Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jerry Sloan: My thoughts.

Saddened.  Shocked.  Sick.

This is truly surreal for me.  I knew Jerry Sloan wouldn't be the coach forever.  Obviously.  But I never imagined him going out like this.  That is the most upsetting part about this whole thing.  I hope to write a separate post as a tribute to Jerry (time permitting...), but for now I just want to get some thoughts out of my head.

Jerry was forced out.  Let me explain what I DON'T mean by that.  I don't mean that he was fired.  I don't mean that an ultimatum was proposed.

Here's what I do mean.  Jerry comes from a different era and generation of basketball. An era when, believe it or not, the coaches were in charge of the teams.  I think that's how it should be.  Back in his prime as a coach, he managed egos and attitudes masterfully.  He dealt with the likes of Karl Malone and Greg Ostertag (among others).  I'm sure that disagreements between players and coaches are a frequent occurrence.  But back then, everyone knew that the coach had the final say.  The coach was the boss.  Sadly, in the NBA that is no longer the case.  Franchises are so obsessed with catering to the every desire of their "superstar" players (who may or may not actually play like "superstars"...), that the coach's authority is basically a farce.  Coaches are fired regularly.  That is just the landscape of professional basketball today.

It has been well documented that Deron Williams and Coach Sloan have butted heads, particularly this season.  Deron regularly takes shots at Sloan in the media, and openly criticizes the system and the plays that Sloan wants them to run.  Brian T. Smith (Jazz beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune) indicates that at least three "blowout" arguments have taken place between the two this season, the most recent of which happened in the locker room at half time last night.  It apparently stemmed from a sequence in the first half when Jerry called a play from the sideline and Deron ran something completely different.

Less than a week ago, Coach Sloan signed an extension to continue coaching the Jazz for another season.  After last night's disappointing loss, Sloan tendered his resignation.  It is my feeling that at some point, probably gradually throughout this season, Jerry began to feel that he was no longer in charge of his team.  Last night, Deron basically refused to be coached.  It seems that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  It obviously affected him enough to change his mind from what he had decided a week ago.

At the press conference today, the media fished for answers regarding the speculation surrounding Sloan's reason for calling it quits.  They asked just about everyone if the conflicts with Deron had pushed him towards this decision. Of course everyone within the organization denied it, or side-stepped the questions.  Perhaps the most telling was Jerry's own response:

Rod Zundel (KSL):   "Jerry, did Deron push you out?"
Jerry Sloan:  "Deron is a great player."

If the situation with Deron wasn't a major factor in his decision, a simple "no" would have sufficed.

So there you go.  That's my feeling and what I've been able to piece together from media reports and such.  If Jerry had decided to retire at the end of the season, I would have been sad.  But the way this all went down just makes me sick.  Anyone who knows anything about Jerry Sloan knows that he was not a quitter.  He was a fighter.  He wouldn't bail in the middle of a season just because he's tired and feels ready to be done.  Especially just days after signing an extension.  No.  Jerry was forced out.  Forced out by the fact that he feels like he can no longer be effective as the coach of this team.  And why can't he be effective?  Because his player(s) are no longer listening to him and doing the things he says.

And that sucks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What the...???

Believe it or not, it actually took me a few minutes to come up with a title for this post.  This was the best I could do to sum up how I'm feeling about the Utes right now.

Going into the TCU game, the Utes were averaging 45.3 points per game, and destroying their opponents by an average of 29.9 points per game.  In the last two weeks, the Utes have only managed to average 5 points per game while losing by an average of 32.5 points per game.  Why the huge turnaround?  Here's what I think:


Let's be honest.  Going into this game, the Utes hadn't faced a real tough test.  You could argue that Air Force is a good team, and you'd be right.  But Air Force is no where near the level of TCU.  The Utes rolled through their first 8 games, and I think the ease of the schedule gave Utah a false sense of security.  They started to think that they were invincible.  I don't know.  Maybe they thought they would waltz into Rice-Eccles Stadium and drop 60 points on the number one defense in the country.  It's disappointing to me that they weren't better prepared.  Coach Whittingham has a reputation for preparing his team very well -- especially for big games.  As it was, they looked like they had no game plan whatsoever.  But what's more disturbing is that the didn't seem to make ANY adjustments throughout the course of the game.  I think TCU ran the same play -- a swing pass to Jeremy Kerley -- about 500 times, and it went for 8-10 yards EVERY SINGLE TIME.  If I were their OC, I would have just said, "Ok, we're just gonna run that play on every snap for the rest of the day".


