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Deconstructing (or providing some alternate perspectives on) locker cleanout narratives

April 23, 2013
tags: ,

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.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. steppx permalink
    April 23, 2013 7:59 pm

    thanks, good perceptive post. I already said Ive become a nuggets fan and have largely given up on the Jazz . The days of Sloan and Malone and stockton are long gone…and even some of the OK versions since those days are gone too. Now we have one of the worst coaches in the league, a double.speak mealy mouthed GM, and owners who seem to have no clue how to win, or simply dont want to really win. I get the feeling an 8 seed every year would be just fine with them. They missed this year. And if corbin isnt fired, they will miss next year. This team is wasting THREE huge talents….Hayward, Favors and Kanter. Three…all of them as talented as any young players in the league. All wasted. WASTED. Its shocking that kanter was held back the way he was. Its also shocking how the offense was high school level, ran through Jefferson, the stone footed, no defense, undersized center who is the poster boy for just good enough to start, but never win sort of player. He is the guy who can score, fill stat sheets, but not win. His lethargy on defense is stunning if you compare him to Marc Gasol, or chandler or Gortat or Asik. Its shameful, its almost embarrassing……i dont have the adjectives. But its ty’s comfort zone because he hasnt a clue. No idea how to implement a system. I wish they would bring Jerry back, or fire corbin and hire Budenholzer from SA, Shaw from Indiana, or even a mike malone…..even a college guy…anyone but Ty. But they wont. This is it, this is what you can expect for the coming years. A battle for the 8 seed. Im done….GO NUGGETS

    • Richard permalink
      April 25, 2013 1:48 am

      Just remember in 2 seasons; you are a Nuggets fan. Us diehard Jazz fans no longer accept you. You have been dismissed.

  2. hamaca permalink
    April 23, 2013 8:11 pm

    Those particular media folks have a lot of time to fill and have unfortunately gone down the intellectually dishonest road of manufacturing “news” and drama.

    I don’t know if you’re implying that they are also taking cues from certain other elements within the Jazz organization, but that may be a good story to flesh out.

    • modernagejazz permalink
      April 23, 2013 9:20 pm

      I can’t help but feel you’re right. This stuff is just dumb. I wonder how it is that they still have anyone listening, given how much nonsense they speak.

    • April 24, 2013 9:08 am

      I wasn’t implying that (I would hope that’s not the case) but I do think media members that are on the LHM payroll have gotten into the habit of trashing former players or players they think won’t be back as a form of justification for why they’re not back or why current players are so much better.

  3. April 23, 2013 11:49 pm


  4. Arne permalink
    April 23, 2013 11:55 pm

    Good read. However, when you say that Millsap had a less than stellar season, I kind of disagree there. His numbers per 36 were almost exactly the same they have been for the past three years. In fact, two years ago, a season that a lot of people said was MIllsap’s best season, the only big difference was his shooting percentage in per 36 stats. The narrative that Millsap has lost a step is just unbelievable to me. He got less minutes per game this year, and that is why his numbers are down. As for the shooting percentage, I blame it on the system, and not having anything close to a point guard.

    • April 24, 2013 7:48 am

      Sorry, should have been more clear. I meant his performance this season within a system in which he was not as involved as we’ve seen. The ball didn’t go to him as much as it once did. I don’t think he has lost a step at all. Like you, I think it has to do with the offense we were running.

      Thanks for the info on per-36 stats though. I hadn’t realized his per-36 were right up there with the past three years.

  5. April 24, 2013 1:20 am

    All year long the people on Twitter and on certain Blogs have been vilified for being negative. I have a question: If the truth is negative why not report it that way? When lots of money is involved and season tickets to be sold we get reports like “We need to get better'” or “We working on hard on getting better” and were told what a great job Ty Corbin did this year “under the circumstances.” For definition of circumstances read article above. I have been a Jazz fan since 1979 and I know what “Jazz basketball” is and the chaos that we have right now is not “Jazz basketball” I mean really? 8 free agents? no one to build the team around? no direction for the future? All we know is that we have lots of cap room and we are going to spend it wisely. Dennis Lindsey had better have a plan for this team and it’s future or the Jazz will end up losing a lot more of their fan base. There are educated knowledgeable and basketball savvy fans here in Utah and being told that we have never played at that level so we don’t know is wrong. Paul George was in the same draft class as Gordon Hayward and he was on the All Star team this year and was just named MIP in the league. Not one Jazz player, with all the good young talent we have, was even given one vote for MIP. Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward were all drafted higher then Paul George. Not one vote!! Yet we as Jazz fans should be glad the progress of “the core four” has shown. The fans think that “the core four” should play more but we are told that Ty doesn’t want to lose the locker room by the media. Then by having 8 free agents on your team it produces chaos and players like Milsap get lost in the shuffle. I am glad there is Blogs out there that tell the truth and that aren’t trying to sell you something or tell you something that you just know is not the truth. The natives (meaning the fan base) is getting restless and if this team doesn’t turn it around fans are going to leave and some may never come back. Please stop insulting us with spin and look at the truth. We are not going to be patronized much longer. We want “Jazz Basketball” back.

