Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Road Wow's and Woe's


While on their recent 4-game East Coast road trip, the Jazz outscored their opponents 419-416.  Moral victories.  However, the Jazz finished that road trip with a 1-3 record, actual victories.  At least the Jazz are heading in the right direction...back to Salt Lake City.  First, let's review their glorious journey through mega-metropolitan's like New York City, Philadelphia and Orlando!

Game 1: New York Knicks                                                                                                   L 101-106
Not a bad loss, not a bad loss indeed.  This game was essentially a tale of two halves. The Jazz outscored the Knickerbockers by 10 in the first and were outscored by 15 in the 2nd half.  Rodney Hood came off the bench to drop 30 in 32 minutes including 6-12 from beyond the arc.  The Jazz overall hit a season's best 17-35 three balls.  The game came down to a bounce of the ball and it bounced the Knicks way.  Again, not a bad loss to a potential playoff team.  But let's be honest, complimenting the Knicks on being an 8th seed in the Eastern Conference is like glamorizing over the 8th fastest turtle on the Galapagos Islands.

Extra Hair Gel: the line on this game was Knicks -4.  Well the Jazz were down 6 with less than 2 seconds left when Rodney Hood banks in an uncontested three, swaying the bet with no effect on the outcome of the game.  But this 'bad beat' wasn't finished.  Rodney Hood committed a "foul" almost simultaneously with the horn.  A foul didn't need to be called, I'm not even sure it was a foul.  There's more contact on a jump ball.  Regardless, a foul was called and the Knicks hit both free throws and the bet swayed back again for the Knicks to cover.  A roller coaster of emotions in an otherwise meaningless event for a select few out there, you know who you are.

Game 2: Brooklyn Nets                                                                                                       L 107-118
Every now and then when I think the sky is falling, I like to put myself in another fan's shoes who's rooting for another team.  In this process I compare players straight across, position by position.  With that said, there is nobody on the Nets I would want on my team.  Nobody.  They shouldn't win a game, like ever.  Yet here we are, losing...to the Nets.  In using another sports' analogy, the Nets had a punchers chance.  They threw a haymaker in the first quarter.  It landed square on the Jazz's chin and the Jazz never recovered.  The Nets outscored the Jazz 39-25 after one, and we're on to Orlando.

Extra Hair Gel:  Raul "nothing but" Net-o scored a career high 22 points.  He didn't start despite Ricky "the Matador" Rubio not playing.  More on Neto coming soon.

Game 3: Orlando Magic                                                                                                        W 125-85
First off, why did the Jazz go from Brooklyn to Orlando, only to take Space Mountain back up north to Philadelphia?  Whoever does the NBA scheduling needs to work part-time for Uber to find the shortest routes.  Back to the game.  Back to Neto (not pronounced "Neat-o" despite popular belief).  The Brazilian baller had a +/- of +44, 2nd highest in Jazz history.  That stat is neat-o, I know that much.  The Jazz played their best defensive game sans Gobert, allowing only 37 points in the 2nd half and just 38.3% shooting for the game. 

Extra Hair Gel: Derrick Favors had arguably his best game of the season, 25 points on 10-12 shooting, 5-5 from the charity stripe, and grabbed 11 boards with two blocks.  This was Favors' third double-double of the season, his 2nd since Gobert went down.  He's been close, but Favors should average a double-double as the starting center.  He's a good enough offensive rebounder that grabbing 10 boards should come standard for every Jazz game, like a program or Joe Ingles pissing somebody off on the opposing team.  It's likely that a minute restriction is causing this statistical unproduction as Favors has only topped the 30+ minute milestone 4 times out of 18 games. 

Game 4: Philadelphia SeventySixers                                                                                    L 86 - 107
"If only Gobert was back."  Jazz fans can say this for every game, but this one against Philadelphia in particular rings all too true.  Joel Embiid is so freaking good.  Ben Simmons is so freaking good.  Together they are really freaking good.  The Jazz didn't have a chance.  Shooting 35.3% while allowing 51.8% backs up that claim.  Gobert V. Embiid is going to be an all-time rivalry for years to come...if they ever play against each other. 