For me, this game was even more disappointing than the TCU loss.  I say that because going in to the TCU game, we knew we were going to get a fight.  I figured we had about a 50/50 chance of beating TCU.  We knew TCU was a fantastic team.  But Notre Dame?  Going into the game, ND was 4-5 with home losses to Tulsa and Navy.  They lost their starting QB a week before they played the Utes -- which meant they were starting a true freshman in his very first game at the collegiate level.  And the QB wasn't the only position that was thin due to injury.  There was no doubt in my mind that Utah would win that game.  They'll bounce back.  They'll re-focus and win out.  They'll respond to getting embarrassed by TCU by getting a huge win at one of the most storied programs in the nation.  No doubt about it.  Yet they came out absolutely flat.  They honestly looked like they couldn't care less.  So yes, this game was even more disturbing to me than the TCU game.

I'm frustrated.  I know I'm a biased fan, but I honestly think the Utes are better than Notre Dame.  That probably makes me sound really dumb, but I do believe it.  If they had played the way we know they're capable of playing, they would have won.  Maybe they still had a little hangover from the TCU game.  That's inexcusable. 

Utah's QB situation is a mess right now.  I voiced my disapproval of Coach Whittingham's decision last season to bench Terrance Cain and make Wynn the starter half-way through the 8th game of the season.  First of all, Cain was not really playing that badly in that game.  The play calling -- in my opinion -- was more to blame for the lack of offensive production.  Up to that point, Wynn hadn't seen the field.  My feeling was that he should be red-shirted in order to preserve a year of eligibility.  But that didn't happen.  Now we have a situation where our starter is not playing well AT ALL, and we have a fantastic back-up QB sitting on the bench, wasting his last year of collegiate eligibility.  By all reports, Terrance Cain has improved leaps and bounds since last season.  Can the same be said for Wynn?  Look, I don't dislike the kid, but can anyone honestly say he's any better today than he was when he came in at half-time against Wyoming last season?  If you have noticed any improvement in him at all, please let me know.  But me, I'm just not seeing it.

Now, that being said, I don't really think starting Cain would have won the TCU game.  But I think it could have won the ND game.  Obviously there are MANY other problems with this team right now, but the QB situation, to me, is the most disturbing.  Whittingham is a great coach, and I wouldn't want anyone else.  But I believe he has made a very serious and costly mistake here.  Utah has 2 games left this year, plus a bowl game.  If they play the way they have the last two weeks, I am 100% sure that they will lose all three.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just putting this out there...

If the Jazz trade AK to the Denver Freakin' Nuggets, and get back Boris Freakin' Diaw...


That is all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What a difference a couple of days can make

Wow.  The last 48 hours for the Utah Jazz have been crazy and exciting.  Just 3 days ago this offseason was looking like it could end up being the most disappointing one I could remember.  Boozer gone (which I was glad about, but with no prospects to replace him with I was worried), Korver gone, Matthews likely gone.  I felt like the Jazz had taken a massive step backwards.  I was trying to look on the bright side, thinking about next year's lottery pick -- I was sure the Jazz couldn't make the playoffs in 2011.

And now?  So much has changed.