  6. April 24, 2013 12:48 pm

    Amazing read Moni. Probably the best thing I’ve read on the Jazz this off-season. I’m glad you broke down and decided to do it!

  7. Richard permalink
    April 25, 2013 1:41 am

    Jazz fans are spoiled, and, the media is made to stir the pot. Too many people are hung up trying to shove Ty through a non existent revolving door… But thats not how it’s going to go down. Ty is learning. Ty is growing. He is in his infancy right now. He will get more than enough chances to prove you and all the spoiled Jazz fans right, but again, that’s not how it will go down. He will grow leaps and bounds coming off this season, where the Jazz didn’t surprise or disappoint a whole lot. Moving forward, if next season is worse, I would not be surprised. Dennis Lindsay has kind of hinted to the fact the Jazz may take a step back next year to position themselves for the 2014 draft. It’s going to get ugly when they don’t keep Al, or Paul, and fans get to see what the “core 4” can do as starters. They won’t be fighting for the playoffs, thats for sure. I’m actually hoping they work some sign and trade deals for first round draft picks in the 2014 draft. That way they aren’t tanking, but they have leverage to get the guy they want ala Derron Williams.
    To wrap this up, I think Ty did a fine job this year. Playing guys on a contact year is more than just keeping that player happy, it’s also about developing relationships with players agents. No agent is going to shop his guy to the Jazz if they hurt another players chances of landing a lucrative deal because he didn’t play him. There are politics behind a lot of things, and I think the Jazz and Ty have done good things this last season in that regard.

    • steppx permalink
      April 25, 2013 8:00 am

      anyone trying to defend Corbin’s coaching has a lot to learn about hoops. He didnt do a good job, he was often lost as to rotations or adjustments, especially in the 4th quarter, and his offense was dreadful — the fact that his idea of an offense was to yell for everyone to clear out so Big Al could go isolation is representative of his limitations as an X &Os guy. Jazz fans arent spoiled….what a silly comment……….they want what all fans want, a team to be proud of. As for kanter and favors starting…….if you dont think they can or should start at this point, then you have made an error in drafting them in the first place.

  8. JLT permalink
    April 25, 2013 2:38 am

    This is fantastic Moni, these are my sentiments exactly. They usually are though, which is why I read your blog every day.

    Of course Foye and Mo want to be here… Ty plays them twice as many minutes as they deserve. I’m so tired of the spin the Jazz owned media give us. Next year the excuse is going to be: “Ty was put in a tough situation with all young players and no vets. Phil Jackson couldn’t have done better with this roster”.


  9. McGoose permalink
    April 25, 2013 2:51 am

    I wish you would have been more critical of Ty. He’s the worst. Clearly not cut out to be a great head coach.

  10. Chisel McSue permalink
    April 25, 2013 9:26 am

    great stuffs, moni. i couldnot agree more about the team assists, it was one of the hallmark of jazz basketball, and now it’s just not an identifier of the Jazz team.

  11. April 25, 2013 10:14 am

    Moni, I enjoy your stuff, but you’ve a real habit of taking sides for your favorites and losing perspective – and of course that’s mine. I’m sorry, but Paul did not put out near the effort he has past seasons – regardless of the system which certainly had faults. And the there is more than just ‘jazzed owned media’ saying and seeing as much. And even then ‘jazz owned media’ is not Communist controlled Soviet Union.

  12. April 25, 2013 3:26 pm

    I appreciate all the comments and love hearing everyone’s thoughts, whether you agree or disagree. Thanks for weighing in :)

    @ jazzed: I’m not sure the point of the post got across. Certain narratives (for want of a better and not completely overused word) are being discussed as fact by media members whose paychecks come from LHM, and only them. I have not heard the same sentiments being repeatedly repeated on ESPN 700, or print or television outlets not owned by the Jazz, so my aim was presenting alternative possibilities.

    I can totally understand why from this post you would think that it was written in defense of my “favorites,” but the funny thing is Millsap isn’t even one of my favorite Jazz players. I like him all right, but he’s not my favorite. As for his level of performance and effort, well, every fan probably sees it differently and it’s subject to interpretation. Again, this post was mainly addressing his comments and how they have been taken, rather than how he performed this season.


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