Wednesday, February 06, 2008
I haven't posted about the Utah Jazz much recently, in part because during December they were dreadful and also because my sports coverage here is rather dreadful as this isn't a sports blog (although I'm free to start one if ESPN will toss some cash my way). Nevertheless, after the December to remember, the Jazz turned it around with the Kyle Korver trade. I don't care what anybody says, this trade could have been the 2007 equivalent of Jeff Malone for Jeff Hornacek. The key here was getting rid of Gordan Giricek's Expiring Contract. Korver himself was a bonus (and what a bonus - his 3 point shooting, white guy status, and free throw shooting ability would make him a mortal lock as Future Hornacek if it wasn't for his Ashton Kutcher looks) but Giricek was locker room poison. Korver himself seems to be, in addition to a solid player, a great glue guy. He came in not looking for minutes, just supporting the team, and the minutes took care of themself. I think it's hurt Ronnie Brewer a bit, but if they're both comfortable with their roles, I don't see any reason why the current 1/3 and 2/4 setup where they each get half the game shouldn't continue to work. He's opened the floor up some more and that combined with the resurgence of Mehmet Okur (coincidentally it was right around the Giricek trade) means things are roses and the Jazz can actually beat a team on the road, and a good team like Denver at that. I think that the Giricek-Korver trade might have been a bit of inspiration for Phoenix with the Marion-Shaq trade. Sure, it just blew up the team, but if the Matrix was as poisonous as Giri was here, it could work out well for them even though he doesn't fit their style at all.
Back to the Jazz for a moment...they've beaten 2 of the top 8 teams in the West back-to-back. I have constantly looked at Hollinger's Power Rankings and seen the Jazz up towards the top even though they really stunk for a while. Now they're number 2 and it seems legit. This team here could certainly challenge anybody in the playoffs and barring a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs somewhere (for some unknown reason the Jazz haven't won in San Antonio since the invention of the automobile) I could see them go all the way. Of course, this is all subject to change as the West is just a beast of tough to get through. It's why the proposal I've seen floating around to just take the top 16 teams period and have them play towards the Finals isn't a bad idea. It defeats the purpose of East/West for anything other than minimizing travel, but when you have such a weak East (and weak for the forseeable future - if the National League is AAAA, the East is whatever is between the NBDL and the NBA) it makes things a little more fair.