Friday, May 30, 2008

Where Are They Now: The BJ-League!

00Tag's post about one of TCG's author's namesake and his recent discovery of Jesus led me to do a little investigative reporting of my own. For my journey into the Jazz abyss, I set out to discover where on God's green earth was the ex-jazzman that made me cry more than any other. In other words, where was David Benoit?
Well, ponder no more, loyal reader. Everyone's favorite undrafted small forward was, until recently, playing the game that he loves at the ripe old age of 39! He's like Stockton except without the craftiness and overall skill level. And best of all, he was playing in the BJ-League! That's not a nickname for the NBA, it's a Japanese league started in 2005, and it sounds exciting. And now, the man who couldn't hit a playoff three pointer to save his life is the head coach of the Saitama Broncos. DREAM JOB!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hart Too Pricey

I'm not sure this is worth blogging about, but Jason Hart exercised his player option for next season according to the SL Tribune. He'll be getting $2.5 million next season. That's a lot of cash for a third-string point guard. Yikes! Anyway, hopefully this means we can move his expiring contract or negotiate a buyout. I'm high on Price, but low on Hart! least he reads to kids.

Add This to the List

Excellent post by the Crotty Kid. I propose an addition to the "NO - NOs" list. If you want to stay on the team, don't punch teammates in the face at Jazz functions, especially teammates who are better than you.

Here is a report on Bart Kofoed's ignominious exit from the franchise from the AP:

The Utah Jazz yesterday waived the second-year guard Bart Kofoed, following an incident in which a teammate, Bobby Hansen, sustained a broken cheekbone during a scuffle at a New Year's Eve party. ''There are many versions of the story,'' said the Jazz general manager, Dave Checketts. ''The fact is, a punch was thrown, and I don't see that the situation could ever be patched up again. There is a clause in his contract that requires him to act in good citizenship and good sportsmanship. For violation of that clause, we're going to terminate his contract because he struck one of his teammates and caused significant damage and damaged the team.'' Jim Farmer was signed to replace Hansen, also a guard, who is expected to be out four to six weeks.

Happily, it appears that Kofoed has seen the light and come to God. But I still wouldn't tease him at the holiday party.

Morally Questionable

It's the NBA off-season - time for players to get busted for things like drunk driving and possession of weed (like Joakim Noah did this week) and solicitiation of a prostitue (like Andray Blatche did last year). For an NBA team located in the most conservative state in the U.S., owned by a God-fearing man with horizontal elbows, you'd think that such moral indiscretions from a jazzman would necessitate a quick trade to the Grizzlies. But you'd be wrong. You have to royally screw-up-morally to get kicked off the Jazz. So, for the benefit of the fourteen Jazz players currently under contract, here's a brief summary of the dos and dont's of a Jazz NBA summer.


1. You can get in altercations in Park City, at Harry-Os, with deranged Nuggets fans. Bottles may be broken, garbage cans may be hurled, and players may cut themselves "reaching for a piece of hard candy." Oh, and its OK to tell the police your name is Torey Ellis (like Deron Williams).

2. You can be homosexual, as long as you aren't open about it (like John Amaechi).

3. You can plead no-contest to statutory rape (like Deshawn Stevenson).

4. Hell, you can even impregnate a 13-year old when you're a sophmore in college. You might even get a statue of yourself outside of the arena (like Karl Malone).


There is only one: do not knock up the coach of the local WNBA squad. Actually, it's more than that - don't mess with Larry H.'s cash money.

A brief history: Antoine "Big Dawg" Carr was enjoying an autumnal success to his illustrious career in a jazz uniform until he became smitten with the lovely Denise Taylor, head coach of the Utah Starzz. Ballers became lovers, and soon Mz. Taylor was forced to take maternity leave from her duties on the sidelines. (Note: Mz. Taylor's bio lists her son's name as "Taylor Antoine Carr" - thanks for the shout-out!) Now here's the deal: messing with Nuggets fans at Harry-Os, or being gay, or getting down with a tween ain't no skin off Larry H's back; what does he care? But when you mess with one of his income-streams, look the F' out. Larry H., in a fit of rage over losing the coach of his ailing WNBA franchise, did not sign free-agent Carr - a key piece of a title contender. Larry H. is gangster like that. You touch his stash, and your ass is grass.

So, Mr. Millsap, some advice. If you are going to mess around this summer, use some discretion. Do yourself a favor and get your groove on with someone other than the top saleswoman at Stockton-to-Malone Toyota, or the spokeswoman for the Utah Bees, or the diver at the Mayan.


The NBA is finally going to start cracking down on flopping. Last night, Rasheed Wallace most eloquently characterized the state of flopping in the league:

"All that bull(bleep)-ass calls they had out there. With Mike [Callahan] and Kenny [Mauer] -- you've all seen that (bleep)," Wallace said. "You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they're calling that (bleep). That (bleep) ain't basketball out there. It's all (bleeping)entertainment. You all should know that (bleep). It's all (bleeping)entertainment."

This drama infusion of professional basketball has become pervasive (including a few Jazzmen). While I like that the league is addressing this, I'm also concerned that this new policy takes the burden off of officials. To keep the pressure on officials, fines should also be extended to those who are regularly duped. Let's hope that this is the beginning of the end of taking dives.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jazz Management 101

So, where do the Jazz go from here? The Pasty Gangster brought up a great article (and I can't stand Gordon Monson, but his article was right on target) about the reality of the team salary situation.

First off, Deron Williams is eligible for a max contract extension in July. And there's no doubt we'll give it to him. He's the franchise player. Carlos Boozer can opt out of his contract after next season also. He'll be seeking a raise from his $12 million final season. On top of it, Kirlenko is already being paid the max amount. Millsap's contract is up after next season as well as Brewer and Okur the following year after that (09-10). Each player is gonna be seeking the "Quan". Check out shamsports for the details.

The key season to analyze is 2009-10. As currently constituted, the Jazz have $54 million contracted out, without mentioning Deron's pending contract extension, nor Boozer's opt-out ability. With Deron's max extension and Boozer staying put, salary would approach $70 million for '09-10, while, the luxury tax would be near the $70 million mark as well. As Jazz fans know too well, Larry H. Miller will NOT pay the luxury tax for salary above and beyond that mark. This ultimately comes down to one thing...Jazz Management 101. Player moves may need to be made in order to meet financial expectations. Unfortunately, this could jeopardize the competitiveness and contending stature of our team.

So what are the options considering the circumstances?

1. Trade AK47.
Who would be willing to take on Kirilenko's contract? It's huge! Certainly, we'd be looking for expiring contracts. Perhaps the Jazz ought to be looking East. New York has D'Antoni as coach and an expiring in Stephon Marbury. No doubt...the Knicks would enjoy having Kirilenko in its fastbreak offense. However, they might want to shed salary in the distant future with the hope of obtaining King James. The other team might be King James' current squad, the Cleveland Cavaliers. They need to win now and retool. Can you imagine Kirilenko playing alongside the King? Cleveland has expiring contracts in the form of Wally Szczerbiak, Eric Snow, Joe Smith and Damon Jones. Maybe the Jazz would take back such players. The expirings list also consists of players like Wilcox, LaFrentz, Jeff Foster, Rasho Nesterovic, Stromile Swift and Malik Rose.

2. Stay Status Quo and Risk Losing Boozer to Free Agency
Perhaps the Jazz value Kirilenko more than Boozer. If that's the case, the Jazz may go one more season with the current core and try to win it all. If this happens, we won't have the room to accommodate the Booz. We have to shed salary before '09-10 in order to make room. It would be tight otherwise.

