1. The night belonged to Jerry Sloan.
Yes, a game was played at EnergySolutions Arena Friday night, in front of a nationally-televised audience and a sellout crowd. But the game, especially in this season of non-contending, came second to celebrating the wonderful career of Jerry Sloan. At Salt City Hoops, we’ve already said our piece about the Jazz coach.
Legends from around the Jazz, Utah, and the NBA came to celebrate Sloan. Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker supported the coach. Former Jazz players John Stockton, Karl Malone, Mehmet Okur, John Crotty, Howard Eisley, Bryon Russell, Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey, and Matt Harpring all attended. Even both coaches (Tyrone Corbin and Mark Jackson) were former Jazz players under Sloan. Finally, some of the greatest names in the NBA sent their congratulatory messages via video. Each of the TNT crew (Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal) sent their respects. Coaching legends Rick Adelman, Gregg Popovich and Frank Layden recorded tributes. Outgoing commissioner David Stern sent in a video. It was incredibly well presented by the franchise, and the entire Jazz organization deserves credit for running such a good show.
However, the biggest name to send in his congratulations probably has more star power than all of the names above combined: President Barack Obama. He sent the following letter to Jerry Sloan:
Now that’s a get. Here are some of the other excellent quotes from tonight’s proceedings:
At the end of the night, and after all of the festivities, Jerry Sloan left humbly and with dignity (photo courtesy Jonathan Rinehart, Jazz PR director):
2. Diante Garrett made the biggest impact of his Jazz career so far.
In a nationally televised game, D-League callup Diante Garrett had the best night of his career, finishing with 13 points on 6-8 shooting, including 2 buzzer beaters to end the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Remarkably, he ended up with a +24 plus/minus in a game the Jazz lost by 5.
It wasn’t just his offense that led the Jazz to be successful during Diante’s 25 minutes in the game, but his defense as well. Yes, it seems silly to credit any of the Jazz’s PG defense on a night in which Steph Curry went off for 44 points, but Diante Garrett looked to do a much better job of sticking with Curry around all of the screens and pullups, likely due to his 6’4” size (giving him extra length compared to the 6’0” Burke). Curry had 44 points tonight, but only 16 of those came against Garrett in his 25 minutes of play. On the other hand, it may be time to keep an eye out on Burke’s defense at the PG position.
3. Fans are maybe being a little bit hard on Gordon Hayward.
This tweet came from former BYU player Jackson Emery:
Hayward is a turnover machine right now. This is why the Jazz can’t pay him the big bucks that he wants
— Jackson Emery (@jacksonemery04) February 1, 2014
And a number of fans agreed, calling for Hayward’s trade, either now before the deadline or in a sign-and-trade in the offseason. Let’s slow down. Yes, he had 8 turnovers, including one on the final possession that mattered in the game. That’s not very good, and yes, with a normal number of turnovers, the Jazz would have won the game. However, it’s also worth noting:
Look, it wasn’t a good night for Hayward. But if a player is having trouble producing with the ball in his hands in a given night, you’d like to see this kind of secondary production. Hayward delivered in other ways tonight. Is he capable of better? Of course; his 37 point performance in which he out-battled Kevin Durant for a win is evidence of that. But it’s far, far too reactionary to ship him out as a result of that game.