ESPN asked Spencer Hall, our Editor and Chief, to weigh in on the Jazz’ early season struggles over on the Daily Dime (#9). Here’s what he had to say…
An 8-0 preseason with all kinds of great chemistry seems like a distant memory for the 0-2 Jazz. Just last week all the talk centered around a new kind of leadership from a revitalized Deron Williams. The players were taking each other to lunch and making plans to start a multi-year dynasty together.
The pendulum swings both ways. The goodwill and camaraderie have been replaced with frustration, confusion, and lack of effort. It all boiled over in the fourth quarter when Williams fired a bullet baseball pass to rookie Gordon Hayward, who was standing only a few feet away. The angry gesture from the newly named team captain seemed to shock the crowd and fueled the boo birds.
Hayward put on a good face after the game, but had to cover for his captain when asked about the incident. “With time it will all be fine. I just need to learn what he wants me to do. Next time I’ll be in the right place. Once I stop rushing and just slow down it will all be fine. I keep telling myself to slow down.
“You know, in warmups I can’t miss, and then I get out there and the shots won’t fall. I just need to shoot. I’ve been a shooter my whole life. It starts on defense though. If we can get some stops, we’ll be fine. We’ll be fine; I have confidence in us.”
The players tried to say the right things, but after the game, the tension was palpable in the locker room. A frustrated C.J. Miles tossed a crumpled roll of athletic tape and missed the trashcan by a few feet, proving that too much pressure doesn’t help with crisp play. So what happened between the end of the preseason and the start of the 82-game grind? Williams talked about players not knowing the offense. Miles thought the team got caught up in the euphoria of being the preseason champs.
“The Lakers started the regular season with a ring ceremony,” Miles said, “and I guarantee you they didn’t go 8-0 in the preseason.”
The Suns are another team that didn’t go undefeated in the preseason. The powerful display by the aging trio of Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson as well as eye-opening play from Hakim Warrick and Goran Dragic bode well for the Phoenix squad that looked completely overmatched several times in the preseason. It should be noted that Warrick threw down one of the most ferocious dunks in the history of the world in the third quarter.
Somehow the Jazz need to get their hands on whatever alchemy the Suns medical staff is performing. They’ve not only rejuvenated 90-year old Hill, they’ve also created a Slovenian clone of Steve Nash in Dragic.
Jazz fans will have to wait until Sunday to see if a matchup against Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Oklahoma City reveals a new demeanor. The pendulum has to swing sometime.