3. Trade Okur
Memo doesn't make a lot. He's a rather good deal considering his pay and play. But, maybe the Jazz stick with DWill and the Booz.

4. Just Don't Re-sign the Kiddies
Millsap and Brewer would probably walk if we didn't make any moves. With contracts building up against the luxury tax level, we'd probably replace young studs with younger draftables, avoiding the payment of our kiddies.

Overlooking the concern of our salary situation, I'm always for certain, particular moves...getting rid of the deadweight. Let's open up some roster flexibility! Who are the trading chips? Expiring contracts of Jarron Collins and Jason Hart, the potential of a young Morris Almond, and our #23 pick. It's not much, but hey, we gotta do something to improve.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why I Cheer For the Pistons (and why you should too)

A most unlikely thing has happened this playoffs: the eastern conference has been more exciting than the west. With all the hoopla of a regular season that featured scintillating games and fierce playoff races, the western playoffs has been a snoozer. Aside from a brilliant Suns/Spurs first rounder and a competitive Jazz/Lakers series, the western conference matchups have been an all-out lamefest. Even the Spurs/Hornets seven game battle featured 6 homecourt blowouts, followed by a gutsy Spurs win. Bo-ring.

And now, with the current Lakers/Spurs battle to determine which team contains the most NBA-holes, the East again delivers with a great matchup: Detroit/Boston. And I'm here today to tell you who to root for: the Detroit Pistons.

Just like Obi Wan Kenobi, the Pistons are the Jazz' only hope. Each of the teams left in the playoffs, minus one, have at least one player that is a lock to be included in any discussion of the NBA's greatest 100 players of all time: the Spurs have Duncan, the Lakers have Kobe, and the Celtics have Garnett (and Pierce?). The Pistons don't have such a player. The best player on their team is quite debatable (Billups, Rip, Rasheed). Similarly, the Jazz don't have that once-in-a-lifetime player. Deron might get there one day, but he's not going to go on the road and rip someone's heart out - yet.

The Pistons are just a ragtag bunch of castoffs that happen to fit together perfectly. Chauncey was a bust until he landed with the Pistons, Rasheed was given away by Portland and Atlanta because he was a head-case, Rip was traded for Stackhouse and Brian Cardinal, and Tayshaun was drafted with the 22nd pick in the draft. The Jazz (minus Deron) are a similar bunch: Kirilenko was drafted late, the Pistons let Okur walk, and Boozer was considered too small to draft in the first round. Like the Pistons, there is a real sense of purpose with the Jazz personnel - even if that purpose doesn't include defense.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, is that we, as Jazz fans, have to cheer against the superstar model of NBA team building. We don't have a superstar, and we're unlikely to have one any time soon. We need to believe that a team can be greater than the sum of its parts, that the individuals can be subsumed in something greater than themselves. That, to me, is partly what being a Jazz fan is all about - believing that the right combination of smarts and effort can overcome a lack of god-given talent. That's why I'm rooting for a Pistons championship.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Gordon Monson's Tribune column this morning is not for faint of heart Jazz fans. He lays out the salary cap picture and it isn't pretty. Boozer is an unrestricted free agent next year and will probably ask for max money or close to it. The same goes for Williams (who will most certainly ask for and get max money from someone). As Gordo notes -- and I think as most Jazz fans know -- at a minimum this means we have to move AK. But I think the problem goes a bit deeper than that. Boozer, Brewer, Millsap and some of the others we're going to have to start paying bigger bucks to soon are very good, but can they lead us to a title? Especially with LA and New Orleans in the conference? I don't envy Kevin O'Connor right now, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bulls & Suns "horny" for Horny

It is being reported that both the Suns and Bulls are interested in Jeffrey "Horn-Dog" Hornacek to fill vacancies in their respective head coaching positions. Horny as a head coach in the NBA? I am not sure I can see it. But, if Avery Johnson had a crack at it, then Horny definitely deserves a shot. His basketball IQ has to be higher than that of the Little General.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Do You Really Want to Know?

In addition to disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy admitting to betting on over 100 games that he officiated, he is now stating that relationships among officials, coaches and players have "affect[ed] the outcome of games", that there were gambling activities of other NBA officials and that a referee passed "confidential" information to an unidentified coach.

As someone who works in the business of communications, I have to hand it to David Stern and the NBA for effectively getting ahead of and burying this Donaghy saga. These new revelations, however, will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire of basketball conspiracy theorists everywhere. And there are no shortage of these theorists among Jazz fans.

Obviously, if other NBA referees have intentionally skewed games, (or are currently doing so) then placing bets on these games, they are breaking the law just as Donaghy did. For fun's sake, let's get out the tinfoil hats and assume that other referees are not gambling, but that Donaghy is telling the truth regarding the NBA using subtle tactics not to completely manipulate the outcome of games, but to make the outcome more likely to fall in a way that the NBA desires. How would this ever be brought to light?

I'm no lawyer, but as I see it, absent of the racketeering, the NBA would not be doing anything illegal. If it is not illegal, the Justice Department has no incentive to expose the NBA, and a big disincentive in the form of a civil lawsuit for exposing confidential business practices. Furthermore, since the NBA is a privately held corporation, they are not required to provide anything other than basic financial transparency regarding their business operations. Lawyers, am I wrong?

Do we want to know? Would Jazz fans feel vindicated by such a revelation? Or would the fun of formulating conspiracies, as well as following NBA basketball, be forever ruined?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summer Reading

Now that the season has ended, Kirilenko can finally focus on travelling the world, Sloan can get around to polishing his John Deere's, and Korver can devote 100% of his attention to his salvation. But the end of the Jazz season does not mean that TCG is taking a vacation. Far from it. Most of us consider the NBA offseason to be a season unto itself. So, to whet your appetite, a few highlights to expect this muggy season:

  • Insights from the Draft Guru - Kofoed11, aka the Draft Guru, has an uncanny knack for deciphering on which collegians and foreigners the Jazz have their set collective eyes. His predictions are gold-plated diamonds.

  • NBA free agency - Expect numerous articles about how the Jazz absolutely must sign Josh Childress, or Juan Dixon, or Sam Cassell, or Kenny "Sky" Walker.

  • The Rocky Mt. Revue - As the only TCG author currently living along the Wasatch Front, we expect numerous Revue reviews from Rising Stock. Actually, on second thought, don't hold your breath on this one.

  • The Future - The posts about what the Jazz need to do going forward have already begun. Look for everyone to encourage Larry H. to throw $$bling$$ at Deron. Look for everyone (except yours truly) to encourage the Jazz to lock up CJ Miles for a long time. An look for me to encourage Jason Hart to opt-out of his contract and test the current market for an undersized, poor shooting, turnover-prone backup point guard.

  • Trades - I love gossip. I especially love NBA gossip. And what I love most of all is inventing NBA gossip.

  • The NBA playoffs - As long as the Spurs are alive, you can expect 5-7 posts from Booner and Golden Griff about how evil the Spurs are and how they absolutely must lose if there is to be any beauty or reason left in this world.

  • Poetry - 00Tag writes hauntingly beautiful lyric poems about Greg Ostertag and Tyrone Corbin. Hopefully he'll share some of his work with us.

To Pick OR Not To Pick...

The NBA Draft Lottery came and went while the Chicago Bulls won the 1st pick in next months NBA Draft (Sidenote...Was it ever a surprise that either Chicago or NY would win the lottery? The NBA must be desperate for either big market franchise to be successful). The arrival of the lottery balls was a true sign that the season was over and the offseason had begun. Only four teams remain in the playoff chase towards a championship and the Jazz aren't one of them.

