A Week or So’s Worth of Odds and Ends
On the Jazz’s locker room issues:
Marc Stein of ESPN (via SLC Dunk via The Cowhide Globe) says:
Rumblings in front-office circles around the league are growing louder that the uncertain futures of potential free-agent forwards Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and Boozer — since it’s unclear who’s staying and who’s going — have caused tensions in the locker room that have seeped into Utah’s play. An increasing lack of togetherness would certainly help explain what’s been happening at the defensive end, judging by the 125, 118 and 130 points the Jazz gave up in three of their final four regular-season losses.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News (via desnews) says:
The Jazz is desperate to rid itself of Carlos Boozer, who counts the days until he can leave Salt Lake City.
I have a great relationship with A.K. off the court.
“I’ve said this for years, when guys have a little problem with each other then solve your problems in the parking lot with an ice pick … so you can come into the locker room and be ready to play basketball.”
Aaaaannnnnddddd…Nick Van Exel (blast from the past eh?) once said, on stopping the S2M pick and roll:
“Yeah, I got a way to defend it. Bring a bat to the game and kill one of them.”
(Ice pick…bat…that was the connection between the last two.)
Does Jerry still care? Does he have any fire left in him?
Jerry Sloan blew a gasket the other night, absolutely went berserk. He busted his players off, one by one, in a locker room full of guys who had turned in a pathetic performance in the first half of an important game, getting booed off the floor against a weak opponent at home. It was a continuation of an abysmal three-week skid, a span of bad halves during which his players had all but begged to be booed and busted off.
Added Matt Harpring: “It was like old times. He was upset, really, really mad. He let everyone know what they were doing wrong. We needed a spark, something that would fire us up, and he gave it to us.”
I feel quite relieved that Jerry’s still yelling and busting their asses (too many camera shots of him looking resigned on the bench during games had me worried). Unfortunately, it pretty much went down the same way that game in which the Jazz were down by 20 to the Celts at halftime, Frank Layden yelled at the players, and the Jazz went out and lost by 30 (those of you with the John Stockton retirement DVD, you know what I’m talking about).
Anyway, regardless of how much fire there is left in Jerry, he has the respect of Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was shocked Monday to learn that Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan had been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“All of us already assumed he was in the Hall of Fame,” Popovich said before sending the Spurs out to play Sloan’s Jazz at the AT&T Center on Friday.
Popovich has been an admirer of Sloan’s no-nonsense approach during the Jazz coach’s 21 years at the helm in Utah.
“Now, I guess it’s become official, but all of us regarded him (as a Hall of Famer), because of his persistence over the years,” Popovich said. “The fine play and execution, day after day and year after year, no matter who’s on his team, no matter who’s hurt, it never changes, and that comes from him.” (source)
And he showed it too:
Nice gesture by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich before the game, walking over to the Jazz bench to congratulate Jerry Sloan on being selected to the Hall of Fame. Michael Finley did as well, just before player introductions. (sltrib blog)
Speaking of really old footage, jazzspin posted this video a week ago:
I can’t remember Karl ever being this young lol. He was so humble and “aw shucks” and in a good mood (ha). Jazzspin posted this video (“The more things change, the more things stay the same”) very timelily because Karl is talking about winning on the road and “games we should have won,” the Jazz being 2-13 on the road but still only a few games out of 1st place in the division, and beating the Lakers. I also really like what he said about how he has a lot of room to improve and get better (in contrast to Carlos “I know I’m a great player” Boozer). Anyway, the thing he said that really caught my attention and that I really agree with was how the players are professionals and therefore should be responsible for motivating themselves (and this was only his second or third season). I wish all the guys on the current squad had that kind of attitude.
I’m not sure where SLAM was going with this picture:
Then again, I don’t get this one either:
Speaking of pictures, this is the kind of article/post that I wish the writer would publish pictures alongside:
[Collins] also caught grief from Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver as he dressed for the flight to Los Angeles after the game.
Collins was wearing a forest green polo shirt, jeans, tan dress socks and white shoes. What pushed the outfit over the top was the red sweater he tied around his waist, as Korver and Millsap yelled, “No, no, don’t do it.”
Millsap raised the crucial issue, which is why Collins would have a sweater in the first place if he just planned to wear it around his waist.
Sounds like there’s no tension/chemistry problems at least between those three…
So Brev Brev has stepped up as a locker room leader for the second time this season (that we know about) and talked to the guys about playing defense:
Asked why he spoke up, Knight said, “We need to go in ready to play. We’ve kind of been up-and-down the last two weeks and a lot of that was on the defensive end. … We’ve got people who can score, but we aren’t stopping anybody. That puts too much pressure on us to score, when we don’t stop people.”
The bottom line?
Knight said he simply wanted “to put the idea in people’s heads: ‘Let’s put somewhat of a mark on the defensive end. Let’s let the other team know it’s not going to be easy — easy pickings.’ “
That night, they beat the Clippers in a win that was unbelievably and also highly indicative of the last month, relief- and almost giddiness-inducing (yes, that’s how low we’ve sunk).
Jerry on AK: “[Going from a starter to sub] has to be tough on some people. But I thought he’s done a good job of adjusting. He hasn’t complained, or made any scenes.”
AK on AK: “I don’t really care how you start the game, or you’re coming off the bench…It’s not really an issue, as long as you’re playing time on the floor.” But the passion, he insists, still is there. A glance at his badly bruised knees makes the case. “Take one look,” he said. “It’s still burned. Nothing’s changed much.”
DWill on AK: “He’s definitely been different since then, as far as working on his game after practice and working with (part-time shooting coach) Jeff (Hornacek). He’s doing great things as far as that’s concerned. You could see him taking the game serious.”
KOC on AK: “The one thing I’d say is I think he’s battled back from the Houston series. This year, especially, coming back from ankle surgery and being able to play three weeks later — I think that’s showing he has a desire that he wants to play.”
This is another article that made me feel somewhat relieved (if all those quoted were actually saying what they really thought of course). The thing is, I’m somewhat of an AK homer and while I do recognize that he’s played very poorly lately at times, I just so badly want him to do well. When he’s happy and playing loose, he is an absolute, absolute joy to watch on the court and his play–on both sides of the court–raises my enjoyment of basketball to another level.
Lastly, a message from the captain:
“If you have any pride in yourself,” Sloan said, “and you have any pride in your organization as a player, then you’ll rise to the occasion, be as good as you can be.”