Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Summer Love

The offseason has mercifully come to a close. As the players trickle back into practice, it is apparent that basketball has not been an all-consuming mistress. In fact, a lot of formerly "available" players are now spoken for.

Most notorious, of course, is Lamar Odom's recent fake marriage to reality TV she-man, Khloe Kardashian. If you didn't already hate the Lakers (anyone?), the fact that the new additions to Laker's practices this year will be Ron Artest, Ryan Seacrest, and Brody Jenner should awaken you to the following reality: LAKERS FANS SUBSCRIBE TO PEOPLE.

Closer to home, love has bitten our slower, less-talented, Ukranian version of Lamar Odom: The Fez! That's right, the second most attractive center on the Jazz has stopped his wild, non-stop skirt chasing and has settled down with an anonymous lucky lady. Her identity won't be a secret for long, though: L.A. may have TMZ, but Salt Lake has Hope Woodside.

Deshawn, the Patriot

On the eve of the NBA preseason tipoff, former jazzman DeShawn Stevenson is showing off his new patriotic ink (yes, that IS Abraham Lincoln on his throat):

. . . and this fresh ink is a CRACK under his eye and on his forehead to symbolize how he never 'cracks' under pressure (unless of course LeBron is anywhere in the same building, in which case he cracks hard).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Opportunity Abounds

AK47 has gained weight… CJ Miles is in the best shape of his life… and Carlos Boozer still finds himself stuck in Salt Lake… It must be the start of fall camp, where all things “Jazz” look gloriously optimistic. And then practice starts. Aren’t these guys playing ball every day in the summer? Stretching… lifting… running… in good shape? Injuries… This can’t be good. Apparently, opportunity abounds for playing time (especially at small forward and center). However, nobody is around to compete for the positions. AK, KK, and CJ are all fighting off the injury bug. Ironically, all of them play the same position… small forward, along with our other injured warrior, Matt Harpring. Get well guys. We might actually need you during the season. Good thing our first game doesn’t start for another month.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Collins Officially Moves On

Jarron Collins will move on from his career playing for the Utah Jazz and try out for the Portland Trail Blazers. The end of an era has come, according to the Salt Lake Tribune... the Jarron Collins era is finished. What an incredible era it was! To his credit, Collins was one of the few and final players to play with both Karl Malone and John Stockton and made a minor impact on the team over the years.

"It was an honor and a privilege to play for the organization and to play with all of my teammates throughout all the years..."

Even better... over the course of trying out for other teams, Collins ran into Ostertag.

"In recent weeks, Collins worked out with Cleveland and Portland. He even crossed paths in Portland with Ostertag, who is trying to make a comeback at 36, and played in a handful of games with his former teammate. 'It was great,' Collins said. 'Just like old times playing with Oster. We were actually pretty good on the defensive end, knowing how to cover for each other."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sports Illustrated's Take on Boozer

From SI's Steve Aschburner (Steve who?) this morning:

"For now, we know Boozer is in Salt Lake City. But that's not where he wants to be and that's not where we expect the Jazz power forward to be for long, given the positional redundancy with Paul Millsap and Boozer's chronic me-first attitude. When it suited Boozer -- who gave Utah basically a half-season of production (16.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg) in an injury-marred 2008-09 -- to openly ponder opting out of his $12.7 million contract, he did that. When it behooved him to instead cling to that money for this year, he did that. Yet when he gave several interviews this summer, he speculated about playing in Chicago or Miami, solidifying his image as an individual disconnected from his team -- or even good form.

Next to Boozer these days, Zach Randolph looks like the consummate chemistry guy. Jazz teammate Kyle Korver recently told the Salt Lake Tribune: "We expect him to come back and play really well and try to be healthy and earn back the respect that whoever people think that he needs to earn it back to." We'll say this much: Boozer's consistency has to be applauded in Cleveland, which learned in losing his talented but self-absorbed act to Utah what Jazz fans now are fully wise to."