It's unfortunate that the wrong teams have advanced in the playoffs. Most intently, I wish the Jazz were still playing, rather than seeing the despised Lakers and Spurs facing off. Woof! Now, all we can do is await the anticipation of a potential future offseason move; a possible draft pick, free agent signing or perhaps a trade. Because really...I don't think I'll be watching the playoffs anyway.

Now that the lottery has taken place, we can anticipate the coming of next month's NBA draft. And for Jazz fans, the question arises as to what we should do with our pick? The Jazz have the 23rd pick in the draft, and it may not be the most enviable position to be in come draft night. There are certainly better positions. So I wonder, what should we do with it? Keep it? Trade it? I'll give a point and counterpoint argument since..."that is the question!"

Let's pick! Can we find a player in the draft that might be able to contribute next season? Yes, it's very possible. This is a deep draft with decent prospects. An even better question however might be...can we find a player in the draft better than Jarron Collins or Jason Hart? Emphatically, I answer in the affirmative. Yes! Well then, let's pick! The draft is deep at the center position and I believe we can find a player who might be a good, solid piece for our future. Plus, it never hurts to stock up on young talent.

Let's trade it! The Jazz have 13 players on contract for next season. And that's without mentioning CJ Miles who I believe we'd most likely want to retain. We really don't have room for another draft pick. In addition, the Jazz already have 2 young apprentice-types in Fesenko and Almond who never get a lick of gametime action. Do we want to develop another player? Plus, our current team is ready to compete now. It's time for us to invest in winning a championship and not necessarily developing our young talent. We need to prepare for the present, not the future.

The draft is around the corner. Let's bring it on!

Coach After Jerry?

This hasn't been getting much attention, but it sounds like Larry Miller thinks Jerry will coach for another year or two and then he wants to turn the team over to either Phil Johnson (see below) or John Stockton. I love Stock but him running an NBA team with zero coaching experience makes me nervous.


That thumb pictured above is going under the knife. Even with a torn ligament, Mr. Millsap managed 15 points and 8 boards in the season finale. Best of luck, gentle enforcer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Much post-mortem talk on the Jazz season has already happened, both in the Utah media and on this blog. But I couldn't resist adding my two cents. Based on the quotes I read in the papers this weekend, I agree most with Deron Williams' assessment (and not Sloan's surprisingly sunny take or Harpring's "We're actually better than the Lakers" BS). To paraphrase, this is a good team with a young nucleus that made some strides over the last year. True, they went out earlier in the playoffs this time around, but they competed with possibly the best team in the league instead of getting trounced by them like in the '07 Spurs series. The future is relatively bright, with some clouds here and there.

The Good
  • D Will coming into his own. As one friend put it, this was the year Williams realized he was better than the rest of his teammates. He's the alpha dog now. Jazz fans should recognize that this team is not going to follow the Stockton-Malone paradigm. Rather it's a hybrid late-90s Jazz/early 2000's Pistons team, without the defense. Lots of good players but only one great one, not two.
  • The young nucleus. Our young players are incredibly promising. And not just Williams and Boozer. Millsap, Brewer, Miles, and even Fes are talented and if developed, could help the Jazz achieve greatness.
The Bad
  • AK's contract. Simply pretending the Jazz aren't in serious trouble because of the millions we owe Andrei does not make the problem go away. Williams is going to ask for and get max money and we can't afford to pay the two of those guys. Especially when one of them is at best the fourth biggest contributor on the team at this point.
  • Our size. For too long Boozer and Okur have been able to hide in this league. No more. They are an undersized power forward and center combo and it has the ability to kill the Jazz in the playoffs, especially on the defensive end. Eventually we're going to need someone to compete with the Gasol's and Tyson Chandler's of the world.
  • The Western Conference. It is deep and it is good. The Lakers and Hornets are going to be great for years and we need to deal with that fact somehow. We're close to where they are but based on this year's playoffs, both are better teams.
The Ugly
  • Boozer. I actually believe the media has not paid enough attention to this. Boozer killed the Jazz in the playoffs this year. He had one good game out of twelve and in the other eleven he hurt us immensely by taking terrible shots and not playing defense. I fear that the "undersized" knock on him may be coming true. He will always be a good player -- especially in the regular season when no one Ds up -- but unless something changes I question his ability to become a great one.

Adios Phil?

A source close to the Jazz has reported that Phil has interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Phoenix left by D'Antoni. This same source close to the Jazz reports that Phil is the brain behind Jerry's braun, the tutelage behind Jerry's toughness, the mind behind Jerry's method. In other words, Phil is Jerry's left nut . . . and we would all hate for Jerry to lose his left nut.

Who not to cheer for this evening...

Down with the goons! Go Hornets!

So that's it...

The 2007-08 season is now in the books for the Utah Jazz. For me, this is a huge annual transition point as a sports fan, at least regarding basketball, because I consider myself primarily a Utah Jazz fan and, to a much lesser extent, an NBA fan. I am sure that I will catch some of the remaining games here and there, but the continuing NBA playoffs will not determine my plans now that the Jazz have been eliminated (much to my wife's delight, I'm sure).

This season's playoff exit feels much different than last year's, and ultimately that is a good thing. It was the feeling of many that the Jazz had absolutely no chance against the Spurs in last year's Western Conference Finals. We were just happy to be there. This year's exit seemed too soon. The team expected more. The fans expected more. There was no feeling that the Lakers, or any team, was far superior to the Jazz. In retrospect, there are a lot of "what ifs." To name a few:

  • What if the Jazz had not lost on the road to every Eastern Conference team that didn't make the playoffs except Milwaukee?

  • What if the Jazz had not lost focus in the month of December?

  • What if the Jazz had not shrunk to San Antonio the last game of the season?

  • What if Carlos Boozer played in the 2008 playoffs like he did in the 2007 playoffs, or like he did during this regular season?

There are other "what ifs" as well, like what if the Jazz had pulled the trigger on a Marion for Kirilenko trade? Or a host of controversial calls, and no-calls, in both the Houston and L.A. series. Those are situations for another post not by me. They are out of the control of the players and coaches, and are largely circumstances that are now water under the bridge.

As much as the disappointment now hangs over SLC, and wherever the Jazz Nation has citizens, this is a positive developmental step. What ifs, feelings of regret and of unrealized potential, whether perceived or real, should provide huge motivation for improvement in the off-season. These current bitter feelings should provide the catalyst to develop the leadership and focus needed to propel the Jazz to greater heights. I eagerly await next season to see if the Jazz learn from this season and come out stronger.

The Long NBA Summer

I'm not going to post about game 6 today. I'm not even sure if it was a let-down, inasmuch as it felt inevitable once it had ended. In the end, I feel that the Jazz achieved what they should have achieved - which, unfortunately, feels fairly hollow in today's hyper-accomplishment sports world. It feels like the Jazz are one of the smart kids at some uber-elite prep school called "Western Conference Academy"; their talent would be much more praiseworthy if they weren't surrounded by all the few kids that are even richer and smarter. Perhaps transferring to the less prestigious "Eastern Conference Boys School" would do wonders for their self-confidence.

I feel good about what the Jazz are at this point - they are the second youngest team in the NBA and have a solid core. But, I also recognize that two western conference teams that are still playing are similarly youthful and, as noted, still playing.

So, here's to hoping that Kirilenko enjoys his family vacation in France this summer and that Okur enjoys putting on his customary twenty-five "summer pounds." The Jazz gave us all a nice little run this year. And that's often all that you can ask for.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why I still like our chances...

Okay. Call me a fool. Call me an eternal Jazz optimist.

