Tag: New Jersey Nets

Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson

NBA Preview: Utah Jazz


Last season: The Utah Jazz were what they have always seemed to be — solid. They moved on from the Deron Williams era to a team that tried to dominate with its front line of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, while hoping young guys like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors would develop. The result was 36-30, a good team that got the eight seed in the West then were swept out of the playoffs.

They also lost their high draft pick that the Warriors owed them when Golden State tanked their way all the way to the No. 7 pick (Harrison Barnes).

Key Departures: The Jazz didn’t lose much, unless you are a huge Devin Harris fan. Exactly. Not much.

Key Additions: Utah basically stood pat, they want to see how their young players develop and keep their cap space open for next summer.

But the Jazz did make moves. They tried to bolster their roster by adding veterans Mo Williams and Marvin Williams. Marvin will be a nice upgrade for them at the three, he’s not explosive but he is better than what they had. Mo Williams will give them some points and a midrange shooting threat out of the backcourt, but the Jazz struggled more on defense last season and he doesn’t help there. They also added Randy Foye.

Three keys to the Jazz season:

1) How big a step forward can Derrick Favors take? What about Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter? While the Jazz want all their young players to develop, Favors is the key. The Jazz struggled on defense last season — they were 19th in the league in points allowed per possession — but the second half of the season Favors started to look like a defensive beast. They need that, and they need him on the boards. But what really has to happen is his offensive game needs to continue to evolve so he can get some minutes up front with Millsap and Jefferson, who both were playing like All-Stars last season.

Hayward took steps forward last season on both ends of the floor but his jumper has to be more reliable. Kanter could use to develop (or show) his jumper more and find a way to fit into the offense. The Jazz are banking on growth from these guys.

2) How does coach Ty Corbin juggle all these big men and make it work? Utah has some real talent along the front line — it may be a tad undersized but only a couple teams in the league are better down low than the Jazz. (Unfortunately, two of them are in the West with the Lakers and Grizzlies.) The Jazz rely on their front line players for everything but they need to find a balance with their top players — Jefferson and Millsap — and the guys they are trying to groom with Favors and Kanter. They need to find a balance between points in the paint and defense (Favors can provide both as he develops).

With Jefferson and Millsap in the last year of their deals, they both could be on the trade block as well.

3) What is the big picture direction for the Jazz? They have some guys entering their peak with Jefferson and Millsap, they have some developing guys like Favors and Hayward and in some ways they can seem like a team on the rise. But they don’t have the one elite star who glues the whole thing together (unless you are higher on Favors than everyone else). They are a young team with a ton of cap space next summer.

The Jazz have a nice core and room to maneuver. The question is what is the long-term goal (besides “winning”)? What kind of team do they want to be and how do they want to build it. They have options. They can do it through the draft, they can make trades, they can go after free agents, give Favors a larger role, a whole lot of things.

In the next year is when the Jazz will define who they are for the following five years at least. The real pressure on this team is with the front office. The question is what kind of team are they trying to build.

What Jazz fans should fear: Life in the NBA’s middle ground. The Jazz are going to spend this season fighting for one of the lower seeds in the Western conference, and even if they miss their draft pick is still in the teens. It’s easy in the NBA to get trapped into being good without ever being great. The Jazz have that potential. They also have the cap room and players to avoid it, but if I were a Jazz fan my biggest concern is that they become just good.

How it likely works out: They may be one of the hardest teams to predict in the NBA because they are counting on development of young players and they are in position to move key pieces in trades. Most likely they make smaller trades that look to the future, their young players develop some and they are in the hunt for the eighth playoff spot in the West with Dallas, Minnesota, Golden State and others.

Prediction: They finish 41-41 and that ends up being the eight seed. Or nine seed. Or 10 seed. They are good, maybe Millsap will get some All-Star recognition, but this year ends up being about what is to come in future years.

Rajon Rondo explains why he is best point guard in NBA

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo is convinced he is the best point guard in the NBA. We’ve heard him say it before, laughed to ourselves (or rolled our eyes), patted him on the back and said, “sure you are, kid” then moved on.

But Rondo isn’t backing down.

And in the cover story of the current edition of Boston Common Magazine (which I was pointed to by WEEI and SLAM, because I let my subscription lapse) Rondo detailed why he is the man.

“It’s always the whole package,” he says. “Some fans look at a point guard and say he had 26 points, seven assists, and eight rebounds, and they’ll say he had a great game. But there is a lot of talent in the NBA, and eventually that talent catches up with you. The mental game is where it’s at. I would say the game is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, for me at least. What separates great players from good ones is performing consistently. I can dominate the game in any number of ways, not just with the numbers.”

“My definition of what a good point guard is might be different from what some others might think,” he says. “I’ll give you an example: If [head coach] Doc Rivers gets thrown out, I can run the team for the rest of the game. I know what plays to call, what sets to call, or when to call time outs. It’s more than keeping track of the score. There is so much more going on that you take for granted on any given night, and there are only so many guys who can run a team when you don’t have a coach. In that category I think I am the best at what I do.”

The problem with the “who is best” argument is you end up with an elite point guard like Rondo and you have to tear him down. And we shouldn’t, we should celebrate the fact that Rondo is very good at controlling the flow of the game, that he is a very good defender. Rondo is a great fit for the Celtics (and has looked like a confident leader through a couple preseason games).

