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Friday, May 16, 2008

New Rant!: Jazzercising.

The game just ended, so I might come across more bitter now than I might otherwise, but I'd like to say, first off, a pox on that bag of douche in Memphis who gave the Lakers Pao Gasol, and another on the referees - the officiating in this series was the most disgustingly awful I've sat through in recent memory. Phantom fouls and obvious non-calls helped ensure the Jazz wouldn't be able to overtake the Lakers in Game 5 in LA, and down the stretch two key bad calls gave the Lakers free foul shots to keep the game just out of reach. Obviously I don't blame the refs for the Jazz being down 19 at halftime - LA did a great job of jumping on the Jazz early and keeping them down for most of the game - but when it's that close at the end of the game (as was the case in all 6 games of the series), the outcome shouldn't be decided by bad calls. The blocking foul on Paul Millsap should have instead been a charge on Gasol, and that Kobe/Williams run in should have been a non-call at worst, or at best an offensive foul on Kobe swinging his elbow at Williams' face. Instead of closing the gap, that's 4 critical points that went to the Lakers.

Anyhow, now that Utah's season is over I have a few thoughts on what they should do to prepare their team for the future, before they sit ideally by and let the Lakers and Hornets run rampant for the next few years.

Here goes:

Elton Brand is an unrestricted free agent. The Jazz should buy him up and make a trade offer to Dallas - Carlos Boozer and someone like C.J. Miles or Ronnie Price, and a draft pick for Dirk Nowitzki.

Boozer's good but he's also inconsistent during the playoffs. And, in reality, he's only an All Star because he has Deron Williams helming the team. After Boozer shrunk during key stretches of the playoffs last year, he only had one really good game in the playoffs this year after being a constant 20/10 guy all year long, which tells me it's time Jazz fans and management realize that, although when all is said and done Williams may be regarded as highly as John Stockton one day, Boozer isn't the second coming of Karl Malone. Boozer is capable of being great when he's the team's second option, but the Jazz will never win a championship in this crowded western conference if they have to rely on him to have big games night in and night out.

With Elton Brand they would have a consistent 15/10 guy, someone who can play tough defense and grab rebounds, and with Nowitzki they'd have someone who not only can create shots from anywhere on the floor, but is a veteran who is hungry for a championship, and who would fit in perfectly with Deron Williams, who is the only untouchable player on the team, although unless an unbelievable deal was put on the table, I'd not surrender Kirilenko, Millsap, Brewer, Harpring, or Korver.

Salary cap aside, if a trade for Nowitzki goes through, then Okur could be shipped out, maybe to somewhere like New Jersey for Richard Jefferson or Detroit for Rasheed Wallace or the Pacers for Jermaine O'Neal, if they could pick up his expiring contract and convince him to take a salary cut to be on a contending team.

With a lineup of William (PG), Brewer (SG), Kirilenko (SF), O'Neal (PF) and Nowitzki (C), the Jazz would be one of the top three title contenders in the league.


Anonymous said...

Allow me to defend Carlos Boozer:

I agree that Boozer didn't play well in this series (or these playoffs) but lets not kick his ass out the door so fast. He was the best player during last years playoff run. He averaged 25/11 vs. Hou, 24/14 vs. GSW, and 21/12 vs. SAS. His regular season average was 21/10. Saying he shrunk in the playoffs last year? Well its probably because his worst game was also the most memorable being that it was the elimination game vs. the Spurs. Boozer only had 9. The Jazz leading scorer was AK47 with 13. Boozer had huge games against Yao (35 pts, 41 pts) and Duncan (27, 33). Yes, this year his shooting was bad, but again no reason to ship the guy out of town. Especially when the alternatives aren't that great.

Dirk has had his share of playoff chokes and Brand's only been in the playoffs 1 time. Brand is coming off of a ruptured Achilles tendon and is older than Boozer and costs more money. A big contract like Brand's will make it harder to sign Williams to a max contract extension that he will be due very soon. That's also why getting Brand AND Dirk would be impossible - Kirilenko (and DWill's future contract) take up too much cap space. Even if they were able to swap Boozer and Dirk they would lose any physical presence on the inside. Millsap is a nice backup but neither he nor Okur are viable low-post scoring options at this point.

Boozer is no Karl Malone but an all-star PF isn't bad. It's unfair to say that Boozer is only an all-star because of Williams. Is Stockton a hall of famer only because he had Malone or is it vice-versa? Williams isn't getting all those rebounds for Boozer or posting up and banging in the paint.

But I don't think anything the Jazz do in the off-season can really keep up with the Lakers. Its scary to think what the Lakers can do with an up and coming center like Bynum when he is healthy. Assuming they can keep Gasol and Odom to go with Bynum and Kobe - they're going to remain tough.

The Hornets aren't as a big of a threat because Williams is the one guy who gives Chris Paul problems.