Come opening night, it is too bad that with a name like "Boozer," we will be unable to differentiate the "Boooooo's" from the "Booooze." I would guess that 75% will be the former, and 25% the latter. Anybody beg to differ?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You, Me & Dupree

Ron Dupree is looking to sign with the Jazz as a wing forward to play in place of Matt Harpring, if and when he decides to retire.
"The Louisiana State product is described as a tough-nosed player similar in a lot of ways to Harpring. A capable shooter and explosive athlete, Dupree's greatest strength is as a defender, which he proved in one game last season with the Flash... Dupree has averaged 3.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 154 games with Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and Seattle. He has added familiarity with the Jazz's system after playing with the Flash, where he averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds in 31 games."
It seems like Dupree has been showing some quality "face time" for the Jazz since he's played last season for the Flash. The Jazz must know him quite well and understand how his abilities will contribute to the team. In this case, there will probably be no need of any awkward interviews or get-to-know-you sessions for the Jazz and Dupree. If he doesn't work out, then I guess there's always Sasha Pavlovic, our former 1st round draft pick.

A Fitting Tribute

You can count on Utah County to find the appropriate gesture to commemorate the passing of a public figure. Behold, plans for the Larry H. Miller Memorial Corn Maze!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Greatest (Blunder?) Ever

This weekend couldn't have gotten any more entertaining.
I happened to tune into the Hall of Fame speeches of Jazz legends, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan and breathed in the enormity of their great accomplishments. The Hall of Fame presented Stockton, Sloan and the greatest ever, Michael Jordan as new enshrinees, and gave them the opportunity to address the crowds and viewers watching and awaiting their final words.
Stock and Sloan, (I must mention) were fabulous. Their speeches inspired, moving and marvelous. As one person said it... "From the speeches of David Robinson to John Stockton, Jerry Sloan to Vivian Stringer, there was an unmistakable thread of peace of mind and purpose. At times, they were self-deprecating and deflective of praise." In my mind, you couldn't help but witness the gratitude, humility and appreciation to the game of basketball that each enshrinee felt. It was great stuff to witness!
And then there was Jordan... and his speech.
Wow. What was that all about? Jordan mentioned how so many people had "stoked the fire" and "added wood to the flame" of his success, and which had ultimately made him who he became... the best ever. He poked fun of everyone. He brought up the dude who beat him out of his high school basketball team (even inviting him to the ceremony!), took apart Buzz Peterson, his ex-Carolina teammate, ripped on Jerry Krause, Jeff Van Gundy, and Bryan Russell of all people. And plain and simply sounded off on how everyone doubted him. His speech was arrogant, ego-driven, selfish, and most certainly bizarre. I then remembered a piece of ancient '90's history, and thought to myself... "Oh yeah, that's just Jordan. That's what he was like." It's no wonder that I dispised the guy.
Many writers developed similar sentiments about Jordan's speech. And I wanted to just share a few of them...
From "This wasn’t a Hall of Fame induction speech, but a bully tripping nerds with lunch trays in the school cafeteria. 'M.J. was introduced as the greatest player ever and he’s still standing there trying to settle scores,' one Hall of Famer said privately later.
When basketball wanted to celebrate Jordan as the greatest player ever, wanted to honor him for changing basketball everywhere, he was petty and punitive."
From "If you listened to Robinson's and Stockton's speeches, you could see the difference between the two and Jordan. Stockton and Robinson have made comfortable transitions into adulthood through retirement, and both gave wonderful, emotional, heartfelt speeches... Michael Jordan the Chicago Bulls guard was invincible. Michael Jordan the Man is vulnerable, complicated and ultimately human. I miss Jordan the Hero. I don't really want to know Jordan the Man."
What gets even better is how Jordan called out BRuss, the former Jazzman, as pressuring him to come back to play in the NBA so Russell could guard him. Jordan shoved his speech right in BRuss' face, essentially calling him a fool. Take that Bryan Russell! You... you nobody!
Afterward, BRuss responded... and now wants to take Jordan up on his offer. “I’ll play his a$$ right now. This is a call-out for him to come play me. He can come out here in his private jet and come play. He’s got millions of dollars. He can pay for the jet. He can meet me at the Recreation Center in Calabasas. We can have Mark Jackson do the commentating. We can have Mitch Richmond do the officiating. We can put it on TV and see if Michael’s still got it.”
I would love to see this! How can we get this on pay-per-view? Talk about your... "Prime-time, over-the-hill, washed-up, entertainment-tonight, made-for-TV, reality show"? Jordan vs. BRuss II... '98 Finals Rewind. Are you kidding me?
Beyond all the non-sense that Jordan was spewing on stage, we can't forget the legendary status and career of our very own John Stockton. He was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things on the basketball court... (6-foot nothing and repeatedly beat the stuffing out of players bigger, stronger, and often times faster than he was). He always came and did his job. "He worked harder than you. That was his secret" Sloan said. He never wanted the limelight. Gave credit where credit was due. And ultimately succeeded tremendously, making our fans, city and state proud of his every accomplishment. He was a superstar, and will always be one of us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stock and Sloan Surprises