Was Wednesday the Jazz's best chance to capture this series? Of course. We were right there. We had the opportunities, the open shots, the rebounding position. Nevertheless, I'm still a believer that the Jazz can win this series. Here's why:

This series has some striking similarities to last year's playoff series with Houston:

  • Like this series with the Lakers, in Games 1 and 2 of the 2007 series with the Rockets, the Jazz lose by 9 and 8, respectively. The Jazz also came back to win Games 3 and 4 at home. Similarly, Game 5 is a war, and represents the Jazz's best chance at taking the series, but ultimately the Rockets prevail in a close match. We all know the rest, as the Jazz then go on to win Game 6, and score the surprising upset in Game 7.

  • In that series, the Jazz had a key post player who was underwhelming on the offensive end compared with his regular season numbers. (In the first 5 games of the 2007 series with the Rockets, Okur averages 8.4 ppg compared to a season average of 17.6 ppg. Memo pulls it together for Games 6 and 7 of the 2007 Rockets series to nearly match his season average, scoring 16 and 19, respectively. I hope you are reading this, Carlos Boozer!
    • Health
      "Ah", you might say, "but the Rockets of last year do not have what the 2008 Lakers do: Kobe Bryant." And you are right. But this isn't Kobe Bryant MVP. This is Kobe Bryant with a back injury. And, as with most muscular injuries, continuing to play with an injured back will only make it worse. At the most, Kobe's back isn't going to get a lot better, especially when you consider the Jazz's physical nature. That is not to say that they should cheap shot Kobe, just that the Jazz play hard-nosed physical basketball.

      During Games 1 and 2 of this series, the Jazz were intimidated by the Staples Center. You could see it on their faces. Game 5 was where they got rid of this intimidation. Other than Williams and Brewer, the Jazz played average, but they were on the verge of victory. If (when) they take care of business this evening, there should be very little white in the eyes of the Utah Jazz when they tipoff for Game 7 at the Staples Center.

      This argument may have suffered a bit by many Jazz fans booing Derek Fisher, but let's face it:


      I could enumerate the reasons, but we all know them. He doesn't deserve to win another NBA title.

      Great Story: Frank Layden

      If (when) the Jazz win tonight and then beat the Lakers in Game 7 in Tinsel Town, this series will go down as one of the greats in Jazz history. It will also take its place in a long line of historic Jazz - Lakers battles. In honor of that fact, I give you a story about a Jazz - Lakers series from days gone by. Here it is as told by Mark Eaton on the Legends of Basketball Blog.
      Lakers vs. Jazz (1988 NBA Playoffs) : Layden's Master Plan

      The playoff series with the Jazz and the Lakers is very similar to a series I played in 1988. We beat Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trailblazers on a Friday night, and 36 hours later found ourselves at the fabulous Forum in Los Angeles taking on the defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers. We lost Game 1 by 12 points and were feeling pretty low when we walked back to the locker room. However, our coach, Frank Layden, had a plan and employed an unusual strategy. While we sat there waiting for a tongue lashing, Frank approached the situation with a completely unorthodox approach.

      He walked into the locker room and closed the door behind him. He looked at us all sitting in our chairs and said, ‘Guys that was a tough one, and here’s what we’re going to do next. I am going to close the locker room to the press.’ Now, in the NBA at that time, it was a $10,000 fine to close the locker room to the press. This was a very bold move. Next he said, ‘You guys are going to take a shower and go out the back door to the bus. I am going to go out in the hallway and tell the press that the Lakers are simply the greatest team I’ve ever seen and that we have no business being out on the court with them.” Karl Malone and I looked at each other and just shook our heads. What is he thinking? Has he lost his mind? Then Franks said, ‘On Tuesday night, we’re going to come back and kick their rear ends.’ All of a sudden we started smiling at each other. This is starting to get pretty funny. We jumped in the shower and went out to the bus. The press was infuriated that they couldn’t speak with us, and Frank got some major air time as the media lambasted him for closing the locker room. He had a little smirk on his face as he got on the bus! We came back on Tuesday night and took care of the Lakers. In fact, we won Game 2 and Game 3. It was a brilliant strategy.

      I asked Frank years later when he thought of that strategy. Was it during the game? No, he told me he thought it up while he was walking back to the locker room! Apparently, to be a great coach you have to be able to think on your feet!

      Pau's Put-Back

      As a rule, I do not complain about referees. It is a futile endeavor and, even worse, it implies forgiveness of numerous other deficiencies which, unlike refs' whistles, can be controlled by the players.

      With that said, even if ignoring refs were not my M.O., I would have nothing to complain about regarding the Pau put-back on Wednesday. I've watched this thing a hundred times and I'm convinced of one thing, and one thing only: Okur flopped.

      We can, and likely will, argue for days about whether Gasol pushed off (I think he does, but that happens on every play, just watch Boozer), and whether the Jazz would get that call in Salt Lake (they would), and whether there is a conspiracy to get the Lakers into the finals (no, there are easier ways to fix these things than no-calls). But the sad part of this whole thing is that Okur chose to flop in an attempt to draw a foul instead of nutting up and fighting for that board. He may not have been able to get it - Gasol is deep and the ball bounces perfectly towards him - but he at least can try and get a tip or keep Gasol from just flushing the game. Instead a flails his arms (convincingly) and gives Gasol a dunk to ice it. Exaggerating fouls instead of rebounding is ALWAYS a stupid choice; you just aren't going to get the call enough to make it worthwhile. This is especially so on the road, in the last 30 seconds of a tight playoff game.

      I've grown to like Memo. I think he fits well on the Jazz, and I can forgive his lust for outside shooting because he is, in fact, our best shooter. But that was an unforgivable "Euro" move Wednesday night that may have cost us our best chance at winning this series.

      Now, judge for yourself.

      First, the "HOW-CAN-THEY-NOT-CALL-THAT" angle:

      Now, the "oh-maybe-that-was-a-flop" angle.

      For what it's worth, truehoop (who's author picked the Jazz to win the series) agrees.

      Shot Selection

      Having lost three out of five against the Lakers, there are clearly some things the Jazz can be doing better. For starters they could quit turning the damn ball over so much and stop fouling every time down the court (especially away from the ball and on Lakers not named Kobe). But there is one thing that is even more under their control: shot selection.

      Here are shots I like:
      • Anything by Deron Williams. Especially if Jordan Farmar is in the game. In fact, if Farmar is in the game I think D Will is the only Jazzman who should shoot. And as great as he's been, we need Williams jacking it up even more down the stretch.
      • Most of Memo's. His new shot fake, dribble, launch a running jumper over an approaching defender is not the prettiest move in the league but it's opened up a new facet of his game and his post-season play is much improved this year.
      • Many of Harp's, Korver's, and Brewer's. These three have struggled at times to knock down J's but at least their shots usually come within the flow of the offense.
      Here are shots that make me want to throw the remote control:
      • Anything by AK outside of 12 feet. I'm sure if you reviewed all the game film you'd find that he's hit three of these shots in the playoffs. But he's taken about 50. And 45 have gone right off the back of the iron. The only silver lining is that they clank so hard it gives Okur and Booze a great chance at an offensive rebound.
      • Boozer's 15-foot, hand in the face, fall away jumpers. Really one of the worst shots in our offense. No chance of a foul, usually draws nothing but backboard, and we can rarely board it. This shot is especially maddening with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.
      • Boozer's run down the lane, throw the ball up into the defender, hope for a foul and then complain after you don't get one. The amazing thing about this shot is that it actually affects our defense, as Carlos is often out of the play arguing as Odom takes it down the other end for a dunk. One question about these shots: if Walton is stealing the ball at the same time as Odom and Gasol are cleanly blocking it, who gets credit for the defensive play?

