Here’s a preview of tonight’s #UTAatSAS game:
Archives For San Antonio Spurs
In preparation for tonight’s Jazz-Spurs game on ESPN from the ESA, I went 5-on-5 with some fellow TrueHoop minds to give a subjective voice to Hollinger’s Playoff Odds. I also did a little give-and-go with Spurs TrueHoop gentleman Andrew McNeill.
It’s a late start for the national TV audience, so here’s a bit of an interview with Manu Ginobili at shootaround, featuring a question each from me and a RootSports producer:
RootSports: You met the Jazz four times in the Playoffs last year; how have the Jazz changed this year? Seems like they’ve added a lot of shooters.
Manu: Yeah, that was their biggest deficiency last year–they didn’t have anyone who could hit the big three. And now they added both Mo [Williams] and Randy Foye, that’re good shooters. So they did change. Always when you have good post players, you need three-point shooters–because otherwise everybody will just collapse in the paint and it makes everything hard for them. So now they added shooters–you know Mo had a terrific game against us. So they’ve become a little more solid overall.
SRH: Gordon Hayward wears #20 because he says he followed you growing up. What’s your assessment of his game?
Manu: I didn’t know that; that makes me feel good. He’s a very good, active, athletic wing player. He, of course, has a knack for scoring and getting things done both offensively and defensively. I don’t know what he’s shooting this year–we haven’t talked about it–but last year he didn’t make a lot of shots from deep–and for every slasher, that’s huge. Because when they start to more respect your shot, you have more room to use your explosiveness and to get to the rim. I’m talking about last year, not this year. That’s what he needs to improve. But yeah, he’s very active, gets his hands on a lot of balls, he’s very athletic. He’s a good player–and he’s going to get even better as he matures and gets used to the league.
SRH: How is it to see [Knicks rookie and fellow Argentine Pablo] Prigioni in the league after all these years?
Manu: Amazing. I’m very happy for him and I think it’s very fair–after the terrific career he had in Europe for so many years, being one of the best for seven seasons consecutively. So it’s a great recognition for him–and I really wanted to him to try it, at least. We know it’s not going to be a seven-year career–he’s 35. But, I think every player should at least taste the NBA and compare himself with the best players in the world. I’m very glad for him.
Now is as good a time as any to check out this bizarre vignette found in the KSL archives as part of our Retro Jazz project with KSL’s Jeremiah Jensen, featuring Frank Layden and Thurl Bailey re-enacting scenes from Indiana Jones in the old Salt Palace to illustrate the passing of the guard to his son Scott.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnorwoski is reporting that the Jazz assistant coach has accepted a position as assistant GM with the San Antonio Spurs. Layden began his career with the Jazz all the way back in 1981 and recently completed his 25th year with the franchise. He also infamously spent four and half years running (ruining?) the New York Knicks as GM and later as team president as well.
Layden is essentially job-swapping with new Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey, taking over Lindsey’s vacant position in San Antonio. I’m not sure if Layden was ever seriously considered for the Jazz GM spot or even if he wanted it, but it’s clear his heart was in front office work and not continuing on the sidelines as an assistant. Some have implied that Layden may have felt slighted by the Lindsey hire, but there’s no question the Jazz did him a huge favor by allowing him to rehab his career when they hired him as an assistant after nearly being out of basketball due to the Knicks debacle.
He’s been nothing but great for the Jazz franchise, however. Here’s to great success in San Antonio (though not against the Jazz) to a basketball lifer who is one of the main reasons the we all have great memories about the Jazz. I always enjoyed my interactions with Layden and he’s been nothing but a pleasure to cover. All my finest to a Jazz legend as he furthers his career.
Scott Layden’s bio from the Jazz media guide:
Scott Layden enters his 25th season with the Utah Jazz and his seventh as an assistant coach after returning to the franchise prior to the 2005-06 campaign. Things have come full circle for Layden, as he is now back in the place where his pro basketball career started, this time as an assistant on Tyrone Corbin’s coaching staff. Previously, Layden and Corbin worked together for over five years under Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and former Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. In total, Layden would work with Sloan and former Jazz lead assistant coach Phil Johnson for over 14 seasons.
