Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Allen tops 50, but Jazz top 76 (ers)

Last night Allen Iverson was spectacular. Dominant. Fearless. He stood out among his pears. He scored over 50 points for the 2nd straight game. Luckily, for that one night he was also a loser. I have not been the biggest Allen Iverson fan, but it was hard not to really appreciate what he was doing last night.

Thanks to Mehmet Okur's offensive rebound and two free throws with just over 4 seconds left, the Jazz snuck out of Philadelphia with a much needed two point win, 103-101. In case you missed it, Allen Iverson was terrific. This was not the way Iverson used to score 50 points, when he seem to need to take 40 shots, usually making less than half of them, didn't bother to pass the ball, and found defense to only be an optional requirement. Looking at Iverson's line, you see he made 18 of 31 shots, 4 of 6 three pointers, 6 assists, and 7 steals before fouling out at the end.

For the Jazz a few things to note-
  • For a coach who years ago was accused of being predictable and stubborn with his rotation, Jerry Sloan is showing a split personality. You can barely predict who will start, and you can almost never guess who will play. He is working very hard to field a productive team at all times and with 4 different point guards who have yet to be healthy and consistent, its been a challenge. Last night for instance, Raul Lopez started at point guard and picked up two quick fouls, appearing to have no confidence against Iverson. Lopez was forced to the bench just two minutes into the game and never returned.
  • Jazz starting center Aleksandar Radojevic attempted 3 shots and missed them all. This is significant in that he is 7'3" and all three were blocked.
  • The Jazz record improved to 11-15. I think most fans are frustrated and disappointed at this point. It must be said, that for a team that thrives on playing 'team' basketball that requires organization and execution on both ends of the floor, it looks like we've all underestimated the challenge of bringing so many new teammates together. How many new faces??? Counting the players on the injured list, the Jazz have 7 players who were not with the club last year. Also, of the guys who were with the team last year, 3 of them missed all or most of last season with injuries (Harpring, Lopez, and Borchardt) and two players, Arroyo and Kirilenko, who were counted on to stabilize things from last year have not due to injuries and inconsistency.
For now the Jazz will have to settle for a few moral victories and take the Ws when they can get them. If they can stay in the playoff hunt, the talent they have pooled could still be dangerous later in the season. That said, last night's victory was good and was worth the price of admission for the good folks in Philly.
(AFP/Getty Images/File/Jamie Squire)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Still searching for answers and a win, Jazz drop to 8-11

The Jazz lost last night to the Orlando Magic, 106-100. The loss was the 6th in a row for Utah, and 8th in the their last 10 games. Players are frustrated and having trouble offering much in the way of an explanation or solution.

Some have tied the string of losses to when Carlos Arroyo returned from injury, thus effecting the Jazz's chemistry and the substitution rotation. Carlos, has not been playing well, but I don't that is the biggest reason.

Others have blamed the lack of defense by the Jazz. First they blamed the interior defense that was allowing opponents to get too many lay-ups. Lately they've questioned perimeter defense for allowing a barrage of three pointers as Cuttino Mobley and Damon Jones have each hit seven three pointers in the last two games. I think defense is a huge part of the problem so I agree to this point, but its more than that.

It stands out to me like a sore thumb. Ok, well actually a sore knee. Andrei Kirilenko injured his knee early in a game against San Antonio on November 27th. The Jazz went on to lose that game and the next 5 games. Not only have the Jazz yet to win since AK went out of the line-up, they have allowed the opponent to score over 100 points in each ball game. So can one, tall skinny, ball player make that much of a difference?

I don't argue the Jazz would have won all six of those games with a healthy Kirilenko. To be honest, four of those six teams are considered to be the very best this league has to offer. But AK brings defense with blocked shots and steals, he brings fast break baskets, he brings offensive rebounds and at least a couple spectacular plays per game. Further, he is the one player on the Jazz who you never see get intimidated or lose confidence. This is the man that got slammed to the ground by Shaq, only to go face up to him later in the game so Shaq could do it again. Fearless, confident, and not willing to back down. A little big of Andrei could go along way towards picking up this young team and giving them the attitude to deal with the good and bad.

The bad news is that Andrei isn't expected back anytime soon. I've heard nothing definitive, but I suspect it will be at least another two weeks. For a team that desperately needs veteran leadership, it can't happen soon enough.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Stock rising to the roof

Tonight the Utah Jazz will hoist John Stockton's #12 jersey to the rafters at the Delta Center. That means, not only will we never see a player who could fill his shoes, or his void in the league, but certainly not his jersey. It is a bit cliche to say he was one of a kind, but there isn't much other way to put it.