      Thursday, May 15, 2008

      Stumbling at Staples


      The Jazz came close…only to fall again in the Staples Center. How close? From the 10:30-mark on (from the 3rd), throughout the rest of the game, the Jazz never trailed by more than 6 points. Oftentimes, only down one or two. We tied the game on four different occasions in the 2nd half. But could never take a lead and get over the hump. During a few offensive possessions when the game was tied-up, the Jazz turned the ball over on a traveling call, a missed lay-up and a bogus offensive foul-call (I’ll save the ref-complaining for later). For some reason, we couldn’t take control of the game. I’ve got to believe that the Staples Center owns some sort of weird, mysterious hex over the Jazz, because we were so close, and yet still couldn’t pull out the victory. The game was there for the taking!

      Boozer struggled again. Even with solid numbers, he wasn’t stellar. I think we expect him to be a superstar performer for us. And yet, he hasn’t risen to the occasion.

      Odom and Gasol outperformed our big guys (combined 43 pts & 19 rebs vs our combined 41 pts & 25 rbs), coming up with bigger plays down the stretch. Pau Gasol’s slight shove, and put-back dunk was proof of this fact (even though it should have been called as a foul). In my opinion, this became the tale-telling sign of the game. It was painfully obvious that Booz and Okur couldn't guard the Laker post-guys in the paint, nor on the perimeter.

      Was that Jarron Collins I saw in the game? Did we have a Jarron Collins sighting last night? The noble Jazz statesman made a game-day appearance! I wish we had a better option off the bench…

      CJ Miles showed us some spark during the 3rd quarter. He had a sweet dunk over Lamar Odom that was quite impressive. I’ve always wanted to see more of CJ in the game. He’s got some great 'hoop'ability. However, I’m not sure he’s able to defend any better than Harpring or Korver.

      With every game that goes by, Deron Williams becomes the face of the franchise; clearly "the man".

      The good sign from Game 5 is…we know that we can compete at the Staples Center. Game 5 was our best road performance of the series, even though we didn't win. We're in good shape going into Game 6, being that our competitiveness has heightened. We ought to take away a great amount confidence while playing at home, to win the next game.

      Wednesday, May 14, 2008

      Pre-Game 5 Blasphemy

      If this is meant to be a compliment to Kobe, then I piss on it . . . and proclaim it to be in bad taste. The "Real" Teen Wolf was among the top 7 basketball players of our generation, AND an accomplished thesbian, AND surfed on moving vans, AND got it on with Boof, AND was charasmatic.Kobe can only dream . . .

      Monday, May 12, 2008

      So you can watch ABC/ESPN/TNT with the volume off...

      Here are things you will hear ad naseum from Mike Tirico, Marv Albert and the like:

      • Matt Harpring has a football mentality because he played QB in high school, and a lot of his family members played college football

      • Ronnie Price played his college ball at Utah Valley State, which is located 45 minutes south of the Tox Box (formerly Delta Center).

      • Jarron Collins has a twin brother, Jason Collins, who also plays in the NBA.

      • Mehmet Okur is from Turkey and is married to the former Ms. Turkey (tons of Thanksgiving and stuffing jokes go unrealized on this one).

      • Kyle Korver comes from a family of basketball players, and everyone of their first names begins with the letter "K."

      • Ronnie Brewer's father, Ron Brewer, also played at the University of Arkansas and was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers. Ronnie also has an unorthodox shot because of a injury resulting from a childhood water slide accident.

      The brilliance of D-Will in Game 4

      Game 5 Issue List

      Fantastic game on Sunday: an action-packed thrill ride in a must-win situation. Even freedarko thought it was the best game of the playoffs so far. But I'm not here to slap the Jazz on their collective, sweaty backs. I've come here for one purpose, and one purpose only - to rain on the parade.

      Issue 1: All-Stars - Last night I fervently prayed to David Stern that Deron never be named to the all-star squad. Jazz all-stars are cursed: announcers now refer to Kirilenko as "the one-time all-star"; last year in the western conference finals, the lone Jazz all-star, Okur, averaged around 8 points per game; and now, all-star Boozer is disappearing before our very eyes. After he checked back into the game in the fourth quarter, Boozer contributed a total of 6 points (1 fg), 2 rebounds, 2 fouls, and 2 turnovers. The offense was obviously not running through him as Deron was frantically looking for Okur and Korver, not the big Alaskan. To win in LA we need Boozer to command double teams, not get his pocket picked by Derek Fisher.

      Issue 2: More Millsap - Aside from the crazy doctor on the baseline holding up homemade signs that say "BAD CALL," and the monochrome-slightly-feminine-baby-blue-hued crowd, the real reason the Jazz are so tough at home is Mr. Paul Millsap. He is a cyclone of energy at home, going up for dunks, getting his hands on passes, and generally creating more havoc than a 6"6' power forward has the right to create. I love when Luke Walton tries to guard him. But on the road, he loses a bit of his edge. I'd love to see him barking in Staples on Wednesday.

      Issue 3: Krunchtime Korver - Korver logged nearly 30 minutes on Sunday. He played the entire fourth quarter and the overtime. That is too many minutes for a one-trick pony. I know, I know, he's in there because he is money from the line when icing games. But it drives me crazy to have a huge defensive liability - who hasn't exatly lit it up from the field this series - on the court while LA mounts its comeback on Derek Fisher's back. Give me somebody that can D up: Brewer, or Millsap, or Harpring! Ok, not Harpring.

      Issue 4: Can we win in LA? - The Jazz obviously have the advantage in the dry mountain air beneath the Wasatch. But to win this series, the Jazz need to claim victory in Los Angeles. Game 5 is the time to blow the horn of ascendence on the national stage.

      How hurt is . . . "hurt?"

      So Kobe injured his back, or did he? I am a bit skeptical about the extent of many NBA All-Stars' injuries, especially come Playoff time (i.e. Jordan being "terribly sick," T-Mac playing on his "sore knee"). I think it is simply an attempt to add to the player's potential heroics. Let's be honest, in Game 4 Kobe can barely walk to the Laker bench, but then can run the length of the floor with the ball in 2.4 seconds. And granted, his field goal percentage fell into the toilet in the 4th quarter and overtime, but still . . . injured?

      I have my doubts. Serious doubts.

      Sunday, May 11, 2008

      How Sweet It be tied @ 2

      How 'bout them Jazz! The Jazz have made a glorious comeback to match the Lakeshow at 2 a piece. Now, it's down to the best of three. Here are my thoughts from this weekend's games.

      1. Deron, the Franchise. The Jazz will go the way of Deron Williams. Deron was absolutely phenomenal during Game 4, going 9-13 from the field and scoring 29 points with 14 assists. He was making plays and hitting clutch shots. The big shot that comes to mind was his fadeaway jumper, over the outstretched reach of Pau Gasol to stop the Laker momentum in the 4th. If that shot doesn't fall, the Lakers win the 4th (after we had choked away the lead). See JA Adande's article on DWill.

      2. The Homecourt is True. Energy Solutions Arena...aka the Tox Box... gave us the extra momentum and motivation to finish off both Game 3 and the overtime in Game 4. I was worried that we'd lose the OT once the Lakers had come back from 12 down. But, the fans helped the team pull it out. We're truely a "Loud and Proud" bunch. Way to go Jazz nation!

