Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Bell rings up Lakers in 4th

Arroyo on the bench again, while Jazz sparkle in the 4th Quarter

The Jazz beat the Lakers in the Fabulous Forum last night, 102-94. Okay, so it was the Staples center and Magic Johnson nor Stockton-to-Malone were on exhibit. For that matter, the modern day heroes of Kobe Bryant and Andrei Kirilenko were also absent with leg injuries. It still doesn't change the fact that there is still something fun about playing the purple and gold in La-La land and something terrific about winning, no matter the circumstances. When the camera panned we saw all that we needed: The LA Skyline outside, the stars courtside, the banners in the rafters, and the Jazz with more points than the hometown Lakers on the scoreboard.

As typical with many Jazz games this season, one of the most interesting things was who played and who didn't. Raja Bell, for instance, didn't play much. In the first half that is. Raja even admitted after the game that he didn't like not playing. But in the end, he respected Coach Sloan's decision and did not show signs of frustration or a selfish motivation. Instead, when he was finally given extra minutes in the 4th quarter of Monday Night's game, Bell let his play do the talking and scored 14 of his 16 points in the quarter. He was hardly the only star, but his big 3-pointer late in the game was crucial. The fact that he had the attitude when needed was huge.

In contrast, Carlos Arroyo continues to ride the pine for the Jazz. I understand his frustration, but I'm still optimistic enough to think that if he keeps his head right, that he'll get another opportunity to be the lead point guard down the road. Last night, even during a gripping game against the Lakers when a grumpy person would have been forgiven to lose himself and excitedly support his teammates, appeared somber. There were several times when you could not miss his glum and less than enthusiastic expression. He's young and I hope will rebound, but visually he looks like he is completely crushed.

The media typically refers to Arroyo's not playing because of a fallout with Jerry Sloan. Was there a fallout? Yes, we all saw the argument, but you forget that Sloan routinely fell out of sorts with others in the past, only to give them playing time when they were willing and able to contribute. Greg Ostertag, for instance, was always banging heads with Sloan, but they quickly put it behind them and Greg contributed shortly afterwards. I think rather than pointing to that one argument as to why Carlos isn't playing, we can look at the numbers for the problem.

First, a general comparison of some of Arroyo's average numbers between this year and last:

This year: 24.7 mins, 40.1 FG%, 38.9 3pt %, 1.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 TO, and 8.2 points .
Last year: 28.3 mins, 44.1 FG%, 37.4 3pt %, 2.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 TO, and 12.6 points.

There isn't a huge fall off statistically, although he isn't shooting or rebounding quite as well, but the key is that the team isn't performing as well when he is in the game. The role the Jazz give their point guard is to be responsible for others and the overall flow of the team. You might say that it's subjective to say that Arroyo isn't doing as well as the other PGs on the roster, and there isn't much tangible proof that the team isn't performing when he is on the court. Well after a little digging some interesting numbers can be found. The amazing folks at www.82games.com have taken statistics to a new level. You can see a report on the Jazz, that shows how the Jazz perform with each player on the court, in terms of +/- points relative to their opponents (based on a 48 minute game). When you compare the three point guards on the Jazz, this is very telling:

Arroyo -8.3
McCleod +6.0
Lopez +8.4

For conversation sake, and to highlight how much the Jazz miss Andrei Kirilenko, his number is a +21.7. How big is Kirilenko's presence? Compare his to some other NBA greats: Duncan (15.6), Iverson (1.6), Garnett (14.4), Kobe (9.7), Lebron (12.2) and Steve Nash (12.7). We'll have to keep monitoring these numbers as the season goes one.
(Note these numbers seem to be very fluid and change with each game, but as of this moment, you can get the idea)

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