But Chris Paul does all that and is a better shooter. He is actually as good or better at controlling the tempo of the game, of playing chess to everyone else’s checkers. And while Rondo can take over a game if Rivers gets tossed, CP3 has Vinny Del Negro on the sidelines every night.

But we are splitting hairs here. Paul, Rondo, Deron Williams are on their own level (Steve Nash is step back to me due to his defense and age). I’d put CP3 at the head of the pack, but it’s not a big step. And as we’ve said before, I wouldn’t want Rondo to think any other way than that he is the best.

Man, we really need some games to start breaking down.

With smile on his face, Cuban fires back at Deron Williams

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban loves this kind of through-the-media banter. Just ask Phil Jackson. Or Shaq. Or a host of others. Cuban is very good at saying something with a smile on his face but with a knife in his hands.

So when Deron Williams fired a shot at Mark Cuban saying the fact Cuban was off filming “Shark Tank” on the day Williams met with the Mavs sealed the deal he was going to the Nets, you knew Cuban would eventually fire back.

And he did, speaking to the media in Barcelona where his Mavs were about to lose a preseason game to FC Barcelona, via the Dallas Morning News.

“I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference,’’ Cuban said before the Mavericks’ exhibition game against FC Barcelona Regal. “I would have expected him to say – like I’d expect one of our guys to say – ‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’…

“He’s a superstar point guard, but my goal is to build a team. That’s the important thing, to try to win championships.

“I’m flattered that he thought my presence would have made more of a difference than what the Nets’ management did.’’


To be clear, Cuban could have been there and brought Kate Hudson to pour glasses of Cristal and D-Will still probably would have chosen the Nets. That is where he was leaning. And he saw what the Nets were doing and heard what their long-term plans were. (Apparently those plans were to go over the cap and lock themselves into basically this roster for years, but it’s a plan.)

What Williams said was he had questions about the long-range plans in Dallas that GM Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t satisfactorily answer. Sounds to me like Williams really threw those two under the bus.

And of course, if you are building a team, step one is to get a couple of superstars together, like Williams and, oh, I don’t know, maybe… Dirk Nowitizki? Someone like that.

Bulls’ Carlos Boozer says to judge him by wins, losses

Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer has frustrated fans in three cities. Cleveland for how he left. Utah and Chicago for how he played — good but never quite as good as expected.

Boozer is used to the criticism (the man played at Duke, not where you go if you want basketball fans everywhere to love you). He’s heard Bulls fans complain about his production and numbers. But he also knows that the criticism quiets when the team wins, and that is his focus.

Here is what he told the Sun Times.

“People look at it from the wrong perspective,’’ Boozer said. “This isn’t Utah, and this isn’t just a team with me and [former Jazz point guard] Deron Williams on it. We’re playing with five scorers here, so your touches aren’t going to be the same, your looks aren’t going to be the same. It’s a different system.

“All the people should worry about is if we win. Criticize me if we lose, but if we win, just praise us.’’

This year that might open up the door to criticism. Without Derrick Rose for much of the season, the Bulls likely are a playoff team (they still defend and play hard for Tom Thibodeau) but they are not a threat. They are not the team with the best record in the East the two previous seasons. They are vulnerable. They are not contenders.

With Rose back Chicago could become the seven seed nobody wants to face. Could. But this is going to be a tougher year in Chicago, and Boozer knows the criticism is coming. Loudly. He’s just kind of used to it.

And he knows he’ll hear it until he is wearing a ring.

Deron Williams says Cuban not meeting with him helped “clinch” Nets deal

Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban reacts during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Dallas

UPDATE 4:55 pm: Mark Cuban and the Mavericks are in Spain for an exhibition game, but when reached by Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com for a response to what Deron Williams said Cuban took the high road.

“I’m very happy with the ways thing turned out for the Mavs and wish DWill the best,” Cuban said via email from Barcelona, Spain, where the remodeled Mavs play an exhibition game Tuesday.

Also,  here is Deron Williams’ full quote:

“I think (Cuban) would have been able to answer a lot of the questions me and my agent have for him that really didn’t get answered that day pertaining to the future,” Williams told reporters. “And I think if he was there he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. It maybe would have helped me.

“(I wanted to hear about) the direction of the future of the team, other than Dirk. Players they were thinking about. Everything was basically just their track record, trust their track record, which is, you know, I can honor that, because they do have a good track record but it’s not enough for me, especially when [Nets general manager Billy King] was updating me daily.”

4:11 pm: When Deron Williams went as a free agent to meet with the Dallas Mavericks this summer — the only team he seriously talked to besides the Brooklyn Nets — Mark Cuban was not there.

As was much discussed in Dallas at the time, Cuban was off filming his television show “Shark Tank.” Cuban has discussed this a bunch of times, saying he had spoken to Williams and that he didn’t think it was a factor at all in Williams decision to sign in Brooklyn.

Williams said it did matter. From the twitter of Howard Beck of the New York Times.

Well. There you go. These things do matter.

Ultimately it probably didn’t make a difference — D-Will had pretty clearly been leaning Brooklyn from the start. He liked living in the city, he liked the marketing and other opportunities New York provides, he liked where the Nets were heading and he wanted to stay (plus, longer contract with more guaranteed money). He very likely was a Net no matter what.

But no Cuban may have killed whatever chance the Mavericks had.