Layden’s responsibilities include helping Jazz players develop and hone their basketball skills, game preparation for opponents, and coordinating advance scouts. He has also shared coaching duties with Corbin during the 2005-08 Rocky Mountain Revues as well as the Orlando Pro Summer League in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Layden has worked basketball camps for both the NBA and adidas in China, Brazil and Europe the past eight years.
Before re-joining the Jazz, Layden worked with NBA TV for part of the 2003-04 and entirety of the 2004-05 NBA seasons. Prior to that, Layden served as general manager of the New York Knicks beginning in the 1999-00 season. A year and a half later, he added team president to his title. During his four and a half year tenure the Knicks made the playoffs twice, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000. Preceding his stint with the Knicks, Layden spent 18 years in a variety of capacities with the Jazz, establishing a reputation as one of the game’s most astute judges of talent and an instrumental figure in the Jazz’s perennial success.
From 1992 through 1999, Layden was the primary Jazz contact and driving force behind all player personnel, draft and trade decisions. During his tenure as Utah’s primary architect, the Jazz recorded five straight 50+ win seasons (including three 60+ win campaigns), two Midwest Division titles (1996-97 and 1997-98) and back-to-back Western Conference Championships in 1997 and 1998. Layden was runner-up (to the Lakers’ Jerry West) for The Sporting News NBA Executive of the Year award in 1994-95, a season in which the Jazz went 60-22.
After spending one year as an assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, Layden began his pro basketball career as an administrative assistant and scout with the Jazz in 1981. In February of 1982 he was elevated to assistant to Frank Layden, where he remained until being named the Jazz’s director of player personnel in 1989, and then director of basketball operations in 1992, before being promoted to vice president in September of 1996.
An upstate New York prep standout, Layden went on to play collegiate basketball for St. Francis University in Loretto, Penn., where he was a four-year letterman and captained the team in his senior year of 1979-80. He graduated with a degree in business management.
An active member of the Salt Lake community, Layden volunteers his time on the fundraising committee with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Catholic Community Services Board of Trustees. He is also an active participant in JazzCares, hosting clinics for the children of fireman, police officers, military personnel, nurses and teachers. In addition, he has led camps in Israel two of the past three years in conjunction with PeacePlayers International, a program that uses basketball to teach children proven tactics for improving their communities.
Layden and his wife, Marsha, have four daughters: Sarah, Hannah, Mary Frances and Emma Grace.
|Paul Millsap, PF 41 MIN | 4-17 FG | 2-4 FT | 19 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +11
Millsap’s effort is above reproach (evidenced by 19 rebounds), but his shooting was absolutely abysmal. The success of the big line-up (Millsap, Favors and Jefferson) hinges on Millsap’s ability to light up his undersized defenders at the 3. His failure to do that in this series was a major factor in the Jazz’s offensive impotence.
|Derrick Favors, FC 37 MIN | 4-8 FG | 8-12 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | 0
Besides free throw shooting (which was significantly better tonight than during Game 3), Favors takes nothing off the table, and he brings rim-protecting, crowd-igniting, can’t-be-denied defense every single minute he’s on the floor. The Jazz may have been swept, but Derrick Favors had himself a coming out party this series.
|Al Jefferson, C 41 MIN | 13-19 FG | 0-1 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 26 PTS | 0
Statistically, another good game for Big Al. This much I know: Big Al was meant for a methodical, halfcourt defense in which his role is clearly defined, and this Jazz team is meant to get up and run. Big Al was a major contributor in getting the Jazz here, but now that the youngsters are ready to spread their wings and fly, Big Al would only weigh them down.
|Devin Harris, PG 35 MIN | 6-17 FG | 7-9 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 19 PTS | +15
No Jazz player has improved his standing among Jazz fans this season more than Devin Harris. Early in the season, Harris was even rumored to be on the trading block. Fast forward to the playoffs, and the only player with the offensive firepower to incite a Jazz comeback was the formerly maligned point guard. Harris deserves another 700 words singing his praises, and fortunately, I have already done that.