      3. Boozer Reborn. While the Booz wasn't spectacular in Game 4, he was a monster in Game 3. 27 and 20! That was a dominant outing. We could use more of it...but hey, he awoke when we needed him most. He overcame the doubters at that point. Now, he just needs to find some dominant consistency. Between Booz and DWill, we'll need to see a huge performance from one of them (if not both) in order to be around to pull out future wins.

      4. Priceless Energy. I kinda like having Ronnie Price in the game. He gives his all, doesn't hold back. He's a true Jazzman at heart. His block of Luke Walton was incredible. How did he get back so fast? I can only imagine Jerry Sloan loves the Price.

      5. Fisher gives me heartburn. How big were those threes he nailed in the 4th? I just cringe everytime he gets an open look "three". Us Jazz fans have been through alot with the Fish. I can only wish and hope the best for him and his family off the court, but on it...

      Honorable Mention:

      6. The Elastic Man. Kirilenko had 5 blocks today. He made some huge stops on Kobe and was bugging him all day.

      Wednesday can't come soon enough. Go Jazz!

      Saturday, May 10, 2008


      There are a lot of things that I miss about Utah. Here are three:

      1. The news anchors in Utah. The list of names is like a stroll through the hall of fame: Dick Norse, Randall Carlisle, Carol Makita, Doug Miller, Reece Stein, Mark Eubanks. And what Utah male hasn't had the hots for mega-babe Hope Woodside? But there are few moments in Utah news history that can rival this clip for bizareness: Shauna Lake, who apparently has a school-girl crush, interviews Kyle Korver. We get to the bottom of burning questions such as what church he attends in Utah (K2 church), whether he's single (yes), the hardest part of moving to Utah (finding people he wants to hang out with), and what he thinks of being a sex symbol (he doesn't like it). I mean this is hard hitting stuff. Shauna's son Zach even makes a cameo to deliver a peanut better and jelly sandwich to the jazzman. Fantastic! And the last half of the interview features Korver holding a pillow to his midsection. Maybe he has a crush on Shauna but doesn't want her to notice.

      2. What it takes to become a heartthrob in Utah. Three things. Kyle's got them all.

      a. Hard-core christian values (check).

      b. White (check).

      c. Frosted tips (check).

      3. The Nu-Skin Jazz Dancers. So hot!! So classy!!

      Friday, May 9, 2008

      Playoff Perspective . . .

      With the Jazz down 2-0 going into tonight's Game 3, it helps to put things into perspective: No NBA team has ever come back to win a series from an 0-3 deficit. So how important is tonight's game?

      Thursday, May 8, 2008

      Jarron Collins

      I was hoping this post could wait until the season ended, but after watching last night's game I realized the drum beat needs to start now. A few weeks back The Crotty Kid wrote an insightful piece on this blog about Shane Battier entitled, "Why is This Man Not on the Jazz?" I would like to reverse that question and ask it about Jarron Collins: Why exactly does this man continue to suit up for the team we all love?

      Collins' play (11 minutes last night!) is infuriating. But let's start by giving the him a fair shake and listing his attributes:
      • He looks damn good in a sweater vest (see above).
      • He has a twin brother who is also in the NBA. This is important because it gives the mainstream media something to write about. Unlike the rest of America, today's journalists haven't fully wrapped their head around the concept of twins. They're especially enamored of them when they play sports (i.e. the Barbers and the Lopez twins at Stanford). I shudder to think what will happen when the first set of triplets makes the majors or plays in the NFL. The New York Times will probably run a bi-monthly A1 story on their progress.
      • He is good at catching D Will's hot pad at the end of warm ups.
      • He is a gentleman and a leader in the locker room. I've heard a number of people who work for the Jazz say that Collins is quote, a real stand up guy, unquote. In eighth grade I also had the pleasure of playing basketball against Collins (actually, the Collins twins -- you can imagine how the undersized team from Salt Lake City fared in that game) and am proud to report that he didn't swear, get technicals, or start a fight during the game.
      Now, let's look at where Collins falls short:
      • He is undersized. Listed at 6'11, I am told, again on good authority, that he is closer to 6'7 or 6'8. There is no such thing as a 6'8 center in the NBA.
      • In turns out he is actually terrible at playing the game of basketball. Most recent case in point: in 17 minutes of action in the playoffs he has yet to score. This is after averaging less than two points and two rebounds a game during the regular season.
      • According to John Hollinger's PER ratings, Collins is the 415th best player in the league -- sandwiched in between Chris Anderson and Mardy Collins (I don't even know who those people are, but for Mardy Collins' sake, I hope he's not somehow related). Now, there are 30 teams in the NBA and each team has 12 players on its active roster. 30 x 12 equals 360. When you're the 415th best out of a group of 360. . . well, it's not good.
      Come this offseason, Collins must go. How or where or who replaces him, I care not. He is the 7th highest paid player on the team (he makes as much money as Millsap and Brewer combined), yet contributes less than anyone who sees regular minutes. Because of his ineptitude, when Memo is on the bench we basically have no one over 6'9 to spell him. Come on Larry, wake up!

      Nauseating Numbers - Game 2

      The total amount of time that had elapsed in Game 2 when Boozer sat down with three stupid fouls. STOP PUSHING PEOPLE on the boards!
      The total amount of minutes Boozer played in Game 2. Quick math: that is HALF the game. He must be exhausted!
      The amount of dunks Boozer threw down this year, as compared to 119 for the slimmer, smaller, and slighter Ronnie Brewer.
      Boozer's field goal percentage in Game 2 (3 of 10 from the field). Jump shot, after jump shot, after jump shot. Come on! We acquired Boozer for his low post presence. Jarron Collins can shoot 12 foot jumpers all night (speaking of which . . .)
      The amount of minutes Jarron Collins played in Game 2. 11 minutes from Collins is 11 minutes too many in any NBA contest!
      The Jazz's deficit at the end of the first quarter. Let's be honest, it is tough to crawl back into an NBA playoff game versus the #1 seed when you give them a 15 point lead going into the second quarter.
      The amount of points the Jazz scored in the first quarter. Again, it is tough to do much damage to your opponent with 18 points a quarter.
      The number of points the Lakers beat us down with in the first half. I don't credit the Lakers' offense (although credible) as much as I do the Jazz's lack of defense (very incredible). At the end of the game, the Lakers walked off the court with 57.5% field goal percentage under their belts.
      4 of the next 5
      The games the Jazz actually have to win now to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
      The amount of pleasure I derive from watching Boozer dick around at the elbow, brick 12 footers all night, push people under the boards, jog down the court and stand, and sit on the bench with a blank stare. WHERE IS BOOZER'S FIRE?

      The Pride of Arkansas-Little Rock

      Fisher is killing the Jazz, just killing them. Last night he shot 70% from the field, 80%(!) on 3s, and added three steals. Not to mention zero turnovers to go along with his 22 points. And his threes in the 4th quarter? Daggers, all of them.

      Coming into the series, the Jazz had the obvious advantage at point guard; up-and-coming superstar versus decrepid veteran. But Fisher has outplayed Deron thus far. And that's not to take away from Deron's game last night. Deron shot the ball well (5-5 from deep) and kept us in the game. It is obvious, painfully obvious, that he's our best player when he's on the court.

      But Fisher has been the difference in both games. In game 1 he did it off of his dribble penetration and finding Gasol for easy dunks. And he was everywhere on defense, collecting 6 steals (all at Boozer's expense, it seemed). In game 2 he did it from outside, letting Kobe kick to him in the corner for that nasty, behind-the-head launch of his.

      After game 1, I felt, even though we might not be as talented, that we could rattle the Lakers: Kobe gets flustered when things don't go well, Odom is a total dope fiend, and Gasol is an absolute ninny. At the end of the first game the Lakers were spending more time worrying about Harpring's clever jersey clutches than Okur firing open 3s. That was a good thing.

