All non-NBA fans, feel free to skip today’s post. NBA fans who could care less about Utah, you may pretty much do the same. The other two people still reading (Denys & Scott), please enjoy.
Paul Millsap plays with the fortitude of a thousand men.
Everything that is said here comes with two asterisks attached. The first asterisk is: It’s still November and nobody, including many of the players, cares yet about the 2008-2009 NBA season. The second is: Deron Williams has not been healthy, and assuming his return to the line-up last night is permanent, it’s not worth wasting time fretting over Utah’s early season performance without him. Williams has essentially been out for the last five weeks with an ankle sprain. Why anyone in the Jazz organization thought he should play back-to-back nights earlier this month if his ankle wasn’t fully recovered is beyond me.
What is also beyond me is why Bill Simmons’s (completely justified) man crush on Chris Paul has led him to slander Williams. Simmons said this in his most recent column:
I argued before the season, passionately, that Paul was in a different league and earned myself a few death threats from the Salt Lake City area. (You stay classy, Utah.) Check out their 2009 stats through four weeks:
• Paul: 20.5 PPG, 12.2 APG, 2.9 steals, 52.3% FG, 85.6% FT.
• Williams: 7.5 PPG, 8.0 APG, 0.0 steals, 26.7% FG, 66.7% FT.
I mean, that’s a landslide! Come on! Can we all agree to stop arguing about this?
Seriously, Bill? It’s not worth mentioning that Williams has played in all of two games this year? On a bum ankle? This is like comparing how fast two cars can go from zero to 60 when one of them is in the shop with a flat tire. There are legitimate arguments for Paul over Williams, but this is not one of them.
Other observations on Utah’s 10-6 start thus far:
Jerry Sloan got his 1,000th NBA win with the Jazz. He became the first coach in league history to win 1000 games with one team. And judging from the way he left the court after the November 7 win over the astoundingly (historically?) bad Oklahoma City Thunder, you’d have thought someone just told him his dog died. “I wished I could’ve crawled under the bleachers and got out of there a little quicker,” Sloan said after the game. (This is an actual quote.)
Andrei Kirilenko thinks it’s 2004. This is a good thing. He doesn’t look like a corpse out there and coming off the bench as a sixth man has rejuvenated him. This also makes me taking him in round seven of my fantasy draft look slightly less insane. Also, I’m sure everyone has this bookmarked already, but here’s his official website.
(Since I don’t anticipate anyone actually clicking on that link, here is a photograph from the site of Andrei during a photo shoot with the Russian girl band KuBa.)
This man is a god in Russia.
Losing to the Wizards is not a good thing. This would fall under the “Utah without Williams” note above, except Williams actually played in this game. As did Carlos Boozer. It was in the middle of a 1-4 road trip which included a loss at Charlotte. Those two teams are a combined 6-20. I bet this is what Kobe Bryant uses as material for trash-talking come playoff time. (“You think you can win on the road in Staples Arena in the conference finals, Deron? You can’t even win at the Verizon Center.”)
Injuries are rampant. Aside from Williams, Boozer, Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring and the 76-year-old Brevin Knight have all missed games due to injury. Mehmet Okur was out of the line-up while he went to Turkey to visit his ailing father. And in the Even-I-Don’t-Care Department, Jarron Collins is considering elbow surgery which would keep him out at least two months.
It’s worth mentioning here that as a Jazz fan, I’m just not used to injuries. I think a sprained ankle or broken finger is the end of the world. This is what John Stockton and Karl Malone did to me. They missed a combined 66 games in their 18 seasons together. Even when you don’t include the playoffs, that’s nearly 98% of their career that they suited up together, ailing bodies be damned. I’m getting teary just bringing this up.
This squad may be the deepest team Utah has ever had. The bright side of all these injuries is that everyone is getting some experience, most of all Ronnie Price, C.J. Miles (averaging over 10 ppg) and Kosta Koufus, while Paul Millsap is averaging 11 and 6 and shooting 55% from the floor in just 26 minutes a game. As a result of this…
I am considering picking up Millsap in my fantasy league. I should not need to add here that “Utah’s Starting Lineup” is not a threat to come in anywhere near first place, as I have put most of my focus into acquiring the entire Jazz roster (completed last week when I got Okur off waivers) instead of picking a team that could actually win. This explains why I would seriously consider adding Millsap and dumping, say, Brad Miller or Jermaine O’Neal. I’m the guy everyone wants in a fantasy league because he’ll always pad the bottom third of the standings. I am beginning to understand what running the Clippers must be like.
A few other NBA-at-large observations:
Derrick Rose is good. This doesn’t need further explanation. Scott, I am happy for you.
I love watching the Spurs lose. I am comfortable with the fact that wishing continued physical harm on a collective group of individuals makes me a terrible person. I’d love it even more if Gregg Popovich got a really nasty face rash or something.
Allen Iverson will not help Detroit win anything. Joe Dumars is not dumb. But him saying that Iverson “allows us to be very competitive and have a chance right now” is hogwash. At least Joe D likes to roll the dice. (And yes, I know that the Pistons won in L.A.)
On the other hand…
Chauncey Billups will help Denver win a lot. I think Billups has always been overrated, but the native son is a great fit for the Nuggets. It almost makes up for Denver shamelessly trading Camby for cap space. Conversely, this is not good news for the Jazz. If there’s a bright spot in all this, it’s that George Karl knows how to steer a team off the rails. That helps me sleep easier at night.
Stephon Marbury is a total absolute headcase. This has been well known for quite some time, but it’s impressive how Starbury can take it to new levels. Thank you, Mike D’Antoni, for reinforcing that what every Little League/Youth Soccer/Biddy Basketball coach teaches about attitude and teamwork applies to professional athletes as well. The best part is that Marbury is still on the books for $21 million this year. Who doesn’t love to hate the Knicks?
My brother should be going to Blazers games every night. Quiz: Which two teams are still undefeated at home? The Cavs you might guess, but who would’ve picked Portland? What’s more, three of those wins were overtime or one point victories. I hereby publicly declare my man crush on Brandon Roy.