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A leopard can’t change its spots, but can it climb up a different tree once in a while?

October 11, 2009

Jerry and Jazz players alike came into training camp and talked about the need for and new commitment to defense this season. As much as I want to believe, I am more on the “lost cause” side of the spectrum when it comes to this issue. We’ve heard it all before. Year after year, they come into camp and talk about their renewed (or new) focus on defense. And every year [since 12 and 32 retired], their defense ends up being the antithesis of what you’d expect from a Jerry Sloan team.

Portland and OKC are considered young, up-and-coming teams. On the other hand, there was already talk about the Jazz’s window of opportunity closing last season. Given that the average age and years of experience of the three teams’ rosters are around the same (25.2-25.5 years old, 4.9-5.3 years of experience*), why is there such a difference in perception between Portland/OKC and Utah?

What do these two paragraphs have to do with each other? “The core of this team has been together for at least 3 seasons, including one Conference Final run” is the answer to two questions: 1) Why do I expect more from this team than they have shown, particularly defensively and in the last two months of last season, and 2) Why isn’t the Jazz considered an on-the-verge-of-a-breakout team like Portland and OKC despite an equally young core?

3+ seasons together with three consecutive Playoff appearances, virtually no roster changes, no coaching changes, and franchisal stability that other teams can only dream of should add up to better than what we’ve seen. The way we closed out last season while fighting for home court was something one would expect out of, say, Golden State, yet it was the dysfunctional Dubs that whupped our ass down the stretch (with a team of seven rookies and D-League players and the assistant coach coaching, I might add). Three years with these conditions is more than adequate time to gel and develop chemisty. The guys hang out off the court and even go on vacation together, so clearly they get along. This leads me to conclude that the collective defensive mentality of this group won’t ever change (temporarily? maybe. permanently? no.)

And this is why I have ultimately lost hope for improved defense. Sometimes I think the only way things will change is the presence/addition of an intense, on-court (as opposed to Jerry on the sidelines) defensive vigilante that yells and gets on guys and directs traffic on defense–but where are we going to get one of those???

Anyway, I know you can’t tell from this post, but I really am excited about this season and I’m squirming in my seat waiting for it to get underway.

*The numbers may be slightly skewed by the presence of “training camp guys” that will be cut before the season starts.

Stuff I like to hear:

“We’ll see how it goes with the Jazz, because in a perfect world, I want to finish my career in the Jazz.” AK on the possibility of returning to Europe after his contract expires.

“I just told him to keep his mouth shut.” Melo on the advice he gave to ’04 and ’08 Olympics teammate Carlos Boozer during the Jazz/Nuggets preseason game on 10/1.

“I was kind of low-key. I was about business on this trip. Hopefully, next time I can get time to get out and do some things.” Sap on how he mostly stayed in the hotel in London and Madrid.

“No comment. No hablo, senor” and “Any way I can try to help our team, I’m going to try to do that.” Sap on who he thinks should start at PF.

“It’s not a big deal to me. Starting or not starting, we’re still going to have a good team…Starting or not is not really going to affect the way I approach the game or anything like that.” Sap on starting or not starting. Carlos Boozer, you should be taking notes.

–Speaking of Boozer, Fanhouse recently asked him about fans booing him during the preseason game, and he said they were actually cheering for him. Fanhouse thought he was joking (“That’s how they cheer me. They say ‘Boo,”’ cracked Boozer, making a play on his name), but anyone that follows the news in Utah has seen/heard that quote tons of times and knows he was completely serious.

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