It's official: John Stockton and Jerry Sloan have picked the guys they want to introduce them at their Hall of Fame induction ceremony tomorrow. Neither are conventional, although you have to pick from someone who's already in the hall, which narrows your choices a bit. Still, amazingly, Stock went with Isiah Thomas. Guess he didn't care much about that whole Dream Team controversy or the fact that Karl Malone laid Isiah out afterwards for it. Or maybe as a loyal Jazz fan Stockton just wants to thank the former Knicks GM for his gift of a draft pick we're going to get this year.

Sloan's pick was even more surprising: Charles Barkley. Turns out that all along Jerry has been down with guys who get in bar fights and lose $2.5 million in blackjack in one sitting. Actually, it turns out Barkley was Bobbye Sloan's favorite non-Jazz player, so he's really honoring her. Can't argue with that, but you can with any picture that shows Chuck measuring 6'7:

Camp Invitations

The Jazz have invited two players to fall camp. Paul Harris from Syracuse and Wesley Matthews from Marquette are the invitees. Both seem capable of making the team, especially since Matt Harpring's decision to retire looms large, potentially opening up an extra spot on the roster for either guy. Harris offers tremendous athleticism, defense and rebounding (8.1 rpg). However, he's undersized for the offguard position (6-4) and doesn't shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. He possesses strong similarities to Shannon Brown of the Lakers. Wesley Matthews is a better overall scorer and shooter from the perimeter, but may not possess Harris' intangibles and athleticism. Matthews averaged 18.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg at Marquette.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

European Vacation

There are a lot of Europeans on the Jazz. Kirilenko, Okur, Fesenko. Hell, even the Jazz players that aren't officially on the team are European: Suton, Tomic, Serbian dude. So, with Eurobasket in full swing, you'd expect that all these Euros would be working off the summer 15, right? Wrong. In fact the only Jazzman getting run in Eurobasket was born and bred in exotic Canton, Ohio.

Let's take a look at who isn't playing:

Fesenko: Fesenko's national team experience this summer has been well-documented. But his pouting didn't keep him from Eurobasket, since Ukraine didn't qualify.

Okur: Turkey and their "12 Giant Men" look like one of the top teams this year after beating Lithuania and Bulgaria. But our man Memo will not be joining Hedo in seeking European domination. Okur was dismissed from the Turkish team for "intransigence." Translation: he's fat and out of shape, because it's summertime.

Kirilenko: Andrei, who usually dominates this tournament, has decided to sit this one out so that he can "rest for the summer." In other words, he and Masha are shopping at high end boutiques in Paris and playing lots of simcity.

Now, it's probably a good thing that those three aren't playing this year. We will need them to be fresh for the regular season. And, as the Spurs know, only bad things can happen by playing summer ball. But what about the non-Jazz Jazzmen? We aren't bringing them to America any time soon, so it might be good for them to get some world class competition.

Unfortunately, they aren't good enough to make their national top 12.

Ante "Auntie" Tomic: The Croatian stick figure didn't make the final Croat roster. And you can hardly blame him when the team is stacked with NBA no-names like Roko Ukic and Zoran Planicic. The positive spin here is that Tomic was the last man cut, is still relatively young (22), and whiter than anything the Jazz have ever seen.