Extra Hair Gel: Nobody on the Jazz looked impressive this game.  However, the attitude from Jazz rookie and new fan favorite (in Gobert's absence) Donovan "Spida" Mitchell was something to get excited about.  Late in the 4th with the Jazz down by 13, the 6'3" Mitchell  took the ball up for a layup and was promptly swatted by the 7' Embiid.  The big man immediately stared down Mitchell as Mitchell got up off the floor to run down the other end of the court.  Not a fan of the stare down, (which you're 7' dude, bench yourself if you don't block that shot) Mitchell shoves Embiid who may or may not have taken a dive.  Either way, Mitchell got a technical foul on the play.  I love it.  Outside of Ingles I can't think of anybody else who has a technical in recent year.  Gordon Hayward wouldn't push over Embiid.  One knock on Hayward is the fire never appeared to be burning.  Let's see if teammates rally around Mitchell going forward. 


Takeaways and Turnovers: 

  • In every one but the Philly game, the Jazz hit over 10 three's.  They did hit nine against Philly but needed 28 attempts to get there.  
  • Rodney Hood is making a strong case for 6th man of the year.  Since being asked to come off the bench, Hood is averaging 21.3 ppg in that role.  
  • The Jazz are 2-5 with Hood off the bench recently, but this season is not about wins and losses, it's about growth.  Trust me Jazz fans, we need that motto more than we need Gobert back.  In my opinion, the Jazz have had a better roster than 3/4 teams they played on this road trip, yet won only one of those games.  Learning how to play with and around the best offensive weapon, Donovan Mitchell is going to be a process.  Trust the process.  Our process, not theirs.  
  • The Jazz are 1-7 on the road.  That's no bueno.
  • The Jazz ranked 7th in defensive rating according to NBA.com, they are also 2nd in steals, 4th in blocks, 2nd in fast break points allowed.  Can we get these to translate to wins?
  • Ricky Rubio's hair still looks remarkable.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

L.A.G.


Life After Gobert

Bleak!

Reports are out that Gobert is out 4-6 weeks!  <insert favorite four-letter word here>

Let's do the math, in four to six weeks it will be December 10 to December 24.  I'm thinking the Jazz will express caution on their $102 million investment and you likely won't see Gobert back until after Christmas.  Fear not fellow Jazzonians, the product of the Miller's only have 20 games from now until Santa Gobert comes down the chimney, sharing gifts of swats, deflections, frankincense and murr.

The Jazz, 6-8, could be in some serious trouble by that time.  Here's a list at current big men and rim ravagers foaming at the mouth with the absence of Gobert:
Kristaps Porzingas
Joel Embiid / Ben Simmons
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Nikola Jokic 2x's
Blake Griffin / Deandre Jordan
Anthony Davis / Demarcus Cousins
John Wall
Russell Westbrook 3x's
James Harden 2x's
Kyrie Irving
Lebron James
Lamarcus Aldridge

Just to name a few.

All in all it appears Gobert could miss between 15-22 games.  At which point the Jazz will be in a very precarious situation.  Do they throw Gobert back in the lineup on iffy knees that officially have a questionable history and make a run at the playoffs in a stacked conference OR rest him for much longer than expected and subsequently work your way up to a higher lottery pick?

For now, the Jazz are going to rely heavily on a relatively unproven rookie to garner the scoring load, oft-injured Derrick Favors to become the defensive replacement at the rim and hopefully some better wing shooting in the future.

The positive person in me thinks the Jazz will surprise many teams during this stretch and stay at or around the 7-8 seed.  The realist in me thinks the Jazz will suffer many losses they normally wouldn't have had with a healthy Gobert in the mix and close out the hopes for the season almost as quickly as it began.

