The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Jazz vs. Mavericks 3/12/2014

March 12th, 2014 | by Andy Larsen
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

1. The Mavs made their shots, the Jazz missed them.

Around EnergySolutions Arena, you hear it a lot: the NBA is a make or miss league. Tonight’s Dallas game was perhaps the perfect example of that:

 

chart_1The Jazz actually had more open shots (defined as a shot without a defender within 4 feet) than the Mavericks tonight, 42 to 37. Unfortunately, The Jazz made just 15 of those shots (for just 35% on open shots!), compared to 23 makes for the Mavs (62%). This outweighed the Jazz’s impressive finishing ability when there was someone nearby: as they made 8 more contested shots (going 25-42) compared to the Mavs, who shot just 18-50 while contested.

Some of this is to be expected: the Mavs have built a team that’s pretty strong on the perimeter, 6th in the league in 3P%, while the Jazz’s focus has been at the hoop. Of course, the team with Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon is going to outshoot most opponents. Surely, some of it is luck too. But perhaps some of it might be preparation. This is a sample size of one, but I went out to ESA’s court at about 5:30 to watch warmups. Here’s what I found:

ESA at about 5:30 before a 7 PM game.

ESA at about 5:30 before a 7 PM game.

On the left, you see several Mavericks getting shots up, working on their form and moves with coaches and ballboys. On the other side, you see only Enes Kanter working on his game. 1 Kanter went 8-13 in tonight’s game in perhaps Utah’s best offensive performance. 2

Now, I’m not saying that the Jazz are preparing inadequately, and of course, correlation is not causation. But when I saw this, I remembered back to the Jazz’s game against Miami, in which Ray Allen was taking hundreds of shots in a pregame warmup in his 17th NBA season. Allen is perhaps the greatest shooter of all time, while the Jazz are missing 65% of their open shots. Maybe there’s something there.

2. Corbin’s philosophy on youth development

Ty Corbin’s time in Utah has not been all roses, but perhaps the hottest point for critics has been the distribution of playing time between young players and veterans. It’s happened for several seasons now: Corbin has chosen to start veterans like Raja Bell, Josh Howard, and Richard Jefferson over their younger counterparts. It has left a lot of observers confused, especially given that in many cases the young players have outplayed said veterans.

Jim Burton, of the Ogden Standard-Examiner asked a question 3about this tonight, and in particular, whether or not that philosophy has changed given the Jazz’s position in the standings.

Ty responded as follows: “I never think that it’s good just to play guys just to play guys. I think you teach guys how to play right to win. We understand that we want to develop the young guys, but we want to develop them to play a certain way. That’s not just putting them on the floor. We’re playing to develop winners, we’re not playing guys to be on the floor. It’s a delicate balance between that. We want to make sure that we play a certain way and how to play to win.”4

It’s a philosophy that actually makes sense. There’s some sense that playing time is the only real carrot a coach can use, and without the potential reward of more playing time, players don’t choose to put in the out-of-game work that allows them to be successful players (see point #1). Of course, there’s the obvious counter that the best practice minutes are game minutes, and I don’t think Corbin would argue with that. But if success is at least partially a result of establishing certain habits, maybe the Jazz are trying to achieve that “delicate balance” that allows them to be best moving forward. I’m open to more conversation on this.

3. Leapin’ Leaners & Low Tops is coming up.

Leapin’ Leaners & Low Tops is a charity event thrown by the Jazz every year, taking place on the hardcourt of ESA. It’s a typical charity scene, with an auction and catered dinner, etc. But it’s a cool chance for the wealthy and/or well-connected to give their money to a good cause (Larry H. Miller Charities) to be able to spend some time with Jazz players and management. If you’ve got surplus money and love the Jazz, buy a table or ticket.

Just for fun, I asked Corbin which of his players he would choose to sit with at the event. His response? “Depends on what I want. I might see what Enes has on his mind. Explore that. Maybe sit with Derrick Favors, see if I can make him talk a little bit longer.”

