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Utah Jazz Crazy | A place for Jazz fans to rant and rave | Page 2

Preseason Game 2 – Jazz win 109 – 100

It felt a little like a Hoosiers movie flashback as Jazz fans gathered round the radio (or streaming web audio) to take in tonight’s no TV preseason tilt in Portland. I like how the Jazz set up their pre-season games. Having just played Portland last week I was interested to see how both teams had improved with a week of practice since their previous match-up.

Advantage Utah.

With only David Locke’s scratchy voice to guide us through the action, it sounded like the Jazz players had both collectively and individually taken it upon themselves to learn and improve as the Jazz maintained control over a very focused and physical Portland team. Portland limited it’s rotation to nine guys for much of the game while Jerry stayed with his broader pre-season rotation with 14 guys playing 12 minutes or more.

The Highlights

• Sundiata Gaines is making his statement for a roster spot. With a rather young and undersized squad, he controlled much of the second quarter continuing to hit tough, time-sensitive shots. Ronnie Price didn’t get off the bench until late in the game but he seemed to make the most of his playing time; short-fisting a dunk but following it up with a three.

• Fesenko is like a good reality TV show. He led the Jazz scoring 18 points on 7-10 shooting and pulling down seven rebounds. The Jazz were +11 with him on the floor and he even made 4-6 free-throws. He seems focused and serious about winning some playing time in the rotation at least until Memo returns.

• Deron and Matthews had some passionate one v one possessions in the third quarter that would have made great TV (had the Jazz broadcast the game.) Maybe it’s just the fact that Wes is matching up against friends and Nate wants to build his confidence here in the preseason but he led the Blazers in shots and minutes again.

It’s early but the new look Jazz are making it hard not to get excited about this team. Unlike the last few years where you could argue the Jazz were somewhat soft, this team has come out and played physical, focused and aggressive pre-season ball. They have a system and a swagger. Jerry Sloan led teams always look better and more prepared early than other teams do so I suggest cautious optimism as we watch this team grow and gel. Tomorrow will be a good test on a tough back-to-back with the Phoenix Sun’s tomorrow. Sadly — no TV again. Hopefully the boys from Hickory can pull out another win while we Jazz fan’s gather round the radio for another listen…

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PreSeason Game 1 – Recap

Jazz Win 96-100 over the Portland TrailBlazers

Thanks to a friend, I was able to sit up close in the ESA for the new-look Jazz first preseason game against Portland. It was fun to see the Jazz Vets pull a fast one on the rookies who led the team out onto the court only to realize the veteran’s were nowhere to be found. The Jazz won the game but it was interesting the disparity between the starting five and the bench. The Jazz starters played exclusively in the first and third quarters and outscored portland by 23 points in those two quarters. The Jazz bench was horrible defensively in the second quarter and let portland cut and 18 point lead to 3 at the half then gave up a 10 point lead to start the fourth quarter in less than about three minutes before holding on for the victory. Only a passionate fan like myself would read much into the first preseason game of the year but here are some observations:

The Good

• The Veterans played incredibly well together. I was impressed by their offensive output in the fist quarter and their defensive effort in the third quarter. I thought as I heard the starting five announced that Jerry was making the statement that it was each of those guy’s job to loose.

• Andrei Kirilenko seemed to thrive with the first unit. His effort on defense created a lot of the Jazz offensive when things got tough in the third quarter. If he can bottle that effort and play with that fire for extended periods of time we’ll win more games than people might be expecting. I also thought Paul Millsap looked ready and capable to be the Jazz starting four. He was active on both ends and impacted the game. It’s going to be interesting to see who Jerry decides to run the offense through come the regular season.

• Jeremy Evans might be the most athletic guy to ever suit up for the Jazz. He’s toothpick skinny but the kid is athletic and fun to watch.

The Bad

• The reservers get top billing for their poor showing tonight. CJ Miles was particularly disappointing. It looked like he was supposed to be playing the three spot but seemed somewhat disengaged at times. He needed to be the offensive leader with the second unit and couldn’t bring himself to do it. Watch how he adjust to coming off the bench if he can’t supplant Raja in the starting five.

• Patience may be in order but I was rather baffled by the Jazz inability to involve Jefferson in the offense. The second unit ran the offensive through Fes like they were willing to loose for the sake of executing the offense. The starters seemed unable to get the pick-and-roll to work to any level of execution. They abandoned it early and never found a way to really spark Big Al offensively.

The Ugly

• Fesenko may be the most intriguing player to watch early in the campaign. He came out incredibly focused. Made some amazing plays, hit a foul shot and a jumper. Then, after spinning around a defender with a great pivot spin, he short-hopped the take-off and got blocked by the rim in embarrassing fashion. From there the wheels kind of came off for Fes. Each free-throw got progressively worse and he about got horse-collard by Jerry and Fans alike when he took an ill-advise jump shot with the Jazz leading by two and eleven seconds still on the shot clock. Fesenko shows flashes of (brillance may not be the word) sanity, then falls into this sulking stupor at times that may cost him both playing time and his career.

• It was hard to see Wes Matthews in a Portland Uniform. He played a whopping 38 minutes for Nate McMillan. Knowing Portland that was as much to rub it in our faces that we lost the grittiest, hardest-working rookie to ever wear a Jazz uniform. Typical Wes fashion, he fought his way to 21 points and was a critical cog in both Portland comebacks. Fan’s gave him a good ovasion which was well deserved, but if he continues to play as well as he did tonight when it matters, those cheers will quickly turn to boos for the kid from Marquette who will always be a Jazz rookie to many.