|Gordon Hayward, SG 25 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -2
Offensively, Gordon Hayward played a one game series (17 points in Game 1 and 12 points total in Games 2-4), and consequently, the Jazz could only play a four game series. Hayward is only a second year player and a first year participant in the playoffs, so to expect him to carry the team in the same way he did during the last two months of the playoff push was probably overwhelming. I’m comforted in the knowledge that Hayward’s disappearing act this series will torture no one more than it will torture him.
|DeMarre Carroll, F 18 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +1
On waves of pure defensive energy, DeMarre Carroll single-handedly brought this team back to life in the 4th quarter. For the first time all series, the Spurs looked vulnerable, and DeMarre Carroll was the man who drew first blood. Carroll’s performance this season was more than anyone could have demanded or anticipated, and he’s removed any doubt that he deserves a roster spot on an NBA team.
|Alec Burks, G 16 MIN | 0-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -16
Admittedly, my expectations for Burks this season became unrealistically bloated. When he first began unleashing his unparalleled athleticism on the league, it was easy to forget that his decision-making would need time to match his abilities. Tonight was another reminder that he still needs time.
Two Things We Saw
- This team has been a joy to watch. The furious comeback at the end of this game was a fitting end to a team that consistently exceeded expectations. I have not loved a Jazz team as much as this one in a decade. This group of players genuinely cared about each other, and when they harnessed that camaraderie into basketball performance, they were
- As harsh as the conclusion to this season was, it shouldn’t overshadow that this year, Kevin O’Connor and the Jazz definitively proved that a team can rebuild and compete simultaneously. The relative pros and cons of the D-Will trade could be debated endlessly, but KOC and the Jazz’s front office took less than a year to assemble a roster full of young talent that could compete immediately, and that kind of managerial prowess deserves league-wide recognition.
All you need to get ready for Game 1 is this spectacular video by @shandonfan.
If you want more, here’s a great look at the 1994 Jazz/Spurs series by @jjsportsbeat.
Here are my quick thoughts before tip-off:
1. Is Utah’s best option to play the lineup with Paul Millsap at the 3 heavy minutes?
Millsap at the 3 would seem to be the lineup the Jazz should always use, due to Favors/Harris/Hayward/Millsap/Jefferson being the most effective lineup this season. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (including Millsap’s own insistence on playing the 4) the Jazz will likely only use it as a change up later in games.
2. Does a well-rested Duncan, Parker and Ginobili give Utah any shot in Game 1?
Any team in the NBA can beat another on a given night–or in this case, early afternoon. The Jazz will have their hands full, but the odd start time and the time off actually offer an opportunity for the Jazz to steal a game. It isn’t likely, but the Jazz definitely have a shot.
3. Will the Jazz steal one of the two games in San Antonio?
I’m predicting the Jazz steal one of these first two games. I’ve gone on the record predicting a six-game series, so the Jazz need to do me a favor and shock the world between now and next Wednesday night. I was impressed with the lack of intimidation I heard from from the Jazz players at practice on Saturday. They don’t feel like it’s an impossible task and seem determined to push the Spurs to the limit. They may not win the series, but the up-and-coming Jazz will leave their mark.
|Josh Howard, SF
29 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | 0
I was admittedly very apprehensive to see Josh Howard in the starting lineup again, but he responded with one of the best games he’s played since his injury. His handle continues to be a source of hilarity, but his steal at the end of the fourth quarter gave the Jazz one last gasp.
|Paul Millsap, PF
36 MIN | 6-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | +1
This was the tale of two halves for Paul. In the first half, we wondered where Utah’s fearless leader had gone. He wasn’t just missing shots; he was playing out of control. Millsap’s charm is that he plays like he has been there, and that is definitely not what he was doing in the first half. In the second half, he seemed to find himself again by hitting the boards hard and getting to the free throw line again. He showed good resilience, but still wasn’t the dominant Millsap we were used to watching a couple of weeks ago.