Stockton is loved by most, and is often labeled as 'Old School' and remembered for the length of his shorts. I guess he was 'old school', but did it in a way that was un-matched by any other. Perhaps he should be titled Dean or President of the Old School. And thinking about Old School, I think you could argue that many of the new generation of players should be called "No School". Players of today skip college, skip fundamentals, and basically skip the idea that playing with respect for the game is a core value. Mr. Old School is the NBA's all-time assist and steals leader. With regard to the length of his shorts, like any other aspect of fashion, if you wait long enough those too will come back 'in'.

This ceremony tonight isn't really for John. I think he cares, but doesn't seek this type of attention. This ceremony is for the fans, giving us another reason to warrant his appearance back in Arena, and a chance to remember him (and remember those great teams). Perhaps next year we'll get him back into the spotlight long enough to unveil the Stockton and Malone statues outside the Delta Center. Then in a few years we'll host a Hall of Fame inductee celebration. After that we are just going to have to wait for one of his sons to get into the NBA.

A few things of interest you may not know about John:
  • The Jazz trainer said at one point his body fat was 2.4% and his resting heart rate was 36.
  • UCLA legend coach John Wooden said John was the one player he'd pay to watch.
  • John was cut the first time he tried out for the US Olympic team. In addition, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were cut during the same tryout. He later went on to star on the Dream Team and collect a gold medal. That was in the days when the best players wanted to play in the Olympics.
  • Not only is John the all time assist leader at 15,806, but he has 5,463 more than 2nd place. No active NBA player has more than 8,100. Of the 9 times that an NBA player has posted 1,000 assists in a season, John has 7.
  • No Days off. John played in 1,504 of 1,526 games in his career, and in 17 seasons he played every game. He obviously played with countless illnesses and sprains, but felt his duty to play. In today's NBA, some guys miss games because they are tired from pushing their own CDs.
  • A security guard once pointed out Karl Malone to John and said, "I don't know if you're a basketball fan, young man, but that's Karl Malone".
  • Once when Stockton was a free agent, he re-signed with the Jazz for less money than he could have received on the open market. When questioned why he turned down the bigger money offer, he replied "How much is enough?" He'd likely get banished from the league today, as the guys think they are entitled to the crazy salaries.
  • John is married to Nada, has six children, and now lives in his hometown of Spokane.

Rather than closing with a flashy, clever line, I'll keep it simple and straight like Stockton himself. Thank you for wearing #12 so well and so often John.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

No easy catch.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Stockton Bobblehead

Monday, November 01, 2004

Utah Jazz Logo

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Utah Jazz Blog, Initial post

I think a story that best describes my feelings about the Utah Jazz, centers on the answer to the question you could ask my wife: "When have you seen him the happiest?" Surely, you'd expect answers like when children were born, buying our first house, graduating college or something similar. She would say the night Stockton hit the shot against Houston sending the Jazz to the finals for the very first time. I danced around the coffee table, drank a bottle of champagne (by myself), and breaking only to call everyone I knew and yell into the phone "woooooo".

I'm a long time Jazz fan. I moved to Utah when they did, and I sorta grew up with them. I remember the Salt Palace, which sold out only when the biggies came to town. Initially that was the Lakers, Celtics, and 76ers. I remember draft days, when names like Stockton, Malone, and others were announced. I remember when it was easy to get near the players before a game and as a result talking to Jordan when he was young rookie on his first appearance in Salt Lake. I remember the non glamourous players of the early years, including Ben Poquette, John Drew, Rich Kelley, Jeff 'the franchise' Wilkins, Mitchell 'JJ' Anderson, and Jerry Eaves. I remember the guys who carried the load too, Darrell Griffith, Mark Eaton, Adrian Dantley, Thurl Bailey, and Ricky Green.

I will attempt to blog and report on the 2004-2005 in the way only a true homer would. But also, I know their history, and the journey they've been on is very much apart of this team. It's corny, and maybe not a popular opinion, but I'd rather lose with the right guys, than win with the wrong ones. Hence, as long as Sloan is in charge, the right type of old school, non-selfish players will be the norm. The fact that they not only play the game the right way, but also win is truly a great thing.