passing by the gravy at your family feast, overlooking D-Will is a recipe for destruction.
  • Sweet potatoes: How come we only eat sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?  It must be some holdover from a long forgotten era – but it still makes the menu every November.  Raja Bell is the sweet potato in our analogy – a little old school, but the meal just isn’t complete without him.  With Raja on the bench, the defensive difference in Utah’s home loss to OKC was palatable.  Raja hasn’t had a defining game yet, but he makes his teammates better defenders.
  • Homemade rolls: Unless your willpower is stronger than mine (sweet, sweet carbs), you really can’t stop after one serving…just like Andrei Kirilenko.  When AK is playing well, the team wins – plain and simple.  Recall that is was AK’s inspired play that initiated the streak of comebacks.  Pair him up with some Gravy or Mashed Potatoes, even cranberry sauce – and you’ve got a winning combination.
  • Green Beans: Not everyone likes CJ Miles.  I have several FB friends who insist that he is the problem with the Jazz and needs to be shipped away as soon as possible.  And then he knocks down HUGE buckets to keep the Jazz from dropping a close one to division rival Portland, followed by a great showing against the Kings.  I, for one, am a fan of green beans AND CJ Miles.  My only qualm? I don’t want my green beans thinking that it is my gravy.  CJ, I love ya, but this is Deron’s team – you don’t have to be the hero every time you get the ball.  Be content to be a green bean, for crying out loud!
  • Cranberry Sauce: Like it or not, a little bit goes a long way; enter the Utah bench – Fes, Elson, Price, Hayward, Watson [reserve "white meat" jokes about Fes and Hayward for another time].  The Jazz don’t need huge minutes OR huge numbers from their bench players.  Instead, they need small doses of energy to keep things together.
  • Pumpkin Pie: If you don’t finish your meal with a slice of pie with some fresh whipped cream, you’re missing out.  There’s just something about Mehmet Okur [shouldn't HE be the Turkey?] that can put the finishing touches on the Utah season.  Sure, you may think there is no room for pie, but come on, you can always make room for a nice slice of pie – and a silky smooth jumpshot.  Word is, Memo is getting close.

My wish is that each and every reader out there has a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with more food than you can eat and plenty of friends and family to share it with.  From the staff writers of SCH, we’re grateful for you stopping by for the finest news and opinions on the Utah Jazz.

–  –

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

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Jefferson
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