Deconstructing (or providing some alternate perspectives on) locker cleanout narratives
I had no plans to write this post, but hearing the same statements repeated ad nauseum by Jazz-owned media since locker room cleanout drew my fingers to my keyboard as my head struggled to not explode.
Here are some of the narratives being touted as fact, and my thoughts on them.
“Every Jazz player during locker room clean out was complimentary of the job Tyrone Corbin did managing the team and rotations, which shows what a great job Ty did.”
If there are any free agents that want to return to Utah or keep that door open, it’s not rocket science that they’re going to say good things and praise the coach. Furthermore, there is no way after last season’s locker room cleanout that they would dare say a word against Ty.
Look at what happened to the three guys that raised questions on Ty’s communication skills (I would not phrase it as “spoke against Ty,” because C.J. Miles and Devin Harris were merely giving honest answers to questions that they had been asked, and weren’t spouting off or criticizing Ty). Raja Bell was told to stay away from the team. C.J. was let go after seven years (and has been painted as a disgruntled former player since). Devin was traded.
Marvin Williams, Mo Williams, and Randy Foye have been cited specifically for being free agents that were complimentary of Ty, which therefore means Ty did a fabulous job this season.
Marvin will in all likelihood be back next year after he picks up his player option.
Mo Williams? He wants to return. On his last team, he was the third-string point guard and was asked to play shooting guard. In Utah, he’s a starter and took more shots than anyone on the team not named Al Jefferson.
How about Foye? He started the most games of his career this season (72) when he had never started more than 61 games before coming to Utah. He also played the second most minutes of his career (2,249) when he has not surpassed 1,682 in five of his last six seasons. He probably wants to return too.
Another consideration in Ty doing a fabulous job keeping the locker room together, which some are billing as his top coaching accomplishment this season: Mo and Al have been friends for at least a decade and even their foundations work together. Al and Foye played together in Minnesota and have also been friends for a long time. Mo and Foye played together last season in L.A. Paul Millsap has said that Al is one of his best friends. We also know the lengths to which Al has gone to bring a lost Enes Kanter into the fold and work with him outside of practice. These things have nothing to do with Ty, but may have something to do with why the locker room was tight.
One more factor in the number of Ty compliments during locker room cleanout: The Jazz-owned media went around soliciting such responses with leading questions (“Talk about what a great job Ty did this year” / “Talk about the tough job Ty had this year with so many free agents”). Side note: Makes me wonder, did they feel the need to do this when Jerry Sloan was coach?
Some of the players may believe Ty did a good job and their comments may have been sincere, and there were definitely other considerations going into the Raja/C.J./Devin situations beside their comments. However, it’s not black and white like it’s being made out to be.
“Paul Millsap was disengaged, out of it, upset over his role, filled with regret over turning down the extension, etc. and it was obvious all season long.”
If you buy into the “Ty took over the team under difficult circumstances, had so many free agents on the team, etc.” stance — and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on that — then you should consider Paul Millsap’s difficult circumstances as well.
“He had 19 straight double-doubles as Carlos Boozer’s backup and he didn’t have that many this whole season!”
Millsap entered the league and excelled in a winning system where there was ball movement and sharing the ball and cutting and screens that actually involved physical contact. The team had an identity and his role and position were clearly defined.
This year maybe even more than last year saw a Jazz team with no identity, no system (I know some people say Ty’s system is Jerry’s system or based on it, but that’s only true to the extent of Jerry’s system is Jerry’s system, and Ty’s system is an osteoporosis-ridden skeleton of Jerry’s system), very little ball movement (as is evidenced by how the Jazz have fallen in average assists and assist rank)*, guys standing around watching, etc. To add to all this, Millsap was at times being played out of position, and yes, you also take the free agency factor into account.
Gee, I wonder why Millsap’s performance might have suffered this year for reasons other than he had quit on the team or was so filled with regret over turning down the extension that he couldn’t focus on basketball.
