When Fesenko said he wanted to be the next Wesley Matthews, most of us could simply laugh. When he weighed in 25 pounds less than last year 280 pounds, we dismissed it. We assumed this was still the big fella that was once distracted in a playoff game by balloons. He said with Okur out, he would fight for minutes. Then Monday night in Portland happened:
Granted that line was put up against a depleted Portland frontline without Oden, Pendergraph, or Przybilla. Nonetheless, Fes appeared to have what has been lacking – FOCUS. It should be noted, however, that Fesenko has never been really used his size to exploit smaller competition. Tonight in Phoenix Fesenko is going to get a chance to prove that he’s committed to impressing Coach Sloan and the rest of the Jazz family. If he wants to be the next Wesley Matthews, he’ll have to be consistent. Phoenix’s relatively small frontline consists of Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez, and Channing Frye. Robin Lopez, the biggest, weighs only 245. This is a great opportunity for Fes to show his improvement as a player and use his size to bully around the opponent.
Will he step up?
The Jazz big men have to be licking their chops right now. Lopez, Turkoglu, Warrick, and Frye are going to have their hands full with the bigger Jefferson, Millsap, and Fesenko. It should be a feast for the Jazz in the paint and on the boards. This should result in a high FG% and a lot of open shots on the perimeter as Phoenix will have to double team to handle Utah’s size down low. Utah should easily win the rebounding battle, too.
[Sidenote: It sure feels nice to see Utah out-sizing opponents down low.]
Once again Earl Watson came off the bench for his usual 12 minutes at the end of the game against Portland’s bench and fringe players. I’m not sure if Sloan is comfortable with Watson running the offense yet, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on. Will EW get more than garbage time tonight? Here were the stat lines of Watson, Gaines, and Price from last night:
Ronnie Price played a good game and was more effective in 7 minutes and had a greater impact on the game than Gaines and Watson. Watch for Ronnie P getting some burn at SG this season, too. That leaves Gaines and Watson battling for the spot behind D-Will. While Watson looks like the favorite on paper, Gaines is playing solid basketball.
Keep an eye on who comes off the bench first tonight to guard Goran Dragic – a big guard who has a history of exploding for points off the bench. A good test for the back up point guards.
Will Gaines continue to leave the bench in crucial minutes while Watson watches?
Can Sundiata and his non-guaranteed contract challenge Watson and his guaranteed contract?
Nothing tests conditioning like back-to-backs. The second night has been the Achilles Heel for the Jazz every year. This will be a good test for the rookies, escpecially.
Can the rookies Evans and Hayward bounce back the following day from a rough outing? Will the speed of the NBA game seem even faster on the second night?
Can Big Al Jefferson go 24-28 minutes without grabbing his shorts and huffing for air?
Andrei Kirilenko has been nothing short of solid and amazing in his first two preseason games. Phoenix likes to run and play up tempo. This is what AK47 was made for. Kirilenko’s game is suited for two things: the open court and NBA JAM. Playing the Phoenix Suns is like combining those two. With Turkoglu playing the 4, you can bet that Kirilenko will be playing a lot at the 4 as well.
[Sidenote: Thank you Greg Miller for not trading Andrei Kirilenko. He’s too valuable to me on NBA JAM. Oh and he’s good in real life too.]
Follow Mychal on Twitter @My_Lo