So what should the Jazz do? I would preach patience. They have a very young team. Brewer and Williams will get better with age. Maybe Okur gets a little better in the post. Right when these younger guys will be hitting their peak the Jazz will get the Knicks (presumably) top 5 pick and a potential game changer to put them above the rest of the West.

Random Stranger said...

Great response. Yeah, my post was a litle hasty - I think I could have stomached the loss a little better had it not come at the hands of the Lakers. Anyway, let me at least pretend to back up my points a little bit now that I'm more coolheaded.

I think, more than anything, I want Jerry Sloan to get a title. Having two of the top 50 players of all time on your team and not winning a champtionship is tough, but for the peak years he was butting heads with Jordan and Phil Jackson, so its tough but understandable. But not ever being awarded Coach of the Year? That's horrible. I know he doesn't care, but as a fan of his, both as a coach and a person, it would be great to see him given some sort of recognition other than as a perennial second-bester. So now that he has a team with this much talent, where they came so close last year and they are only a handful of moves away from being there again, it's tough to listen to anyone preach patience knowing that he has only a handful of years remaining as coach, and knowing that experience is going to make every team in this stacked Western Conference better, not just the Jazz.

So more than anything else, I think the Jazz need to put themselves in a position to win right away solely to reward their coach. I'd rather not see him end his career never wining a championship because he butted heads constantly with Phil Jackson and came up on the losing end each time.

I'd like to clarify my thoughts on Boozer a bit. He is, without a doubt, a good player. He may have become an All Star had he remained in the East, but it's because he came to Utah and it's because of the emergence of Williams as a bad-ass PG that he went from being pretty okay to being pretty dominant. And yeah, in last year's playoffs he had some great dominating games but I'll always remember his Game 5 verses the Spurs over anything else he accomplished that year, however fair or unfair to him that may be.

On the entire Jazz roster, I see 3, maybe 4 guys who have a burning desire to go out and compete when the pressure is on - Williams being the most obvious, but also Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap and nowadays Ronnie Brewer. Two of these guys are talented enough to start for the team, the third (Millsap) is going to be great one day, and Harpring is a beast off the bench and he's comfortable with that. These guys are the backbone to a possible championship team.

Andre Kirilenko - my favorite player in the league when he's peaking, and the guy with possibly the greatest nickname in the history of professional sports - is tradeable, although he does so many small things for this team that I'm not sure who you trade him for, straight-up. Especially in the East, since I wouldn't want to send him to any team I wouldn't want to see early in the playoffs. He's starting to figure out his spot on the team, and going into any tough game, I always feel it's up to Kirilenko and Korver to get hot in order to give everyone else a chance to shine.

Okur, who, despite whatever his rebound numbers say, didn't leave his feet once during Game 6. Sure, he's a great shooter and he's tall but he can be a defensive liability. If he can continue to aggressively take the ball to the hoop like he did a number of times in the series, his nonplussed attitude towards defense may become less important to me. But the bigger problem is it is obvious he only wants to play in the close games or blowout wins, and he doesn't want to put the work into a game like Game 6 where you need to dig yourself out from 20 points down. He was there at the end, but that was after Williams, Kirilenko, Harpring and the rest dug them out of the hole to make the game competitive. Of all the starters on the team, he's the one I'd be most open to hearing trade offers for, although like Kirilenko he's quite a unique player so I'm not sure who I trade him for. That's where someone like Nowitzki comes into play - he's tall, he's a shooter, and unlike Okur he has enough competitive spirit to try and put the team on his back and will his team to a win. Granted, he's had soem lackluster playoffs these last few years, but let's take a further look. The Mavericks go up 2-0 in the finals before inexplicably losing 4 straight. I've no defense for this. Last year, after 67 wins, they get ousted in 5 games by what appears to be a far inferior Warriors team, but anyone who follows basketball closely could tell it was a nightmare matchup for the Mavs. This year, they go on the road against a very good, very tough Hornets who have the MVP runner-up and who are going 7 games against the Spurs. So there's no shame in either of those last two series, in my mind, and Dirk has to figure that with the addition of Jason Kidd, that realistically their chances of keeping competitive hasn't gotten any better. But in my mind, it makes more sense to trade Boozer, rather than Okur for a number of reasons. Obviously, first off because Boozer is going to get you a higher caliber player than Okur. Second, because Nowitzki can fill the shoes of either player - he can float around the three point line like Okur, or he can post up down low. The versatility is what the Jazz need in order to compete with run and gun teams like the Nuggets and the Lakers, but also against grinders like Houston and the Spurs. And Okur is going to develop post moves a lot quicker than Boozer is going to develop into a three-point threat.

So, that's my justification for being okay with trade talks. I like the guy, I think he's going to be great no matter where he goes to from here, but all emotional connection you feel with the guy aside, if the opportunity arises to get someone like Nowitzki, he'd be the most obvious person to let go.