Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Everybody has that one friend, associate, co-worker. You know the one. The one who in the face of any and all logic, popular belief, or sanity feels it necessary to take a contrarian opinion. They must separate themselves from the pack. They are different. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THEM! THEY ARE SPECIAL! These are the people who say things like "The Beatles are overrated", "LeBron isn't even a top 10 player in the NBA", "I don't care for red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting". I have about twelve of those people. These people can be frustrating. Like the inferi in that cave that Harry Potter and Dumbledore visit, these people attempt to drag you down with them. Slowly you start thinking like these people. You stop making judgements based on your own tastes or intellect and start looking for angles. How will my opinion on this topic effect the way people view me as an individual. It's exhausting. I try my best to stay away from that way of thinking. I try and make myself a simpler person, but screw it ... CONTRARIAN OPINION!
CONTRARIAN OPINION #1
Jeremy Lin is good ... but not that good
Sorry Jeremy. I am no longer rooting for you. This is getting out of hand. Before now I've always had a soft spot for Jeremy Lin. During the last Jazz season (aka The Season That Shall Not Be Named) the Jazz got blown out in a game at Golden State. During the fleeting moments of garbage time as the game mercifully moved towards the close, the Warriors put in a player I had literally never heard of. His name was Jeremy Lin. He came in and destroyed the Jazz scrubs. I was impressed. He was fast, he got to the rim, he was pesky on defense, he setup his teammates.
The next time I heard the name Jeremy Lin it was because he had apparently "destroyed Deron Williams and Nets". Good for him I thought. A night or two later the Jazz came to town and I watched Jeremy Lin beat the Jazz. Now I was no more impressed with him than I was a year earlier in Golden State. The Jazz are not good. Especially against point guards with any sort of skill whatsoever. Then Jeremy kept it up. He did it again, again, and again. Now I was impressed. I was happy for Jeremy. It was unlike any story that had ever occurred in the NBA.
Then things got out of hand. The NBA made the beloved Kenny Smith into a patsy, sneaking Jeremy Lin into the Rookie-Sophomore game. The cleverly made it seem like Kenny did this on his own volition and they were powerless to stop him. He had played in 7 games. Now this shouldn't bother anyone. It is seemingly a meaningless game with no stakes. It's just for fun. It bothered me. I am the type of person that puts way too much stock into award shows, All-Star selections, etc. One: because I am a tireless advocate for justice (a cowardly internet-based Batman of sorts), and two: because it messes with history. For example: in 1999 Shakespeare in Love won the award of Best Picture. It bested the likes of Saving Private Ryan and the Thin Red Line. I gurantee you that no one has put in a copy of Shakespeare in Love into their movie playing device of choice in the last 10 years. In the year 2040 there may be no living person who has seen that film. Meanwhile, Saving Private Ryan will be shown at commerative screenings, in film schools, etc. for the another hundred years. Yet if an alien species comes to Earth after the destruction of the human race and they need to find out what films mattered in 1998 all they will have to go on is our awards shows. They will think Shakespeare in Love mattered to our culture. They will think us fools. This is why these things matter. The aliens need to understand that Derrick Favors, Jonas Jerekbo, Patrick Patterson had a stronger first half of the 2011-2012 NBA Season than Jeremy Lin.
Still, I had not yet turned on Jeremy. Jeremy is smart. Jeremy went to Harvard. Surely he will see that this was a joke being played on all of us. He was being used as David Stern's money making pawn. He would say he did not deserve this over other players and decline the invitation. He didn't. He went along for the ride. Jeremy Lin died to me that day. Once the feel good feelings had wiped away the shine of his still very limited run, I started to poke holes in Jeremy. Yes, he makes a lot of turnovers. So what. So does Russell Westbrook. Yes his defensive prowess is limited, but so what. So is Steve Nash's.Yet there is a dark secret underlying Jeremy's success.