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A look back at the Summer of 2010

It’s been an interesting and critical off-season for the Utah Jazz. Training camp is less than a month away and while many have been caught up in the craziness surrounding college football conference alignment, Jazz fan’s have also been treated to one of the most eventful and perhaps critical periods in many years. One that could define the post-Larry Miller era of Jazz Basketball. Here are a few of the highlights and what they could mean for this season and beyond.

2010 NBA Draft

Jazz fan excitement for the NBA draft was tempered somewhat by the better-than-expected second have of the season Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks were able to muster. The Jazz had been sitting on the Knicks pick for six years, aquired when Isaiah Thomas was desperately trying to dump Stephon Marbury and the Jazz stepped in to help facilitate a three way trade with Phoenix. With the apathy that is Knicks basketball, hopes were high for a deep draft and a stellar lottery pick. It appears that the Jazz may have missed on both accounts in 2010. The Jazz were stuck with the 9th overall pick and surprised Jazz fans with the selection of 2-year Butler University standout Gordon Hayward. The pick surprised many Jazz fans. There were a lot of holes to fill, particularly on defense, and the Hayward pick (at the time) seemed to really do nothing but add another young, inexperienced offensive talent at the 2/3 spot where the Jazz have been particularly deep for years and have perpetually had little success finding talent that sticks in past drafts (Stevenson 00, Pavlovic 03, Snyder 04,  Brewer 06, Almond 07,). For me this pick was another “wait and see” moment Kevin O’Connor often creates. At the time it seemed very out of sorts with the fan’s vision of where the Jazz should be heading coming into 2010 but he summer excitement was far from over…

Free Agency Losses –

The summer of 2010 will be forever remembered for the summer LeBron James “jumped the shark” and alientated not only the whole state of Ohio but I believe that most casual fans of the NBA were also rather disgusted by his self-aggrandizing “The Decision” debacle. In any case, many have a new public enemy number one with LeBron, Wade and Bosh supplanting Kobe and the Lakers as the new team to hate. Once the dust settled on LeBron the market for the rest of the free-agent class of 2010 was set and many players quickly found new homes in new cities. for Jazz fans the writing had been on the wall for a long time that Boozer was gonzo so his signing with Chicago was a bit of a for-gone conclusion. I was glad he was man enough to sign with one of the cities where he ran his mouth off last off-season at least. Boozer was a great talent and in my opinion will be missed in Utah but the reality was he was not a good enough player in Utah’s system to beat the Lakers. We had chances and failed so it was time to move on. Watching Korver walk away and then not getting Brewer back after Memphis opted not to pick up the final year of his contract were more signs that this team was moving on. Surprisingly, they both opt to join Rose and Boozer in Chicago creating this new Eastern Coference version of 1/4 of the Jazz roster in Chicago.

So Long Wes Matthews

Having never been a part of the NBA culture I don’t want to give the impression that I know how and why negotiations go the way they do. From what’s reported in the media it’s like these guys never talk to one another and have no idea what the other one is trying to get out of a particular deal. The Jazz loss of Wes Matthews will forever be one of those losses of no understanding for me. I can’t remember a rookie who has endeared himself to the Jazz fan base and even Jerry Sloan in quite the manner the tough-minded Wes Matthews did last year. The kid played with a chip on his shoulder and perhaps it was that attitude that foced Utah out of the chance to match the outrageously front-loaded gimmick contract Portland signed him to. I’d imagine all parties on the Matthews / Portland signed thought the Jazz would do all they could to bring Matthews back but the reality is Kevin O’Connor has never been one to put all his eggs in one basket and while his energy and heart may be missed Kevin O’Connor and the Jazz were just getting started…

Free Agency Wins – Jazz roll dice on Al Jeff and ring the Bell again

At this point in the summer, Kevin O’Connors foresight and grand scheme start to take shape.On July 13th the Jazz use a trade exception they aquired in the sign and trade they worked out with Chicago for Boozer, to aquire Al Jefferson from the Minnesota timberwolves. While Jefferson has put up good numbers on bad teams for a number of years he’s never proven he can do it alone and never been surrounded with a system or talent to perhaps compliment his abilities. I was somewhat skeptical of the deal until listening to his press conference where he truly sounded both excited and somewhat overwhelmed by the opportunity for a new start. Jazz fan’s got more good news when Raja Bell spurred a personal invitation from Kobe to join the Lakers to re-sign with Utah. I think Raja sounded generally excited about the chance to come to Utah and play for Sloan again. Despite Kobe’s open arms, I’m sure the 10 million he got from Utah doesn’t hurt either.

Summer League

Since the doors were closed on the Rocky Mountain Review, Utah still prefers family friendly Orlando to the excitement and lights of Sin City and the Vegas Summer League. The Jazz finished 3-2 in their five games in Orlando. Young Gordon Hayward played pretty well throughout averaging about 10 points per game and showing the maturity and understanding of the team-first concept that probably impressed Jazz brass. Koufos was the anchor for the Jazz and perhaps the only reason I mention that is his play may have encouraged the Timberwolves to take him off our hands in the Jefferson trade. On the disappointing side, 2nd year players vying for rosters spots, Otheus Jeffers and Sundiata Gaines were rather invisible throughout and did little to impress despite their supposed knowledge of the Jazz offense.

The Outlook?

Until we see how these key losses and aquisitions pan out, The Jazz have done nothing but placate fans by doing what needed to be done – replace key losses with serviceable replacements. From a PR standpoint, outside of loosing Wes Matthews, the signings of Jefferson and Bell seem to have kept Jazz fans interested in the upcoming season. Camp will be interesting as we see who will take the final few roster spots and how well these new faces gel with the remaining pieces and parts.

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