|Al Jefferson, C
38 MIN | 10-19 FG | 0-1 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -1
It’s really too bad that when I think of this game from Al, I’ll probably remember that brick of a jump shot he took with a chance to tie the game with a minute left. That said, he played a good game. His recent surge of steals per game is very encouraging, though what would really help out the Jazz is if he could start getting to the free throw line more.
|Devin Harris, PG
30 MIN | 6-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 15 PTS | +6
Devin Harris’s play inspired all sorts of adjectives that I wouldn’t have believed a few weeks ago. He made some mistakes, but the guy was playing hard. He had confidence and he was pushing the ball up the floor with purpose. When he came off that high screen and hit a jumper with two minutes left, I wasn’t even surprised. I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth, but, but… I think I believe in Devin Harris again.
|Gordon Hayward, SG
28 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -5
Two fouls in the first three minutes doomed Gordon to one of those 8 point games and we all knew it as soon as it happened. When he gets in foul trouble early, all bets are off.
|Earl Watson, PG
18 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 2 PTS | -11
Jazz Nation’s hero of January is now shooting 11 for 43 from the field in February. There is no way that his ankle is 100%. Hopefully, the All Star break will give him a chance to rest it and get his shot back. He played better than 3 assists would indicate tonight, however, as the stat was victimized by some missed dunks and layups.
|C.J. Miles, SF
23 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +1
C.J. Miles put up a nice line tonight, but he put his ceiling at a B- in the second quarter. The Jazz were on an 8-2 run to go up 40-32 with about nine minutes left and the crowd was all the way in. It looked like the Jazz had a chance to start building a cushion until Miles cranked consecutive terrible three-pointers that took the crowd out of the game and got the Spurs back in it.
|Derrick Favors, FC
12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -5
It’s hard to understand how someone as long and athletic as Favors could be on the floor an entire cumulative quarter without getting a rebound. 1-3 shooting nights will happen for a backup power forward, but look at his rebound regression each month: 8.5 in December, 5.4 in January, and 3.7 in February. Part of that is because he plays alongside Enes Kanter, who turns into a crazy, wild animal whenever the ball hits the rim, but part of that has to fall on him as well.
|Alec Burks, G
17 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | -4
In a 15 second span in the second quarter, Burks crashed the offensive glass and rebounded a missed jumper by Kanter, missed the putback, stayed with it, and converted the layup. Then, as soon as Daniel Green crossed midcourt, Burks ruthlessly picked his pocket clean and ran the ball back for a vicious dunk. It was an incredible combination of athleticism, basketball IQ, and hustle. He gives us peeks into the long-term potential of the Jazz in a more stunning way than anyone else.
|Enes Kanter, F
10 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -2
Strangely enough, a 19-year-old is turning into one of the most consistent players on the Jazz. In very limited action, Kanter has put up at least 4 points and 4 rebounds a game for 8 games in a row despite only getting between 10-20 minutes a game. Plus, he played Duncan as tight as you could expect.
Two Things We Saw
- Different verse, same tune. The Jazz kept pace with a more experienced Western Conference powerhouse until a lack of big plays down the stretch put the game just an inch out of reach. At this point in the season, we could all see it happening before it was realized.
- The Jazz fall below .500 for the first time since January 2nd, with 7 of the next 9 still coming on the road. By the time that 5-game road trip is over, we’ll have a much clearer idea of what the story of the season will be.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- Oh… and Millsap is ridiculous (one for good measure). He should touch the ball 805 times per game.
The Jazz’ 94-82 loss to the Spurs Friday night was painful to watch. It wasn’t a horribly played game, necessarily, but it felt like the Jazz had opportunities to take the game over, but didn’t want to. I’m not doubting the team’s resolve to win, but I am disappointed in their inability to put a collective foot on the throat of their opponent… especially in Energy Solutions Arena. Good teams win at home. Really good teams win at home and on the road. If the Jazz want to continue to be taken seriously, they need to start finishing these types of games against good teams at home. Here are some overall thoughts on the game:
- The Jazz started slow. Again. It took over four minutes for the Jazz to score their first points. It’s starting to get frustrating to watch the Jazz starters start so slow. The running joke is that they need a warm up quarter to really get going, and that seems more and more to be the case. By the time the second half rolled around, the Jazz were right there with the Spurs… so what happens if they actually play a complete game?