For now, brace yourselves.  Winter is here and the Jazz wall has collapsed.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One Season Summed Up In One Week


Let's get the elephant out of the room once and for all before we move on to less interesting Jazz topics: Ricky Rubio's hair is absolutely majestic in all it's glory.
Now, back to basketball.
Seven days, four games, and the summary of 2017-18 Utah Jazz season in a nutshell.  Let me know if any of this sounds familiar:

  • Jazz are fantastic at home, 2-0.  The Jazz's plus/minus at the new and improved VSHA or Delta Center if you're over the age of 30, +19.  The Jazz's two road games...you guessed it, 0-2.  The plus/minus for those affairs, -21.  
  • Rodney Hood's injured.  Since drafted, Hood has only played in 58% of his regular season game opportunities. 
  • Jazz fans are stoked about the potential a relatively unknown rookie shooting guard with tremendous athletics but doesn't shoot very consistently at all and turns the ball over wayyyyyy too frequently has.  Other examples: Alec Burks, CJ Miles, Ronnie Brewer, and Deshawn Stevenson.  Through week 1, Donovan "Spida" Mitchell is shooting 26.7%, 18.8% from downtown and is averaging more turnovers (2) than he is rebounds (1.3).  I do love his upside though.
  • The Jazz will run a thousand million pick & rolls per game, every game and until the end of time.  
Fast forward these four games into the next 78.  Would it surprise any Jazz fan if they finished .500 and somewhere around the 8-9 spot in the Western Conference?  This is another patented Utah-Jazz-pre-Gordon-Hayward-the-All-Star.  Prior to last season, the Jazz finished between 36-43 wins in five of the previous six seasons.  
On the bright side because nobody likes a Debbie Downer of mediocrity, here are a few guesstimated, cool Jazz facts that have yet to be foreseen in the early going:
  • Ricky Rubio will lead the league in assists.  Right now, he's only at 7.5 assists per game.  Rubio finished 5th last year averaging 9.1 assists per game.  Like I mentioned earlier, Rubio is going to run a million trillion pick & rolls per quarter, every game and even during post games.  He'll get 4-5 assists just on alley-oops alone.  Rubio is also the best ball handler on the Jazz roster by far, so the offense is going through Rubio's hair hands another million trillion times.  
  • Rudy Gobert will lead the NBA in blocks.  The Jazz will probably lead the league in blocks as a team with a healthy Favors.  Gobert should win defensive POY, but the award won't go to somebody not in the playoffs.  Unfortunate because he deserved it last year.  #politics
  • Joe Ingles will lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage.  Not that cool of a guesstimation but I feel confident about it.
  • By years end, the nationally televised NBA announcers will be gushing over the Jazz's frontcourt domination.  Seriously.  They should be considered in the top-3.  The Pelicans with Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, the Clippers with Blake Griffin and Deondre Jordan, and the Jazz with Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko.  Typo: I meant Gobert and Derrick Favors, stupid autocorrect.
  • The Jazz will make moves before the deadline.  A contending team (and probably Joe too) will want a clutch veteran they can rely on for a playoff push.  I like Rodney Hood to stay if healthy.  "If."  The Jazz need to move up a few spots from their usual 11-14 draft slot they always land.    
For now we get to enjoy the Jazz and Rubio's hair in all their glory.  They'll beat teams they shouldn't, like the Thunder.  Struggle with teams they should smash, like the Nuggets.  Play lock-down defense particularly at the rim.  Have one of the slowest offenses.  Finally, the coolest fact you did not already know about the improved arena; it's equipped with a meat locker behind the Jazz's bench for Rodney Hood's ice bags.  

Hello 2017-2018 Utah Jazz

The NBA season is officially under way. It sure is nice to be getting a little action again. After three games, there's still a lot left to be desired in terms of what to expect for the season but it appears that the silver lining is pervasive thus far. The Jazz have effectively exceeded expectations with Rubio bringing the passion that stifles on defense. Intriguingly, from the outside looking in, Gobert appears to be the underachiever when it comes to the defense. But I don't know. Have my expectations been blown out of proportion and I expect Rudy to make a visible impact on every play? Or is it that we've never had a backup center with the prowess of Epke Udoh that has taken my attention off of the stellar anchoring of the D that Rudy provides? Maybe it's that Rubio has been such a pest that I have tunnel vision for what's happening on the perimeter. Could it be the excitement surrounding Donovan Mitchell and his spider senses? In any event, I knew the Jazz defense would be great, I just didn't know it would be this incredible. I'm excited to see them take it to the limit.