If I had the money, I’d probably choose to sit with Richard Jefferson. He spent about 15 minutes with a youth group after tonight’s game, completely unsolicited. Even when the youth group had ran out of questions, Jefferson asked them to ask him more, trying to get the shyer kids involved. In the locker room, I’ve heard Jefferson act as storyteller and mythbuster with equal skill. He’s been my favorite player to talk to as a part of the media, simply because he is so legitimately insightful. I’ve learned a ton by being able to interact with him.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show of the same name every Saturday on 1280 AM.
Andy Larsen

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2 Comments

  1. hilldow says:

    Thank you Andy, great insight offered in this posting. In regards to point #1, I have internally wondered about this but living in Phoenix now I only really get to see the Jazz play a couple times a year in person so it’s something that is impossible for me to really investigate.

    I was really hoping Millsap and his hard-hat mentality would be picked up by the young cats. Frankly I can’t think of any other player in my lifetime of watching the Jazz that when one season ended and the next began, each year with Millsap I would IMMEDIATELY notice very specific things he’d been working on. It was so noticeable because the guy is a hard worker and put in the preparation.

    I’ve also hoped that these guys working with Stockton and Malone during the offseason would rub off on them because of similar reasons. Tough as nails and the epitome of preparation and hard work.

    Now I’m not saying that these guys aren’t working hard and trying to learn and get better. Watching these last couple games against the Hawks and Mavs I think it’s clear that we’ve got players with heart and they want to win. But when you are one of the worst shooting teams in the league a good and obvious way to get better at that is to take more practice shots. Mimic the greats, like Ray Allen that you mentioned. Someone needs to set the example and tone on the team – has to be one of the young pups stepping up into a lead by example roll. Jefferson and Millsap were definitely the guys filling that roll last year, but I don’t think anyone is really filling that roll now. I think it was supposed to be Hayward but I don’t know if he has it in him.

  2. cw says:

    Andy,

    That was one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. I’ve spent time on other jazz fan sites, most of which are populated by people who I would categorize as nice but insane, and SCH is miles better.

    1. Rick Carlyle is one of the 3 or 4 best coaches in the NBA. The mavs, from what I can tell, specialize in getting open jump shots. That would explain your chart. The Jazz may have done well *this game* with thier contested shots, but the definition of good (offensive) BBall is to get great, open shots. It’snot just coaching. It takes players with the right abilities and mindsets. I think this is one area that the Jazz are fairly far along with. They have several players players who can consistantly make shots or get fouled at certain places on the floor and they are all willing to pass the ball. The offense is way ahead of the defense.

    2. The horribly evil, vet loving, development degrading Ty Corbin. His reply gave me hope that the FO and the coaching staff know what they are doing. Despite what those afore-mentioned crazy but nice people on the other sites fervently believe, making players earn minutes is a no brainer. When I went to school to become a teacher (which I totally bailed on in the end becasue it was too wierd and too hard) there was this thing called the zone of proximal development. Which referred to the learning environment you wanted to place your student into. You wanted them to be given material/tasks that were just a little bit harder than they could immediately master. If the material/tasks were too easy or too hard, they didn’t learn, but if you hit that perfect zone, then: bingo. That seems to me what the Jazz are doing with the young guys. Asking them to stretch and reach a little bit further, instead of just throwing them into the deep end.

    And there is also a lot to be said for asking the young guys to perform in realistic NBA roles, to do their jobs in contexts that lead to winning instead of artificial constructs based on tanking or “crazy but nice fans ideas of development. Mavin Williams playing at the 4, for instance, gives the Jazz a better chance to win. The record proves this. If Enes Kanter or Derek Favors wanted to help the Jazz in a realistic NBA context, then they would have to provide more at the 4 than Marvin Williams. Which they can’t so far. So Favors plays center and Kanter comes off the bench. Same with Alec Burks. The most realistic and useful winning context for him on the Jazz is to come off the bench, because they already have Hayward and Jeffereson (who is a league leader in 3 pt shots) working fairly well in the first unit. And he’s been doing a great job of that.

    When you are training people you want to train them in difficulty-controlled but relevant conditions, you want to train them for something close to the conditions they will experience on the job. And crazily enough, I think the “evil and incredibly stupid’ Ty Corbin is doing exactly that.

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