- Someone on the Jazz, at some point, has GOT to box an opposing player out. It wasn’t the three pointers that killed the Jazz, and it wasn’t Tim Duncan (although he was great). It was Utah’s inability to stop the Spurs second chance point opportunities. This has been the most disturbing theme of the 2010-11 season.
- The second chance points aren’t due to a lack of effort. The Jazz have guys under the basket during the shot… but fundamentally they are making HUGE mental mistakes. The first thing you learn in team basketball is that when the shot goes up, you box out your man FIRST, THEN you go get the rebound. Unfortunately, it looks like the Jazz are looking to rebound first, so their men are left to wander free and grab errant rebounds. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen three or four Jazz jerseys under the basket, yet still seen an opposing team’s jersey fly in and take the offensive board.
- Parker’s ability to penetrate into the paint is impressive… and annoying.
- The Jazz keep giving games away. In the past two losses, I never felt like the Jazz were getting dominated, or that they couldn’t win. I have got the feeling that the effort isn’t always there to finish the game.
- The Spurs feel boring to watch because they aren’t all that flashy and they beat you by doing everything just a little better than you. It’s like playing your older brother in the backyard. Take a look at the following statistical categories:
- FG%: Spurs: 43.9% Jazz: 41.9%
- 3Pt%: Spurs: 25% Jazz: 21.4%
- Blocks: Spurs: 4 Jazz: 3
- Turnovers: Spurs: 13 Jazz: 14
- D-Reb: Spurs: 30 Jazz: 26
- Al Jefferson got schooled by Tim Duncan. Duncan may be getting old, but he is so fundamentally sound that you have to respect him wherever he is on the floor. The thing with Duncan is that his game is based on hours of honed practice and it’s turned him into a fundamentally sound machine. His game is not an athletic one, which means that he’ll have more longevity then a player that depends on pure athletics to get the job done.
- The Jazz have mental lapses on defense. It’s not like their defense is bad every time down the floor. It’s pretty good 80% of the time. It’s just that other 20% that ends up killing them. Help defense is the major problem, and when they play against penetrating guards, it really shows up. The bigs need to protect the paint better and work on their rotations.
Gone are the days when the LA Lakers were daily tabloid fodder. Perhaps jealous of the attention being paid to the chill bros in Miami, the San Antonio Spurs roll into SLC tonight with a media circus in tow. Tony Parker is dealing with his impending divorce from Eva Longoria, to say nothing of the team chemistry issues caused by his purported relationship with the wife of former teammate Brent Barry. Not fun for anyone involved, but it will be interesting to see how all the drama affects the surprisingly 9-1 Spurs.
Last season, the Jazz swept the Spurs in the regular season, going 4-0 and exorcised the demons that made the Spurs almost invincible against Utah for about 10 years. Will the recent succes continue? All four wins came fairly early last season and current Bull Carlos Boozer was a beast for the Jazz in all four games.
The stars are aligned for a huge game from Paul Millsap. Boozer is gone and Millsap wasn’t included on the newly released All-Star ballot. You can vote for Memo Okur, who hasn’t played a game since last spring, but you can’t vote for Millsap. Hopefully for the Jazz, the snub results in rampage from the oft-overlooked second-round pick.
The Spurs are off to their best start in franchise history and are putting up their most points per game since the 1987-88 season. They’re also shooting a blistering 44% from behind the three-point line.
Surprising rookies Gary Neal and James Anderson are second and third in the league among rookies in three-point field goals made. Neal went undrafted out of college and then tore up leagues in Turkey, Spain, and Italy. He hit 5 three-pointers against Charlotte earlier this season and Anderson hit a 3 in each of his first 6 games, the first Spur to ever do so.
On the Jazz side, Jerry Sloan will be away from the team to attend a funeral. Longtime assistant Phil Johnson will take over the head coaching duties for the next two games. Raja Bell is recovering from a groin injury but will play, while CJ Miles is a gametime decision after sitting out the second half of the previous game with a sprained back.