There are two theories about the locker room problems, which aren’t mutually exclusive: the guys hating each other, and unhappiness with playing time.
I’m guessing no one on the team is happy with their minutes (or lack of) except DWill and maybe Memo. Harp, Collins and Ronnie P definitely aren’t. You can’t tell me Sap isn’t. Brewer, CJ, KK, AK and Knight…all the guys. But none of them have complained about it publicly (this season; and yes, I’m thinking about that one time a few years ago when Collins yelled at Jerry for subbing him out). With the exception of Boozer, who has publicly complained not only about starting, but also getting minutes in the 4th quarter, all of the guys have stayed true to the team concept and spouted the party line about doing what’s best for the team.*
A few examples:
Back at the beginning of the season when he first started coming off the bench, he said that he doesn’t care if he starts or subs, and that playing as the 6th man had its advantages because he could assess the feel of the game and bring in what was needed off the bench. (sorry, this was so long ago I’m too lazy to find the reference).
When he first came back from surgery, his minutes were of course monitored. But when Boozer came back a few games after that, AK’s minutes plummeted down to 20 MPG for no reason other than there suddenly not being enough minutes to go around:
There is no pain in Kirilenko’s ankle and no restrictions on his minutes, but he has averaged only 21.3 in the last 12 games.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan acknowledged the difficulty at finding Kirilenko playing time with Carlos Boozer back in the lineup, Paul Millsap demanding minutes off the bench and Ronnie Brewer making the case to play in the fourth quarter. (source)
I can’t imagine that AK was happy about his reduced minutes, but he never complained about it outwardly:
“It’s all right,” said Kirilenko…”I don’t have a problem with this. I feel pretty good with that time.” (source)
Brev Brev also feels he should be playing more, but isn’t complaining either. After the Wizards game on March 17th, he said, “”It feels good to get out and play. It’s been a little while [since he got significant minutes]. I kind of had to change my focus this year and understand that the minutes would be a little bit sparse.” (source)
In the NO game, Harp played 8 straight minutes and was clearly gassed when he was subbed out. In his post-game interview, he simply said, “It’s tough to try to stay in shape when you don’t get that many minutes.” That’s all. There was no “I should get more minutes” or “I should be out there in the 4th.”
It can’t be denied that the Jazz’s slide into the Land of Fail coincided with the restoration of Boozer’s minutes. His first game back was the 5th game of the 12-game win streak.** Since the streak ended, he’s played at least 30-40 minutes in 14 of 16 games, during which the Jazz have gone 6-10. Only 2 of the 6 were good, solid wins (Hou and NO); the remaining 4 were record-breakingly sloppy, bang-my-head-against-the-wall, third quarter or full game collapsing messes. Not only that, the Jazz have lost their way and have completely surrendered their home dominance.
How damaging is Carlos Boozer’s presence to this team? There is no longer a team in SLC—just a bunch of selfish individuals being forced to work together. And honestly, Carlos is an anti-leader and a bad example to the younger players. Apart from the fact that he gets playing time even when he’s hurting the team and giving up more points than he’s scoring, you just know some of the young guys are looking at Boozer and thinking, “If he, the team leader, could get a hugeass contract without playing any defense, so can I.” Or, “If the team leader is complaining about his minutes, why shouldn’t I?” Or, “If the team leader isn’t going dive after loose balls, neither will I.”
I don’t even know how to wrap this up. “Living and Dying by the Jazz”…I don’t remember what it feels like to live by the Jazz anymore. I feel as resigned as Jerry looks. I wish it were as easy for me to quit the Jazz as it was for the players to quit on each other and their fans.
P.S. Does this sound like something that could help, and/or what the team needs?
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If so, let’s get Mark Eaton on the phone.
*Though Boozer’s publicist/fan club president David Locke would have us believe that all professional athletes would say what Boozer did about starting. Dan Sheldon responded, “When you show that resistance (to putting your team ahead of you) publicly, you can only imagine what’s going on behind the scenes.”
The conversation continued like this:
S: How uncomfortable was that moment when Boler’s just floating this idea out there, he wasn’t attacking Boozer at all, and Boozer snaps back the way he did?
L: What do you think he should have said?
S: He should have said, “You know what? I believe I’m a starter in this league, but I’ve been struggling, we’ve all been struggling, we need answers, I’ll do whatever it takes right now.”
[Dead air as Locke struggles to find some way to defend Boozer]
L: And who do you think in this league would have said that?
[Me, yelling at my computer: AK!!! Every other player on the Jazz!!!]
S: Who do I think would have said that? I think most players would say that.
L: I don’t.
S: You don’t think most players would say that?
S: And considering the situation the Jazz are in [Locke interrupts with another, more emphatic “unh unh”] right now?
L: No. Particularly after…particularly after, that was after a win.
S: I mean, you look at the most important player on the floor, generally speaking, for the Spurs…he’s a guy that comes off the bench.
L: Yeah, he’s different though.
S: How so?
L: Uhhhhhhhh…Manu’s just a different bird. That’s why he’s the only guy in the league who does it.
[Me, yelling at the computer: AK!!!! AK!!!!!]
S: I’ll agree to disagree with you.
L: (raises voice) I’m not disagreeing with your idea that maybe that’s what should be said, but I’m just trying to make sure, that I think anybody would have said it.
S: I can understand it being said behind the scenes but how many times do you really hear a player come out and say, “I’m a starter in this league, period”? I don’t hear that that often.
L: [instinct- or money-driven need to defend Boozer kicks into even higher gear; starts sounding like a petulant child] Well, I also don’t think there’s many guys ever been in the All-Star Game averaging 20 and 10 that have been talked about as not starting.
S: Well, when was the last time you saw a guy slip the way he’s slipped right now?
L: [eager to change the subject now and starts talking about Vin Baker]
For frak’s sake Locke, give kissing Boozer’s private parts a rest.
**For the 5th to the 8th games, he played less than 22 minutes. He then played around 34 minutes in the next two, and then sat out the one after that. On the 12th and final game, he played 28 minutes.