First, the Jazz were able to work things out with Chicago to do a sign-and-trade for Boozer.  By signing Boozer and then immediately trading him to Chicago, the Jazz obtained a Traded Player Exception (TPE) which is basically an exception to the rule that states that the salaries of the player or players who are traded away must match the salaries of the player(s) brought in.  With the TPE, the Jazz could obtain a player via trade without having to send back matching salaries.  They used the TPE to bring in Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Al is a 6'10" Center/Power Forward.  He was the key piece that Boston sent to Minnesota in the blockbuster trade that netted the Celtics Kevin Garnett.  Al was the piece that made losing KG ok.  He puts up great numbers -- which I believe will be even better here in Utah.  He was really the only good player the T'Wolves had, so teams would zero in on him, double-team him, and make his job tough.  They won't be able to play him that way here.  The Jazz have too many other weapons.  Al isn't known for his defense, but he blocks more shots than Boozer or Okur, and he's longer than either of them as well.  But perhaps the most important thing is this:

In a text-message conversation with Paul the other day, he said something that I completely agree with:  keeping Deron Williams happy should be the number 1 priority.  He's the one guy that is truly irreplaceable on this team.  His contract is up in 2 more years, and if we want him to re-sign, the Jazz as an organization has to show him that they will do whatever it takes to become a contender.  Deron likes what he sees in Al Jefferson, and that says a lot to me.  I think Al will fit right in here in Utah, and give the Jazz a true low-post back-to-the-basket type player.  I love this trade.


The one thing that I didn't love about it was that Al's $13+ million contract put the Jazz into the luxury tax, meaning that the likelihood of matching Portland's ridiculous offer sheet to Wes Matthews was slim to none.  With the addition of Jefferson, the Jazz were a playoff team again.  But without a guy like Wes, they weren't a contender.  In order to really be seen as a contender the Jazz needed a guy who was:
  1.  A consistent outside shooter.
  2. A lock-down defender.
  3. A tough, hard working, team player.
  4. Someone they could afford.
Wes fit the bill on 3 out of 4.  But unfortunately, he was just too expensive thanks to Portland's outrageous offer.  So to me, it looked like the Jazz were destined for a 6-8 seed in the playoffs and an early exit.

But then, a miracle happened.  Somehow, even though the "experts" and the "sources" all said that he had narrowed it down to San Antonio and Los Angeles, Raja Bell signed a 3 year, $9.8 million contract with the Utah Jazz.

Many will remember Raja from the 2 year stint he played with the Jazz from 2003 to 2005.  I was on my mission the entire time he was on the team, so I never got to see him in a Jazz uniform.  Bell is known for being one of the best perimeter and one-on-one defenders in the league -- particularly against one Kobe Bryant.  He doesn't take any crap from anybody -- and he doesn't let anyone get away with pushing his teammates around (ala Malone, Harpring) Who could forget his infamous clothesline play?  I could watch that all day...  Bell is also a fantastic 3-point shooter.  He has shot 41% from 3 throughout his career, and 46% in the playoffs.  His percentages are actually higher than both Korver and one Jeff Hornacek.  From what I understand, when the Jazz were having their struggles during a miserable few seasons, Bell was the one urging his teammates on, trying to stir them up and get them to give a whole effort.  When it became official that the Jazz would not make the playoffs, Bell said, "So what, we didn't make the playoffs?  We still have a job to do.  We can still go out and beat teams just to say we beat them."  This attitude is the epitome of Jerry Sloan's oft repeated words, "We can't start feeling sorry for ourselves".

Bell covers all four of the needs that I mentioned above, but he also brings something that the Jazz have been in need of -- veteran leadership.  Raja is 33 years old and has been deep into the playoffs.  He understands what it takes to win, and he can help shoulder some of the team-leadership responsibilities that have rested solely on Deron's shoulders for the last several years (because, let's face it, no matter how many times Boozer said "I'm the leader of this team", he was never a leader.  If you have to say you're the leader in order for people to know it, you're not convincing anyone.)  Derek Fisher (let's not get into that now...) was a veteran player and provided leadership and experience in the Jazz locker room when he was on the team.  It's no coincidence that that year was when the Jazz made it to the Western Conference Finals.  Hopefully Raja can help fill that void.

The future for the Jazz is looking bright.  I can't believe how things have shaped up over the past couple days, but it has me very excited to see what this team can do this season.  Go JAZZ!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I totally called this...