A few notes from the games thus far:
Denver
The first game of the season was a thriller. Denver controlled most of the game up until the end of the third quarter and it appeared to be a Jazz fan's worst nightmare. The stellar offense of the Nuggets was outshining the defense of the Jazz and many fans became anxious waiting for something to happen. Then came Joe Johnson and Alec Burks. If the Jazz are going to be effective on offense this season, somebody is going to have to step up every game. This time, it was Alec Burks, showing what he is capable of after Joe Johnson got the ball rolling. Burks showed glimpses of his former self that has had Jazz fans hyping for years. Can he continue to shine or will he break out only on rare occasions? We will see. This game, he took control and led the Jazz to victory.
Minnesota
The game in Minnesota was exhilarating. It went back and forth as a game of runs. Toward the end, Rubio gave the T-wolves fans a bit of seller's remorse as he single handedly brought the Jazz back from down 5 to take the lead with only a minute left to go. Unfortunately, Father Time let Jamal Crawford off the hook for a quarter of basketball where he torched the Jazz with a load of 4th quarter points and a dagger three, right at the end when the Jazz were a possession away from a 3-0 season kickoff. Ultimately, the Jazz couldn't overcome.
A thought on the last play of the game...I worry that with Joe Johnson, the rest of the team becomes too reliant on his late game heroics to create any of their own. The last play of the game, when the Jazz were down by 3 with five seconds to play, Joe Ingles (who has been phenomenal from 3 so far this season and all of last) had a fine look from behind the arch but was determined to run the play to Joe Johnson, only to lose control of the ball, essentially squabbling the opportunity. I wonder what would have happened if he were able to make the read and take the shot. Could we all have been praising the $52 million man?
OKC
Finally, the Jazz gave the latest version of the Big 3 a thorough whooping. The Jazz were successfully doubling the score of the Thunder for most of the first half. It was a joy to behold. I came away from this one wondering where to give credit. Obviously, the Jazz defense was outstanding yet again but Westbrook was utterly pitiful. Just pitiful. He scored 6 points. Probably as few as he's scored in years but there's no way of knowing for sure. He went 1/4 from the free throw line. It just felt like he may have been off of his game but we can certainly give credit where credit is due to Rubio and the Jazz for knocking him off his rocker. I think the strategy of the game was to let Mr. Inefficient Carmelo have whatever he wanted and play white on rice with Westbrook and George. It was very effective. The garbage minutes were all the Thunder had to keep the game within 10. The Jazz dominated. 

Tonight, the Jazz face off against the Clippers and this will be another test. The Clippers without Paul seem to be a much more cohesive unit and potentially a bigger threat with the additions of Beverly, Gallinari, Teodosic and Lou Williams. All they need to do is rid themselves of the gaping hole who is the coach's son and they could really be scary. I love watching the face off of giants between Gobert & Favors and Jordan & Griffin. It should be fun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Cowhide Globe is Back!

For several years now, Jazz fans have been deprived of one thing more than any other.

Sure, we've had our ups and downs. We've gone from the playoffs to the lottery and back to the playoffs again. We lost a legend, traded an all-star, struggled through mediocracy, polished anew the Jazz Brass, replaced the Milkman to start from scratch with a Mad Scientist, pushed and pulled assets with many names in many directions, picked in the lottery, pulled off a coup in the draft at the end of the first round, developed an all-star just to see him walk, and we're hardly scratching the surface!

All the while, we've missed the priceless commentary that would have magnified the intensity of each of those moments, only available via the Cowhide Globe. But, alas, the baton has been passed.

That's not to say that the insights of Draft Guru, Pasty Gangsta, Booner and the like could ever be replicated. We do hope that their contributions may continue to grace these pages. We've missed the perspective that is true to Hot Rod, John, Karl and Jerry. However, we will do our best to keep the commitment to the tradition alive. 

It's high time for some unadulterated perspective on the Utah Jazz. A narrative for the most avid of fans, from the most avid of fans. We don't pretend to have the inside scoop. Only that which is available to all. We are the Utah Jazz basketball outside/insiders. 

Long Live the Cowhide Globe!