Everyone is very quick to say that Jeremy Lin saved Mike D'Antoni's career. Yet few or none have pointed out that maybe it goes both ways. Mike D'Antoni has made a habit of creating Jeremy Lin's. His freewheeling system allows players with niche skills to generate numbers that for all intensive purposes are skewed (see EVERY PLAYER THAT EVER PLAYED FOR MIKE D'ANTONI). Look no further than the great Steve Nash. Now I am not trying to say that Steve Nash isn't great. That would be blasphemy. However, his last few years in Dallas were not his strongest. Enter Mike D'Antoni and Phoenix. Like Midichlorians and a powerful Jedi Knight, they formed a symbiotic relationship. They won lots of games. Stats were piled up. No championships were won. If Nash would have stayed in Dallas or moved on to the Lakers or Spurs or the Jazz, would Steve Nash be a two-time MVP and thought of as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history? There is no way.
The same thing is happening with Jeremy Lin. Now obviously you need to be a talented player to be able to do these things. Nobody is doubting that, but the question has to be asked whether or not he could do this with ANY of the other teams in the NBA. There is no way. Lin needed the ONE coach left in the NBA that would let him play with abandon, with recklessness which has allowed him to put up these stats. However (again see ANY Sun in the D'Antoni era) his stats ring a little hollow to me. (Except for ofcourse his stellar rebound numbers for a point guard which cannot be taken away from him)
CONTRARIAN OPINION #2
Tyrone Corbin is not doing a good job coaching the Utah Jazz
This is hard for most Jazz fans to swallow. Earlier in the year they were touting Coach Corbin as a shoo-in for Coach of the Year. Those keeping a close eye on the goings on knew that this Jazz team was due for a harsh February. These are the reasons why the Jazz had such a great record in through January: 1) Jazz caught a lot of teams at good times. Teams with star players out of action, teams at the end of back-to-backs, teams at the end of long road trips. 2) The Jazz played a lot of games at home. A LOT. 3) Paul Millsap was playing out of his mind. Paul reached his apex during a road game at Denver when after watching him throw in another twisting floater in the lane I was sure that Paul would stand still, the round would flutter, and he would shoot in the air like Neo at the end of the Matrix.
Then February came. Jazz started catching teams hitting their stride. Jazz started playing games on the road. Paul Millsap mysteriously forgot how to score the basketball. And finally young Coach Corbin started getting exposed. Now, I think Ty is a good coach. He proved that by getting his guys to play hard at the beginning of the year though the teams was expected to stink, and to instill in them an improved defensive philosophy from the previous year. I think he is going to continue to be a good coach, and maybe one day will be an exceptional coach. He's not there yet.
This first problem is that certain veterans are getting too many minutes. There are a few possible explanations for this. First, that Ty doesn't have enough confidence in himself and his place in the organization to sit a veteran. Basically, he feels like playing younger inexperienced guys will threaten his job security. Second, as a former player he sees a little too much of himself in guys like Raja Bell and Josh Howard. Guys who are talented, but not stars, near the end of their careers, playing hard but with little left to give. He doesn't have the heart to put these guys down. Three, he feels like his leadership of the team is not strong enough to overcome grumbling from disgruntled veterans. Personally I hope it isn't the second explanation (see: Sloan, Jerry). Alec Burks has finally been freed, but he should have been much sooner. Since his injury near the beginning of the season Josh Howard has been atrocious. Really he offered the Jazz very little. At times he displayed the kind of selfish basketball that has not been seen around these territories since DeShawn Stevenson was our starting shooting guard. He needed to be sat down in favor of a young player that has the skills to be an All-Star. He was too slow to react and now the team is spiraling.
The second problem with Ty's coaching this year is related to the first. He's playing too many guys. The Jazz have routinely played 11 guys in their games this season. Sometimes, even in the first quarter. While Craig Bolerjack thinks this is a good idea, it's not. The best teams in the league have rotations of 8 or 9. You have your starting lineup who should get the lion's share of the minutes in most situations. You have your backup point guard, swingman, and bigman to spell your starters for brief amounts of time to recoup their energy. You don't leave your best guys on the bench for extended amounts of time just because you like a certain player and feel bad he doesn't get minutes. You pick the guys that are the best and you play them. It is incredibly irritating to see Ty keep Earl, CJ, and Josh Howard on the floor as the Jazz begin to falter even though Devin, Gordon, and EVEN RAJA started the game well, just so those bench guys have minutes in the boxscore.