Well, Kevin O'Connor, you just don't learn your lesson, do you?  I just KNEW this was going to happen.  The Portland Trailblazers have signed Wesley Matthews to a massive, front loaded offer sheet.  How does this make any sense at all for Portland?  They have one of the best shooting guards in the NBA -- Brandon Roy.  So they really want to pay their backup SG $9.2 million next year?  No, I don't think so.  They did this because they like to screw the Jazz.  My guess is that they're banking on the Jazz matching the offer.

I've made my position known.  I want to keep Wes.  But wow -- 9.2 million dollars?!  This just sucks.  I hate Portland.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Free Agency Update

We're a week into the free agency period and several contracts have already been inked.  Some of my predictions were right, some were wrong, and some are still yet to be determined.

I was right about Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade teaming up in Miami.  However, I did not think LeBron would be joining them.  I guess I underestimated how big of a jerk he is.  Not only did he turn his back on the town and the people he grew up with, but he made a ridiculous spectacle of the whole thing.  I had no idea how self-absorbed, narcissistic, and pompous he is.  I've never had a problem with Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh, but now I just hope that experiment fails miserably.  I hope their egos are too big to coexist on the same team.  I hope karma comes back to bite LeBron.

As far as our own free agents...

When it comes to Boozer, I am actually pleasantly surprised.  All signs indicated that the Front Office intended to keep him around.  And while the ideal situation would have been to work out a sign and trade to bring in a player to fill a need, I'm satisfied with the trade exemption the Jazz received in the transaction.  (That being said, I wish the Jazz would have traded Boozer last summer, or last season before the trade deadline so that we could have gotten a player in return.)  The trade exemption allows the Jazz to make a trade and bring in a player (or players) for salary equal to what Boozer will make in his first year in Chicago (+- $100K).  Without the exemption, the Jazz would have only been able to offer a player part of their Mid-Level exemption -- whatever portion is left after re-signing Matthews.  The trade exemption only benefits us if we use it, so I truly hope the Jazz don't sit on their hands.  There are players we could go after, but we have to act fast.  Both Toronto and Cleveland have significant amounts of cap space now that they've lost Bosh and James.  If we don't act, someone else will.  My prime target would be Al Jefferson.  The T-Wolves just acquired Michael Beasley, and rumor is they are trying to unload Jefferson to relieve salary (since they offered Gay a big fat contract).  Jefferson could thrive in the Jazz's system, and I'd love to see him here.

Sadly, I was also right about Korver.  It was announced today that he'll be joining Carlos Boozer in Chicago. I appreciate everything he did for the Jazz and for the community.  I wish him nothing but the best.

So now we have to wait and see.  My guess is that Portland will make a pitch to Wes Matthews, which the Jazz will match.  I think they'll most likely bring back Fesenko as well, since we'll need a center with Memo hurt.  Besides, I haven't heard any talk about teams being interested in Fes.

I'd love to see the Jazz go all in and make some big moves.  Bring in another scorer, a big, a shooter, etc.  I can only imagine how D-Will is reacting to all of this.  He sees his team getting worse -- losing a productive (sometimes) player in Boozer, and a consistent outside threat that spreads the floor.  He's probably frustrated right now and anxious for management to bring in some help.  I hope they can do it.  At the end of the season, he said that this team keeps doing the exact same thing and expecting different results.  And it's true.  For the most part, the roster hasn't changed over the last 3 seasons, and the Jazz have been eliminated by the Lakers 3 years in a row.  But management has seemed content to just stand pat and hope things get better.  Now that Boozer and Korver are gone, I think this kind of forces their hand.  They HAVE to do something now, or risk losing their franchise player in two years when his contract is up.  I wish Larry was still here.  He had more passion for the Jazz in his little finger than Greg has in his entire being.  I just hope they do something.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Offseason

July first has arrived. Today is the day that NBA teams can begin to court free agents. Of course, if you don't think organizations have been in under-the-table discussions with players' agents for weeks, you are a bit naive as to how things are done in the NBA.