Tadija Dragicevic: The Serbs were the hot team in Eurobasket after dismantling defending champion Spain, and then got beat by lightweight Slovenia the next night. That would seem to be excellent preparation for playing on the Jazz in April, but unfortunately Tadija didn't make the Serbian roster. In fact, I can't find any mention of him even getting a try out. As you can tell, I'm really high on the Serbian Matt Harpring. On the plus side, he does seem to be playing well for his club team, Crvena Zvezda (pronounced as you would expect). Here's the poetic press release from his latest game:
KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd made won in fist friendly match in pre season. Guest from Philippines, Talk N Text Tropang Texters, lost friendly match against domestic players 92-60. From the beginning of the match, KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd made huge advantage, without chance for the guests to the end of the game. .... Captain Tadija Dragicevic scored 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

If he can put up those numbers against the Talk N Text Tropang Texters, imagine what he'd do to the Bucks!

Kosta Koufos: Finally, our hero. Kosta, who our readers will recall was born and raised in Canton, OH, made the Greek national team. He's also been Greece's most consistent player, putting up 10 points in both of the team's first two victories - including a defeat of Andrei's homeland. Greece has a couple of NBAish guards, in Nick Calethes and Vassilis Spanoulis, but Kosta will really carry this team. And if anyone challenges his Greekness, just show them your dueling passports and remind them that you are Greek too, bitch.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hall Ready

It's a big week to be a fan of the Utah Jazz. John Stockton and Jerry Sloan will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this coming weekend from September 10-12 in Springfield, Mass.

Perhaps most fitting (or aggravating!), Bulls legend Michael Jordan, basketball’s greatest player ever, will join Stockton and Sloan among a class of five that will be named for enshrinement.

How ironic is that! The man who dashed our dreams, stole our back-to-back Finals show and overcame the greatest pinnacle moment in Jazz history, will once again overshadow the legendary status and induction of two of our greatest franchise figures. Thank goodness the Mailman won't be inducted with them!... or at least not quite yet. Jordan was always the thorn in our side, the water to our fire, the nail in our coffin.

While it's great to see them finally go into the Hall, I wish Sloan and Stock could do it separately on their own terms and timing... certainly isolated from "the man" that gave us so much grief. I suppose it's only fitting that events transpire this way. Sometimes, current events can be a tough reminder of how history really took place.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Great Day to be an NBA Fan

ESPN is reporting that Bruce Bowen, the NBA's biggest cheap-shot, dirt-bag, Duncan-loving, Ginobili-lusting, under-cutting, neck-punching, eye-poking, crotch-grabbing, floor-flopping, official-whining perimeter player IS RETIRING!

The Basketball Gods are Smiling Upon Us Today!

From D Will

Latest D Will tweet:

"Had a good workout.. My team Tim Drisdom, Fes, PMill, and Ronnie B went 5 and 1 against Memo, RP, CJ, John Milsap and E rematch tomorrow 9 am."

Now, as someone who has played some pickup in my day, I can say that "5 and 1" is a shellacking, especially given that two of D Will's guys were Fes and Tim Drisdom. Perhaps "E" is a guy CJ's team picked up off the street. Or perhaps -- and this is probably more likely -- Memo is out of shape again. Because he should have killed Fes in that run.

Cool With Boozer

Deron Williams is cool with Boozer. Coach Sloan is cool with Boozer. Everyone's cool with Boozer! If they're cool with Boozer... then I'm cool with Boozer. Now that we're ready to go and all on the same page, let's get the season started! Really though, what else are they going to say?

According to Sloan via the Salt Lake Tribune...
"My job is to coach whoever's here. That hasn't changed," Sloan said, adding, "We'll do everything we can to try to make it work. Will we be perfect? Probably not. In order to win in this league, you have to have good players. And he's a good player."

According to DWill via the Deseret News...
"He went on the radio and said he wanted to play elsewhere. If he feels that way, that's fine. But he opted in, so he's a member of this team. Regardless, if you like somebody on or off the court, as far as I'm concerned I'm going to play with him regardless because I want to win. So, when you step on that court, there's no bad blood at all."
"I think it's a big year for him because it's a contract year, so I believe he'll come back and play hard and that's really all you can ask for because you know what you're going to get from him. The type of player he is on the offensive end is hard to match."