Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm Jazzed

I'm quite excited about the first month of NBA basketball. I'm even more excited about the play of the Utah Jazz. I thought that they had potential for sure, but I didn't know they would be off for a (at their current pace) 56 win season this year. I've been impressed by a couple of things:
1. How wrong I was about Andrei Kirelinko. After his comments in Russian about how disgruntled he was with Coach Sloan and the Jazz system, combined with the disparaging comments from Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer about his work ethic and I thought that if we didn't deal him we'd end up with another one of those Greg Ostertag situations where nobody wins, except for the player's bank account. Instead AK-47 has stepped up and returned to his All-Star form, making both fantasy owners and me delighted.
2. The emergence of Ronnie Brewer. I don't understand why Jazz fans booed Derek Fisher when he came back to the Delta Center this year. It's completely mental. Sure, this wasn't his destination of choice for a variety of reasons, but he gave us what we needed: a one year leadership training seminar for Booz and D-Will. Why would we want to be yoked to his mega contract when we're getting more production out of Brewer at a fraction of the price? The Jazz came out of that deal as good as I could have imagined.
3. Coach Sloan's evolution. Who knew that Sloan could be somewhat warm and fuzzy? I have always appreciated his hard-nosed approach with his players, although that has led to some problems at times (see: Milt Palacio/Keith McLeod/Carlos Arroyo), it's something that has brought his teams up a notch. While I'm sure Williams hated the first part of his rookie year, I think that it has helped him become a better leader. It's certainly helped the Jazz' work ethic all around. I think that Sloan has gotten the most out of his players, but when he found out that he wasn't doing that with AK, he did a Malonesque 360 and gave him what he needed.
4. D-Will's emergence as the leader. Booz is right there with him, but Williams is a presence to behold and he's taking that role and running with it. On top of that, they've become a spectacular team. With AK out of his funk, the Jazz have 4 All-Star caliber players in their starting lineup with Brewer a valuable role player (although Okur has not played nearly as well as he did last year). It's certainly the best lineup the Jazz have had since Hornacek retired, if not ever.
5. Fess. He's going to be good. I'd love to see him step up to the NBA permanently and replace Collins, who is not worth what we're paying him to flop.

Some disappointments:
1. Okur. Yeah, he's had a bad back, but that's tough. We could really use him spreading the floor and creating mismatches for his opponents. If he can return to last year's form, that'd really be a great development.
2. Gordan Giricek's Expiring Contract. Why don't we use this for something? It's 4.4 million that we could package to somebody for something and it comes off the books at the end of the year. Put him and Collins together with a draft pick or something and get us a return on that investment!

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