      But Fisher is a tougher nut than the rest. He's the glue that keeps together the collection of dandys and fancy boys known as the Lakers. If the Jazz have any hope in this series, they have to find a way to keep Derek Fisher from beating them. I can't believe that I just wrote that.

      Wednesday, May 7, 2008

      Dikembe/Andrei Split Screen?

      From Sports Guy:

      During the Rockets-Jazz series they showed a McGrady/Boozer split-screen playoff commercial. How funny would it have been if they chose Dikembe Mutombo and Andrei Kirilenko? That's the funniest possible combo, right? I bet you can't top Kirilenko and Dikembe.
      -- Scott, Austin, Texas

      SG: What about a split-screen with George Karl and Flip Saunders in which Flip is staring confusedly into the camera, jaw twitching, and Karl doesn't move or blink for 30 solid seconds. Those two images make me think, It's playoff time!

      Lance Allred vs. Jarron Collins

      I hate to bring this up hours before Game 2, but the debate has been exhausting: could we pay Lance Allred much less than Jarron Collins to do much more than Jarron Collins? Well, let's piss one more urine stream into the fire.

      It seems Lance Allred is about to be a published author! Can Jarron Collins claim the same? I think not.

      "Cavs reserve forward Lance Allred got news that he has been waiting to receive for years this week when he learned that HarperCollins is going to publish his memoirs. He is set to sign the contract for the untitled biography soon and the plan is for it to be out around Christmas or early next year. It will focus on his growing up in a polygamous sect and overcoming obsessive-compulsive disorder and legal deafness to reach the NBA. 'I tried to go back and objectively analyze my life and I try to do it sarcastically and sardonically,' Allred said. 'I wasn't really planning on putting it out there, and then my sports agent read it and encouraged me.'"

      Distinguished Author > Stanford Graduate.


      Hopefully a preview of tonight's Game 2

      RIP Kobe Up

      In the 2003-2004 NBA finals, Larry Brown and the Pistons found a way to slow down Kobe Bryant: make him play hard on defense. Rip Hamilton has always been one of the best conditioned players in the game and is a master at moving without the ball. When the Pistons realized that Kobe would be defending Rip, they forced him to chase Hamilton, who never stopped moving, during long offensive possessions and to fight through crushing screens from Rasheed and Ben Wallace. Make no mistake, Kobe is an excellent defender. But by forcing him to expend so much energy on the defensive end of the floor, the Pistons slowed Kobe down offensively.

      Game 3 of the series provides a striking example of how effective the Pistons' game plan was. Kobe went 4-13 from the field and finished with 11 points. Rip took 22 shots making 11 of them and finished with 31 points.

      The Jazz do not have a Rip Hamilton type player, but I would like to see us push Kobe on defense by looking for Brewer on cuts to the basket, posting up AK and running Korver off double screens when Kobe is defending them. Kobe will surely make some nice defensive plays, but as the Pistons proved, making Kobe play hard on defense may be the best way to slow him on offense.

      Tuesday, May 6, 2008

      Jazz Notes

      Some links from ye olde web:
      • Ronnie Brewer is an NBA-elite dunker, if measured by quantity. Hooray, dunks!

      • Sporting News article on a Jazz practice prior to last March's home disaster against the Lakers. Fun facts: Millsap practices his threes; Deron's favorite point guard of all-time is Jason Kidd.
      • Looking for the next Mehmet Okur in this year's draft? Look no further than Georgia (the country). Giorgi Shermadini is compared to Okur, but without the bulk. Not sure that's a good thing. Also, if you're like me, you enjoy NBA articles with poorly translated quotes. Not only do we learn that young Giorgi is as good as Memo was at 18, we also have this gem from a Cavs scout: “Shermadini is a very talented player. As he has very good conditions for improvement, I think that it will happen first time in basketball history that from low level league player will go in NBA. This fact is EUREKA.”
      • Yet another article about how mean the Jazz are to Kobe. This one from the New York Times.

      "Go Hornets, Go!" - Jerry Sloan

      OK, I actually have no official proof that Jerry has said anything close to "Go Hornets, Go," but he, along with anyone in this big beautiful world affiliated with the Jazz, is definitely thinking as much. Now granted, the Jazz have a lot to accomplish before we worry about the next round, but a few foreshadowing thoughts as the Hornets take a 2-0 lead over the dicks of the NBA . . .

      1) Everyone in the U.S. hates, or should hate, the Spurs. Nobody in their right mind wants to see a Jazz v. Spurs series. More specifically, nobody wants to see the Spurs' "Flop-a-Rama" anymore. It has played itself out. It is bad basketball. Get the Spurs the hell out of the playoffs!

      2) Every Jazz fan knows that the Spurs have our number.

      3) Wouldn't a fast pace Utah Jazz v. New Orleans Hornets series be fun? D-Will v. CP3? Peja v. Korver? Memo v. Tyson Chandler? Boozer v. West? the Bear v. whatever the hell the Hornets' mascot is?

      Thus, it suits us all as Jazz fans to make the Hornets our allies. As we chant "Go Jazz, Go!" for the next few weeks, may we also chant "Go Hornets, Go!"

      Monday, May 5, 2008

      Key Numbers from Lakers Series - Game 1

      Much has been said about Kobe Bryant's performance at the line in Game 1. As has been stated eloquently by fellow posters at TCG today, the Jazz do not have an effective answer to Bryant. But gazing at the box score, here are two glaring numbers from Sunday's game:

      the number of turnovers by Carlos Boozer. The Jazz turned the ball over far too many times in the 2nd quarter. Watching the game in real time, it seemed like every member of the Jazz was committing unforced errors, but in retrospect only one other Jazzman had more than one turnover - Deron Williams had two.

      the number of points scored by Sasha Vujacic in 17 minutes, a large majority of these coming, again, in the 2nd quarter. Vujacic is developing into a modern-day Jazz killer, beginning with his last-second heroics against the Jazz in 2005 (a game I attended with Rising Stock, who has yet to post, by the way). 15 points from this guy seems pretty unacceptable considering he averaged less than 9 for the season, and even less than that in the Lakers' previous series versus Denver. On top of this, The Salt Lake Tribune points out that Vujacic's scoring took place while Kobe was on the bench. The Jazz's second-line SGs, Harpring and/or Korver, have to do a better job defensively on Vujacic. If the Jazz are going to win this series, they must take full advantage of the time that Kobe is not on the court.

      Nevertheless, these numbers make me cautiously optomistic. This series does not feel like last year's Western Conference Finals, when the Jazz were totally overwhelmed by the Spurs. Despite these numbers above, the Jazz's poor shooting, the less than 48-hour turnaround, and the other numerous reasons that Jazz fans are giving for the loss, the fact is that the Jazz were in a position in the 4th quarter to win Game 1.

      These Things I Believe

      Sunday's game was not very helpful. I came away from it less sure of how this series is going to play out than I was before the game. It's obvious that we cannot rely on Sr. Okur's hustle to keep us in games, nor can the Lakers consistently rely on Deron delivering a complete dump of a game. But there are some things I am convinced of after watching Game 1.

      1. Jack Nicholson knows nothing about the game of basketball - I am convinced of this. I have never sat in the front row of anything, but I have a sense that the front row inhabitants at Lakers games are, too put it nicely, dumb as bricks. I have a premonition that Jack spends the whole game yelling things like "Do a dunk shot, Pau," or "Shoot in a three-point basket, Sasha," or "That Bea Arthur sure was a handsome woman, wasn't she?"