* The Jazz ranked first or second in the league in assists from 2007-2010. Even during the horrible 2006 season, they were ranked eighth. In Ty’s two full seasons as head coach, the Jazz have slid to 11th and 13th in the NBA, respectively, in assists.
The decision by the Jazz-owned media to demonize Millsap — and it’s been happening all season long — for turning down the extension is also flabbergasting to me. Why shouldn’t he see what’s out there? Why shouldn’t he see what he can get? (And it should be mentioned that this is exactly what Kevin O’Connor told Millsap and Wesley Matthews to do–go out and see what you can get–when they were restricted free agents, rather than make an offer.)
“Paul Millsap’s locker cleanout comments were super revealing and in direct contrast to everyone else’s comments.”
First of all, a mountain has been made out of a molehill here.
The ongoing narrative is that every member of the team talked about what an incredible group it was, except Millsap. This leads the Jazz-owned media to conclude that Millsap was clearly talking about himself and only himself when he said that it had been a difficult season. He said the extension wasn’t the issue, which means the difficult part had to refer to touches and playing time.
I did not take Millsap’s comments that way at all.
Here is what Millsap said when he was asked what was difficult about the season, if it wasn’t turning down the extension:
I don’t think the free agency was a big part of it. The free agency is gonna handle itself, you know? All I had to do was go out there and play. I think it was everything else. Just trying to figure out a way to get to where we wanted to be, with what we had, and the situation and circumstances that we were in, so, which was tough. So I mean, I think most of it came from that.
(He also said while addressing the media that it was a challenging year not just for himself but for “everybody, from the players to the coaches to the management, to everybody.”)
This is all subjective, of course, but note that he kept saying “we.” Not “I”; “we.” To me, it sounded like he was talking about the team and losing games and players not knowing their roles on a team that lacked identity, direction, and system. Could that be what was difficult about this season?
Millsap experienced going to the Western Conference Finals his rookie year and went to the Playoffs in his first four seasons. Losing games and not making the Playoffs isn’t something he’s used to. Could that be what was difficult about this season?
And to go back to the first point, Millsap saw firsthand what happened with Raja, C.J. (one of his best friends) and Devin. Could that be a reason why he declined to go into detail when broached for specifics?
If this is the case, Millsap is being condemned for giving an honest answer because all the other guys gave PR answers.
Lastly, I’ve heard Millsap’s comment combined with Ty’s quote that he dealt out playing time based on 82 games and not winning individual games as evidence that Ty had his hands full managing mildly bubbling insurrection in the locker room all season long. Seeing as how Ty admitted no fault for losses or acknowledged that there were any areas upon which he could improve, his comments could easily be just another excuse of many for why the Jazz failed to perform up to expectations.
Nevertheless, I see this explanation of managing 82 games rather than trying to get a win on any given night as the latest in the “difficult circumstances, lockout, no summer league, no training camp” line of excuses.
P.S. Jazz-owned media has also stated as fact that Millsap 1) “griped” about playing small forward; 2) did not take the extension because he didn’t want to come off the bench. The first is not true, and the second is pure speculation.
What Millsap said about playing different positions:
The different positions was just different. You know, but I’m a guy who work through everything, you know, the coaches ask. You know, I’m willing to try a new position if that’s gonna help me get more playing time, if that’s gonna help our team. It was challenging. You know, that adds to the challenges of the season, as you know, but no regrets about it. You know, I’d do it again.
That’s “griping”? I guess it is if you have a certain way you want to portray Millsap and comments need to be twisted to support that narrative.
No one is disputing that Millsap had a less than stellar season. I don’t think Millsap himself would dispute that. I just think it’s a shame that a guy who’s been with the Jazz seven years and may still return for years to come has the team-owned media slamming the door on him, all the while trashing him. Sadly, that’s just what they do. Anyway, those are my thoughts. Take of this what you will.