Now that the free agent market is officially open for business, I'd like to make some predictions about the Jazz's free agents, as well as some of the other high-profile FA's in the league.

Utah Jazz

Free Agents: C Kyrylo Fesenko (restricted), G Wesley Matthews (restricted), F Carlos Boozer (unrestricted), F/G Kyle Korver (unrestricted)

The Jazz sent qualifying offers to both Wesley Matthews and Kyrylo Fesenko, meaning that they can match any offer either player receives.  I don't particularly like being in this position.  To me it means that the Jazz are really hoping to keep them both (especially Wes), but if that's the case -- why not try and get something worked out and in the books before July 1st?  Now we're at the mercy of other teams.  This is what happened last season with Paul Millsap, and the same thing happened a year earlier with CJ Miles.  CJ signed an offer sheet with OKC, and the Jazz matched.  Paul signed an offer sheet with Portland, and the Jazz matched.  The frustrating thing about this is that CJ ended up getting overpaid, and some argue that Paul Millsap did as well.  I think Millsap is worth every penny he's making and more, but his contract did hurt us last year because Portland intentionally made it a very front-loaded deal (meaning Paul makes more in the first year of the contract than he will for the other 3 years).  It put us over the cap and we had to give up Maynor and Brewer in cost-cutting moves.

My guess is that we will end up re-signing both of these players, but don't be surprised if someone else makes them an offer first.

As for Korver, I think the writing is pretty much on the wall.  Sad to say it, but I think he's gone.  When the Jazz drafted Gordon Hayward -- a guy who plays Kyle's postion, and has a similar skill-set -- they basically were broadcasting to the fan base that they had no intention of going after Korver.  The reality is, I don't think we can really afford him.  Several teams will be interested after Kover set a new record for 3-Point % in a season.  The Jazz should have calculated how much revenue will be lost now that no more pink Kyle Korver jerseys will be sold.  I'd imagine the Jazz's female fanbase will take a significant hit.  Joking aside, I really like Korver and I'll be sad if he goes.  He's been a great player and always given 100%, and what's more, he's been a huge part of the community.

And then there's Boozer.  Oy vey.  Reports indicate that the Jazz are making it a priority to bring him back...  Are you kidding me?!  Look.  Boozer is capable of being a dominant PF in this league.  But the fact is, he is not the answer for the Jazz.  I don't want to spend a lot of time making a case against Boozer, so I'll just say this.  You can't do the same thing over and over and over and expect a different result.  If the Jazz re-sign him, Boozer will miss a significant number of games over a 5 or 6 year contract, the Jazz will win between 45 and 50 games each year, consistently lose to the Lakers, probably make the playoffs (but without home-court), and more than likely exit in the first round.  And the sad thing is, I'm pretty sure the front office is just fine with that.

One idea that I've heard tossed around is to work out a sign & trade with Boozer.  The scenario is that the Jazz sign Boozer and immediately trade him to Orlando for Marcin Gortat + either JJ Redick or Ryan Anderson.  Works for me.  Gortat is probably the best back-up center in the league, and could start on a lot of teams.  His number won't wow you, but remember he's playing behind Dwight Howard.  He would bring a 6'11" defensive player with deep playoff experience to the team.  Redick could fill the role of the departing Korver (the basketball role -- not the heart throb role).  But this is just one of many rumors that are floating around.

LeBron James

The hype surrounding
his free agency has been almost as obnoxious as Kobe's angry under-bite face.  But I'm not convinced... My guess is, in the end, he'll end up signing with Cleveland.  I just don't really see him abandoning his home state and the fans who love him.  However, if he does decide to leave, I think New York is his most likely destination.

Dwayne Wade

I know this is going to sound boring, but I don't think he's going anywhere either.  I think he'll continue to be part of the Miami Heat, and possibly end up playing his entire career there.

Chris Bosh

I think he's Miami bound.  Just a feeling I've got, but I think he and Wade will team up.

So there -- that's what I think.  We'll see how it all plays out over the summer.