      2. Ronnie Brewer is our best version of a "Kobe-stopper" - I thought Brewer actually did a respectable job on the NBA's #1 lady's man. Plus, our other options are truly flawed. When Kirilenko guards him Kobe finishes at the rim because he knows AK can't stay in front of him. AK plays for the late block, which on lesser players is effective, but Kobe just throws it down - plus we lose Andrei's weakside help. Kyle "Kandyass" Korver was actually decent in spot duty on Sunday, but he gets zero respect from the refs (or any male, for that matter). CJ "Frequent Flier" Miles was a total joke, as per usual.

      3. Sasha Vujacic is playing despite a severe case of the clap - That's the word on the street at least.

      Sunday, May 4, 2008

      Positives From Game 1

      Yes, the Jazz lost game one to the Lakers 109-98, and yes, the team that wins game one goes on to win almost 80% of NBA playoff series, but before we write the Jazz’s obituary, there were several aspects of game one that make me optimistic that the Jazz can advance to the Western Conference Finals.

      1. The Jazz killed the Lakers on the boards – 58 to 41 – and pulled down an astounding 25 offensive rebounds. Rebounding is a Jazz strength and Lakers weakness, and it kept us in game one despite shooting only 37% from the field.

      2. Okur played a great game, scoring 21 points and pulling down 19 rebounds. Although Williams and Boozer had sub par games, the Jazz were able to stay in striking distance because of Okur. When he is playing well, Okur spreads the floor and makes the Jazz tough to defend.

      3. The Jazz were not ready for Kobe Bryant. With only a day to prepare, it was clear the Jazz had not effectively schemed for Bryant. Kobe is a much better player than McGrady and the Jazz need to adjust. With a few days to watch and analyze the game film and work out the kinks, I expect the Jazz to be better prepared for Kobe in game 2.

      4. The Jazz didn’t let the Lakers bury them. The Jazz had every reason to roll over and die after the Lakers opened up a 19 point lead in the third quarter: they were tired; the calls weren’t going their way; they got some terrible bounces (Williams’s layup?); and they were struggling from the field and the free throw line. But instead of throwing in the towel, the way the Nuggets did, the Jazz took what they were given and slowly chipped away until they cut the Lakers’ lead to 3 with a couple minutes to go. Not only did this show a lot of heart, but it demonstrated that the Jazz can play with the Lakers, even when their stars are having off nights.

      Of course I would have rather walked away with a victory, but game one provided plenty to be optimistic about. With a few days to rest and prepare, I predict that Boozer and Williams will return to form, the Jazz will slow Kobe down, and we will take control of the series by stealing game 2. Ultimately, I see the Jazz winning this series in six games. The signs were all there during game one, it just takes a Jazz fan to recognize them.

      Saturday, May 3, 2008

      Quick Hits

      As has been much discussed on this blog, D Will's numbers so far in the playoffs have been unbelievable. Here's a quick review of what he did to Houston over the six-game series:

      20.8 Ppg
      8.5 Apg
      53% FG
      59% 3Pt FG


      And speaking of this year's playoffs, it's interesting to note that despite the talk about how closely bunched the Western conference teams were, the top four seeds all won fairly handily. Let's hope that trend doesn't continue through the next round though, as it would be bad news for our Jazz. . .

      Jazz Advance to Face Lakers

      It's been 10 years since the Jazz faced the Lakers in the NBA playoffs. And perhaps one of the greatest moments of that series was when Kobe Bryant airballed three clutch-time shots allowing the Jazz to sweep the 1998 Western Conference Finals. It was a great moment to revel in the embarrassment that was Kobe Bryant at that time. He was young, cocky and over-confident.

      Since then, much has changed since the '98 season...(Stockton retired, Kobe & Shaq won 3 rings, and even the Mailman joined Kobe for a season in Lakerland). Kobe however, really hasn't changed much in terms of ego and super confidence. Most Jazz fans would probably agree that he may qualify as the most despised player in today's NBA. Unfortunately, he often backs up his arrogance with tremendous scoring outbursts and clutch shooting (unlike his prior, youthful days).

      It'll be a challenge for the Jazz to match up with Kobe. As we saw in game 6 last night, Tracy McGrady rolled up 28 first half points to help the Rockets stay within stricking distance of the Jazz. Fortunately for us, the Jazz pulled away during the 2nd half of the game because of tremendous effort and player balance. Kobe, though, is an even better talent than McGrady! And that can be somewhat frightening for Jazz fans, as he's capable of winning ballgames on his own. With that said, I believe that our new age Stockton to Malone (Deron and the Booz) will challenge LA for top dog and a bid to the Western Conference Finals. Go Jazz!

      McGrady, the "Perennial LOSER"

      Oh T-Mac . . . 7 first round Playoff exits. Ouch! And my favorite part: When asked how it is the that Rockets sometimes win in Salt Lake City, the answer was not "execution, toughness, focus, defense," no it was "WE HATE THEIR FANS." And then he repeated, "WE HATE THEIR FANS." Well after making such a declaration, and then rolling into Salt Lake City to finalize his 7th first round exit, I bet T-Mac feels like a genuine ass this morning.

      Have a great summer Tracy!

      Friday, May 2, 2008

      If History Means Anything...

      There need not be any description on how big tonight's game is. Many, including yours truly, are nervous about how this series has turned as of late. The comforting thought I return to is that this game is at the arena formerly known as the Delta Center (now known, at least to me, as the Tox Box). To ease my nerves, and to fill the time of an extraordinarily slow Friday afternoon at work, I did a little historical statistical analysis to see how good home court has been to the Jazz in this situation.

      My question was: How effective are the Jazz at closing a series on their home court?

      The answer is somewhat comforting. Over the last 19 years, the Jazz are 13-4 (.764) when they have the opportunity to close out a playoff series at home. Yes, most of these games were played with Stockton and Malone at the helm. The Williams-Boozer era team is 1-0 in this situation, last year's Game 5 against Golden State. The one constant that draws this together, however, is soon-to-be Hall of Famer Coach Jerry Sloan, who has been the head coach for each and every one of those battles.

      Game 6 Is For Heroes

      Thursday, May 1, 2008

      The Jazz Celebrity Fan List Grows

      A few months ago, before the establishment of the greatest Jazz blog ever, local newspaper stories reported that rap artist, Lil' Jon, had performed at a birthday party for Ronnie Brewer and CJ Miles, then sported a Deron Williams jersey at a Jazz game. As captured by the video above, we can now count tween sensations Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron as the latest celebrity Jazz fans. Once thought of as the most un-hip NBA team, the Jazz have had a meteoric rise in popularity among those with serious celebrity status. No longer do Jazz fans need to hang their hats on the fame of crazed Jazz fan and Cocoon star, Wilford Brimley. Who will be next to show their Jazz allegiance? Alex Trebek? Drew Lachey?

      Here are some tips and other observations regarding this video:

      1) We know Zac and Vanessa are new to being Jazz fans, but if they are handing out T-shirts for everyone to wear during the game - wear the damn shirt! They need look no further than the woman behind them who is wearing nothing but the shirt. Now that's a Jazz fan!

      2) My wife frequently tries to convince me that not everyone that is a BYU fan is a dork. Yet somehow, most of the fans from that school who I encounter, either in person or otherwise, contradict my wife's assessment. The guy next to Vanessa, complete with his Y hat (no, it doesn't stand for Yale) at a Jazz game, is Example A. What a tool!

      3) To all who still say that the Jazz are uncool, I ask you this: What other team has played Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire!" for the last 25 years?