Monson: At the break, Jazz need to rethink, readjust
By Gordon Monson
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Feb 23 2012 12:41PM
As the Jazz skidded into the All-Star break, having lost a game at Minnesota they had no business losing, having suffered their 13th defeat in 19 games, having dropped their 11th road decision in 14 tries, having established their subterranean position in the Northwest Division, Tyrone Corbin said something plainly profound, something simple but important.
He said: "We’ve got to learn our lessons."
And grass is green, Sherlock.
Yeah, that’s what the break is for: rethinking and readjusting to the obvious. Remember Jerry Sloan heading to McLeansboro a few seasons back, when Deron Williams was a rook, and while riding his tractor out on the north 40 being struck by the epiphany that he should play Williams more?
For some reason, that notion hadn’t occurred to Sloan, despite Williams clearly being a better point guard than Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio. Williams said later that had he been playing, the Jazz would have made the playoffs. He also said, prophetically enough, that over that stretch he "hated" Sloan.
Well. It’s time for the Jazz — and especially Corbin — to learn their lessons. There are a few barefaced beauties.
For instance, as the Jazz crumbled in front of the T-wolves, getting killed in the fourth quarter, Corbin’s substitution response flat out didn’t work. And it wasn’t the first time. His use of timeouts was dubious. His lack of innovation glaring.
Maybe it should become a priority to … say, defend the perimeter.
How many deep shooters have to punish the Jazz before they bow to this adjustment? Look at what’s happened in the past weeks: Chris Paul went for 34 points in a Jazz loss. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry combined for 62 in a Jazz loss. Jeremy Lin got 28 in a Jazz loss. Paul George and Darren Collison teamed for 39 in a Jazz loss. Russell Westbrook put 28 on the Jazz in a loss. Marco Belinelli and Greivis Vasquez got 25 in a Jazz loss. Westbrook and James Harden totaled 38 in a Jazz loss. Kyle Lowry fired up 32 in a Jazz loss. Tony Parker and Matt Bonner got 43 in a Jazz loss. And J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour had 39, including Ridnour’s game-winning teardrop, in a Jazz loss.
Even worse, check out the shooting percentages from the field by those players. All told, they made 126 of 224 shots, including 36 of 69 3-pointers. Take out Belinelli and Vasquez, who went 7-for-25 and 2-for-7 from distance, and the totals sit at 119 of 199 and 34 of 62. Ridiculous. If the Jazz’s defensive philosophy is to hope those shooters start missing … they’ll suffer the same results.
Moreover, at some point, it has to dawn on Corbin to play Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward as much as possible, even when it hurts.
That doesn’t mean completely benching Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. It means balancing the minutes and making sure the youngsters get some run. Through this latest losing stretch, Favors and Kanter have been getting less time, not more. And that’s screwing them up.
Favors played just 12 minutes against Minnesota and San Antonio. Kanter got eight and 10. At Houston, Favors had 14 and Kanter 11. Burks’ time has gone up, but it still hovers in the 10- to 16-minute range. Not enough.
Every game the Jazz lose in which the younger players get less time is wasted opportunity. What are the Jazz really about this season? A deep playoff run? No. Development of four lottery picks, including two No. 3s? Yes.
If losing seven more games this season off some median in tough growth meant winning seven more games next season via gained experience, would it be worth it? Jazz fans are smart. They get it. They also are more switched on, even in defeat, by the promise of a bright future than the certainty, even in victory, of a ho-hum present.
The clock is ticking on the contracts of the youngsters, who might need a positive experience to want to stay, while many of the veterans’ deals end after next season, when they definitely will be gone.
Corbin should encourage Kevin O’Connor to make a move before the trade deadline, or, better yet, keep an eye on the draft, and grow and try real hard until then.
Nobody craves Jefferson’s $14 million contract. But if the Jazz could add even a compromised point guard who is an authentic distributor, and one shooter, while clearing space for the aforementioned big youngsters, they should do it. Even better, they could simply endure the cold wind and not shiver one bit. Just utilize Golden State’s first-round — but protected — pick and their own lottery selection. There are a couple of sweet point guards in the coming draft, and some shooters, too, any of whom would make Corbin a better coach.
Yeah, the grass is green.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.