Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: Utah Jazz

Guess Al’s Strange

Sometimes we go through hiatuses and require a divine intervention, an intoxicating muse or maybe just a bizarre stat to snap us out of our doldrums.

So it was tonight when I was looking at the box score from the Mavs-Jazz game which ended in triple overtime with the Jazz getting a huge 123-121 win. Six players played over 50 minutes, the teams combined for 62 free throw attempts, five players scored over 20, Al Jefferson had 28 points and 26 rebounds, Dirk put up 40. The game was stuffed with numbers of all kinds, but what stood out the most was a pair of zeros side-by-side, attention grabbing emptiness: In 54 minutes and 4 seconds of play, Al Jefferson attempted zero free throws.

This is a man who grabbed five offensive rebounds and took nine shots in the paint. He spent time most contentious area of the court, but didn’t get to the line once. In all fairness, no one fouled out this. It wasn’t a foul fest or a game won or lost in the trenches. In terms of free throws attempted, the 62 combined free throw attempts were just a few more than the league’s FTA average per minute.

But the 0-0 in 54 minutes made me wonder who, if anyone had ever endured this kind of FTA allergy. And so I took a look at basketball-reference’s player game finder (dating back to 1985-86) and came up with the following, not-so-coveted list:

Player Team Season Minutes Career FTA/G
B.J. Armstrong Chi 1992-93

58

1.9

Alvin Williams Tor 2000-01

57

1.8

Dennis Rodman SAS 1993-94

56

2

Jim Jackson Hou 2003-04

54

3

Bimbo Coles Mia 1993-94

54

1.8

Charles Oakley NYK 1997-98

54

2.7

Al Jefferson Uta 2011-12

54

3

Let Your Heroes go in Peace – the Utah Jazz

For as long as I’ve been following the NBA, the Utah Jazz have been identifiable by the presence of players and a single coach who’ve cultivated a respectable workmanlike ethos. From their ancient leathery coach, Jerry Sloan, the approach flowed toward the blue collar duo of Stockton and Malone and was seamlessly transitioned to a modern-day version in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. The Jazz we knew are no more.

The new Jazz are a mishmash of good, but not great players. Their fans go to sleep at night whispering soft prayers to the basketball gods, “Please let this be the year of The Al Jefferson. And maybe if you could see to it that Derrick Favors can become a starter and Enes Kanter can be the real deal; well, it’d kinda cool. ” Regardless of how the basketball gods respond to those requests, big Al’s support system is still young, shallow and somewhat unreliable. That description might sound more applicable to a group of teenagers, but it fits the new Jazz too. Al’s flanked by delicate Devin Harris (averages missing 14 games per year) and Paul Millsap. After that it starts getting lean. It doesn’t look like Andrei Kirilenko is going to re-sign which leaves Gordon Hayward (a tribute to classical Jazz roots), CJ Miles and Raja Bell to fight for the last two starting spots.

This isn’t a squad to inspire fear in the hearts of competitors. Unless Kanter and Favors are able to replicate some Ralph Sampson/Akeem Olajuwon mid-80s type performances, these guys should fall short of the playoffs again. With a group of good players, but no anchor, no Deron or Karl, it’s going to be a challenging climb into the top-eight in the conference. Looking at their opponents last year, they were able to compete with non-playoff teams and Eastern Conference foes, but consistently struggled against inter-conference playoff teams:

 

 Opponent Games Wins Losses Win%
Vs West Conf Playoff teams

31

10

21

32.3%

Vs Non West Playoff teams

21

11

10

52.4%

Vs East Conf Playoff teams

16

8

8

50.0%

Vs Non East Playoff teams

14

10

4

71.4%

 

If Jefferson makes the leap to an elite post player (very possible given his skill-set and the lack of quality bigs in the league) and Favors/Kanter/Hayward make significant improvements, the Jazz could leapfrog Denver or New Orleans for one of the last playoff spots; aka lambs to the Mavs/Lakers/Thunder slaughter. It’s not a contending team, but the Jazz have just enough talent to compete for the playoffs and just enough youth to keep fans intrigued by a promising, but undefined future. It’s OK to let go; Karl, John, Deron, Jerry and especially Al insist on it.

 

Intersections and Roundabouts

It was somewhat painful to miss the OKC-Mavs game last night (game two), but my homey’s getting married, so I was on a flight. The flight had Wi-Fi, but apparently ESPN3.com doesn’t come on a plane too well and it ended up too choppy for my taste. So I missed the Durant smash on Haywood, Russell melting down, Dirk missing a free throw, Harden carrying the OKCs in the fourth and a bunch of other shit that didn’t make the Sportscenter recap I just saw four times in a row.

Oh, then the Eric Maynor thing.

Remember back in December of 2009 when the Jazz made a salary dump and traded Matt Harpring’s contract and Maynor to OKC for someone named Peter Fehse? It was a good deal for OKC at the time and it I’m guessing it made sense for the Jazz too since Deron was monopolizing the point and was officially the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor on that trade:

“Trading Eric was a difficult decision. But, along with Matt’s contract, it greatly helps reduce our luxury tax responsibility. Fortunately, with Deron and a proven backup in Ronnie Price we feel that we have depth at that position.”

OKC GM Sam Presti had been high on Maynor in the 2009 draft and was willing to take on Harpring’s $6.5 million salary to get Maynor as a backup/insurance policy for Westbrook. After seeing the turn of events last night and seeing more than a few OKC games this year, I wonder if Maynor wasn’t more of a long-term insurance policy. For Presti, it was a low-risk reach for a prospect who’s being paid on the rookie scale for the next three seasons.

For the Salt Lake faithful, they have to be wondering what the fuck just happened. They went from legit Western Conference challengers to lottery team almost overnight. If you look at the 2009-10 team, it’s easy to place the blame for their fall on bad contracts. They had Wes Matthews and Maynor—both gone because Utah didn’t want to or couldn’t pay them (or pay Harpring in Maynor’s case). The Jazz were over the cap in the first place because they gave Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur huge contracts. It was either Boozer or Millsap and the Jazz went with Millsap. They couldn’t keep everyone because they bet the house on a few guys who struggle to start now—Okur and Kirilenko. The weaker-than-expected team they fielded this season led to Jerry Sloan’s abrupt resignation and the equally abrupt ending of the Deron Williams era in SLC. And now a team that had a couple of solid young point guards is being linked to drafting … yep … another young point guard in the 2011 draft.

Maybe they should reach out to OKC and see if Russell Westbrook’s available.

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