Which feeds into another problem. His rotations make little sense. I cannot count how many times this year that Ty has brought Devin, Gordon, and Raja back into the game with two minutes left in the half. What purpose does that serve? These guys come in ice cold after sitting for up to 45 minutes real time and by the time the warm back up the half is over. He also seems committed to keeping Jefferson and Millsap together and Favors and Kanter together. This becomes a problem because while Favors has shown the ability to score in the post, it is an inconsistent skill to say the least. The young bigman lineup struggles to score in many games which stops the Jazz from building a lead, or getting back into a game. Jefferson or Millsap need to be on the floor at all times. Favors and Kanter need to be accompanied by one of those guys who can handle the scoring load.
Finally, Corbin decided to stick to the basic blueprint of the Jerry Sloan/Phil Johnson offense. Teams struggled early on in the season to handle the offense because of lack of scouting/practice time, but things have caught up to them. Teams have figured out to stay home on our big guys and let our shooters, who cannot shoot, shoot. The Jazz can no longer score. The team itself seems ill-suited personnel wise to run this offense. In this excellent piece by Chuck Klosterman, Phil Jackson basically lays out why this Sloan style offense never reaches the pinnacles of success. Curiously also points out the offense which it seems is perfectly suited for this Jazz team to run, The Triangle. Jefferson seems to be a perfect low-block component of the triangle offense. While we don't have a wing player even resembling Jordan, Kobe, or even Scottie Pippen Jefferson could do a passable Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan impersonation. The system itself has produced champions under Jackson and to a lesser extent the Spurs. It seems perfect for this Jazz team which lacks shooting touch from the outside. The Sloan offense I believe requires a certain type of players: hard screeners and crafty wing-players who are adept at playing without the ball in their hands on offense. Lastly a point guard who can deliver the ball with precision to cutters. The Jazz have none of those players. We have a point guard is adept and driving and pushing the ball (Harris) wing-players who are at their best with the ball in their hands making plays (Hayward, Burks) and bigmen who are terrible screeners (Jefferson). It's time to move on from the Sloan/Johnson offensive philosophy and embrace the personnel on the team. Let Hayward and Burks be the playmaker's on offense.
Still, this is Ty's first full year as a head coach. I'm sure he is still figuring things out and within a few years he will have his own independent style. Right now though, he's struggling.
CONTRARIAN OPINION #3
Devin Harris > Earl Watson
I love Earl. We all love Earl. Right now though, he doesn't seem right. He is not the same player he was to start the year. It's a combination of a few things. First, teams have figured out the Jazz second unit. They know they have to get back on defense because Earl pushes the ball better than most. Second they know that no one on that unit can score from outside five feet so they are packing the paint and forcing (lately Earl) to try and shoot. It hasn't been pretty. The second reason is it seems like Earl is still dealing with the ankle injury he sustained at the end of January.
Meanwhile, Devin Harris has quietly started to pick his game up. He's been agressive. His defense is improving. His shot has even been pretty steady from outside. He's played really well though the Jazz have been losing. His minutes have not increased with his increased production however. I was lucky enough to come upon some great tickets to the Raptors @ Jazz game that may have started this downward spiral, and my night was ruined by two things. First the Jazz choking away the game to a terrible team, and second some guy behind me who was screaming at the top of his lungs literally EVERY SECOND that Devin was on the court "EARLLLLLLLL!!!!!! PUT IN EARRRRLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!" Meanwhile, Devin Harris was having a great game (until his botched FT's at the end of the game).
Jazz fans, especially that guy behind me, don't want to hear it but Earl is not what we need right now. If Devin regains his past form the Jazz are in VERY good shape. It's time that Devin starts to get starter minutes instead of splitting point guard minutes with Earl. Atleast until Earl gets back to his normal self.
CONTRARIAN OPINION #4
Jeremy Evans will either WIN or FLOP in the dunk contest.
There is no inbetween. I have no idea why I am so nervous for somebody I do not know.