5 Keys for the Utah Jazz and the Fans in 2011-2012

Grab your seatbelts Jazz fans, and buckle up!  You know what time it is.  That’s right, it’s Utah Jazz time.  After a prolonged owner lockout, the two sides came together at the 11th hour and got a deal done to get this season started on Christmas Day.  I know a lot of people have decided they don’t care about the NBA anymore.  To be honest, if this thing had drug out any longer, I probably would have been one of them.  As it is, the NBA came through and put this together in time to save my interest.  In fact, I think the NBA should just postpone the start of the regular season until Christmas each year and play fewer games.  I don’t typically watch after the first game or two until January when football slows down, so it would be great for me.

I just wanted to put together some quick notes on the team and get this up for you Jazz fan.

So who is on this year’s roster to get excited over?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  That’s what I’m here for.  Check out these player profiles.

# Player Pos HT WT From Exp Salary
0 Enes Kanter C 6-11 267 Kentucky R $4.13 M
5 Devin Harris G 6-3 192 Wisconsin 7 $9.32 M
6 Jamaal Tinsley G 6-3 197 Iowa State 8  
8 Josh Howard F 6-7 210 Wake Forest 8  
10 Alec Burks G 6-6 202 Colorado R $2.02 M
11 Earl Watson G 6-1 199 UCLA 10  
13 Mehmet Okur C 6-11 260 Turkey 9 $10.9 M
15 Derrick Favors F 6-10 248 Georgia Tech 1 $4.43 M
19 Raja Bell G 6-5 210 Florida Int 11 $3.24 M
20 Gordon Hayward F 6-8 210 Butler 1 $2.53 M
24 Paul Millsap F 6-8 253 La. Tech 5 $6.70 M
25 Al Jefferson C 6-10 289 Prentiss HS 7 $14.0 M
34 CJ Miles G 6-6 222 Skyline HS 6 $3.70 M
40 Jeremy Evans F 6-9 194 Western Kentucky 1 $788 K
16 Francisco Elson F 6-9 194 California 8 FA
44 Kyrylo Fesenko C 7-1 280 Ukraine 4 FA
47 Andrei Kirilenko F 6-9 235 Russia 10 FA

 

Now that you are familiar with this year’s roster (keep in mind the last three are free agents – it looks like the Jazz are severing ties with AK for good) it’s time to look at what the Jazz will need to do this season to be successful.  Let’s face it, after Monday’s horrific performance, I’m not convinced Al Jefferson is ready to play all the minutes, despite his statement that the team took plays off last season.  Head coach Ty Corbin has stated since camp opened that he would play only players ready to contribute to the success of the team and it took him all of one quarter to realize that the desire might be best showcased by the plethora of young talent on this team.

1.       There shouldn’t be any guarantees for playing time this season

The Jazz are trying desperately to avoid the “r” word, you know, rebuilding.  They act like its taboo; like admitting they are reconstructing this team is the worst possible-case scenario.  Well, Kevin O’Connor, it isn’t.  Jazz fans are passionate and we want to see our team win.  But we also realize that you can’t have “Stockton to Malone” every year.  We tried to rebuild that with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer and neither of those guys plays in the state anymore.  The veterans shouldn’t get the start just because they are veterans.  If the experience is performing better in practice and on the court, then let them play.  But conversely, if the youth is showing the heart, hustle, and passion, then let them play.

2.       The youth and potential on this team is crazy exciting

There are four players on this roster that have one year or less experience in this league and were taken with a first round pick at number 12 or earlier.  Devin Harris is likely our best bet at point guard for now but he’s no slouch.  He was a 5th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft.  He’s been an all-star before and has been a defensive stopper as well.  Teams all over the league would jump for the chance to coach up this talent potential.  I agree with Gordon Monson’s article this week that the Jazz should just get as much playing time to Kanter, Favors, Hayward, Burks, and Evans and let them learn to play together and grow together and develop together.  Check out http://basketballprospectus.com/products/schoene2011/. This website put together comps for all the players in the NBA.  He has Burks with potential to be another Derrick Rose and Favors to be another Bosh.

3.       Josh Howard

Who is this guy?  Again, according to http://basketballprospectus.com/products/schoene2011/, he compares his to the likes of Blue Edwards.  That’s not a bad deal for a good role player for the Jazz.  He’s a former first round pick in 2003 who has the potential to fill the role of a true small forward, a position the Jazz have filled with under-sized Hayward and Miles as well as lanky Evans.  He’s been an all-star, a second team all-rookie, and he’s also been a giant off-court distraction for his club.  He’s a great risk with a one-year contract and a change to resurrect his playing career.

4.       Corbin has to get something from nothing

Right now, the Jazz coaching staff has a lot of unproven talent and potential on this team.  Except for Jefferson, Okur, and Harris, there aren’t any big money players on this team.  Jefferson has shown an ability to be dominant as well as uninterested.  Okur is coming back from a nasty Achilles injury in the 2009 playoffs against Denver.  Harris is a former all-star, but seems unmotivated at times.  The Jazz are reconstructing their defensive philosophy and that might help Harris return to his previous defensive prowess.  But that isn’t much to hang your hat on.  This coaching staff (as well as General Manager Kevin O’Connor) will need to focus on getting the most from a likely unexpected source.

5.       Patience

Patience is going to be the word of the season.  Patience from the players while this coaching staff figures out how to coach.  Patience from the coaches as the players struggle, succeed, win, and lose.  Patience from the fans as the prototypical Jazz team won’t be evident on the floor for 48 minutes every night.  This team has a chance to be very good and may well be one or two more pieces from being very, very good.  Follow the model of the Oklahoma City Thunder, develop your youth, let them play, let them lose, and the team will reap the rewards.  Be patient.

However, as a fan, I can tell you that I will have a hard time watching and staying interested in this team if the players look like they don’t care or appear to feel entitled and indifferent.  The Jazz fans won’t let the club forget that they almost lost a season squabbling over more money than many of us will ever see in a lifetime.  If we see lackadaisical play, whiny, self-centered players, and an overall poor attempt and growing towards being the best they can be, the fans will leave and the Energy Solutions Arena will have more empty green seats than they care to see.

As a fan, I’m excited for this team.  I don’t expect a lot this season.  I don’t feel a low playoff seed is out of reach, but I also don’t expect that.  I do hope I will see the fire and passion that used to drive this team when Jerry Sloan coached the Statues out on the plaza.

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