Tag Archives: Utah Jazz

Celebrating Ray Allen as the generally uninteresting Jerry Sloan era ends

NBA-TV has been reporting all day (Thursday) that coach Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz have scheduled a press conference for 5 PM (EST) and it is expected that Sloan will resign as Jazz coach after 23 years.

The Jazz have, in fact, accepted the resignations of Sloan and his top assistant, Phil Johnson, ending an era of stability in Utah that went on and on longer than any coaching run in North American “big four” professional sports; it was an era in which nothing terribly exciting or interesting ever really happened for the sports team from Utah.

There was “the shot” drained by Michael Jordan in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals to finish off the Jazz, but even that moment — a moment that belongs to Jordan and the Bulls — seemed less exciting and interesting than it might have been had the Jazz been elsewhere at the time.

It was a shot had been shot before, heard previously around the world against the Jazz in another game six of the NBA Finals, in 1997, with Steve Kerr doing the honors for the Bulls off a routine draw and kick from Jordan.

Yes, Jerry Sloan’s Jazz teams ran steadily like clockwork, played good defense, were consistently good and remarkably efficient — but they were never interesting or great.  Point guard John Stockton and power forward Karl Malone were likewise consistently good, remarkably efficient, an offensive clock ticking off the Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll — but there was nothing dynamic about the duo, and they never achieved greatness.

So the Jerry Sloan era — defined as it was by Jordan even as it failed to push to Jordan to further greatness or a game seven (Patrick Ewing‘s Knicks were the more worthy foils) — is over.  It’s about time, one might say, if only the timing had been better.

Tonight was expected to be a night to celebrate the greatness of Ray Allen, who needs to make just two high arching expressions of basketball beauty from Downtown to become the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history.  That may happen tonight in Boston when the Celtics meet the Lakers.  It may even happen over the outstretched hand of Kobe Bryant, Allen’s longtime nemesis.

If the basketball gods are watching — and they surely will be — they might marvel at Allen’s longevity as the game’s most dangerous shooter.  They might wonder at the perfection of his shot, or pass a comment or two on Kobe’s competitiveness, reflect on the panicked despair that fell upon the faces of the Celtics last June when they realized they were on the brink of losing game seven.

Reggie Miller, the current career three-point shot record holder, will be on hand in Boston, in the TNT broadcast chair, fittingly, appropriately.  This was to be Ray and Reggie’s night, a night to celebrate the art of shooting a basketball and the poetry of the game’s finest point. It even offered the possibility that two of the game’s great shooting guards might, for a change, take the spotlight from Kobe.

This was not a night to attempt to define the Jerry Sloan era, 23 years in which so many of the things taking place in the NBA were much more interesting than whatever it was that was happening with the team from Utah.

Their left feet: Jennings leads his Bogut-less Bucks to Utah

Slow news day this Monday in the Bucks camp but yesterday the Bucks did note that Andrew Bogut didn’t travel with the team to Utah, which ought to keep life very interesting for Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute, who gutted out a much-needed 104-101 win against the Bobcats Saturday, ending the Bucks five-game losing streak.

How a group of NBA players — no matter who they are — can shoot as poorly as the Bucks did in losing those five games is a mystery, one that unfolded with a strange side-effect:  the new guys — Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden — developed sore feet.  Even stranger was that the soreness did not attack just any feet, but has targeted Maggette and Gooden’s left feet.

Whatever the source of this strange left foot malady, Maggette didn’t suit up Saturday and coach Scott Skiles took the opportunity to do what many Bucks fans have been calling on him to do since the first games of the seasom:  move Gooden to the bench, where he sat all game registering a DNP.  Ilyasova took the starting power forward duties and, from the opening tap the Bucks seemed to recognize each other — and themselves —  and jumped out to a double digit lead that they held until the ‘Cats made a gritty run at them in the fourth quarter.

Ilyasova played 40+ minutes and finished with 17 pts, 9 rebs and six assists — showing again that if Skiles gives him minutes, he doesn’t play as though he has two left feet.  Mbah a Moute played all but 40 seconds of the game and posted 12 pts, 10 boards battling with Gerald Wallace and harassing Stephen Jackson into two technical fouls and an ejection early in the first quarter.

Larry Sanders started at center and had his best game as a pro, while the generally terrible Jon Brockman backed Sanders up in the first half and was benched in the 2nd.  John Salmons was good for three quarters before running out of gas in the 4th.

Jennings, as prescribed, was great, leading the Bucks with 32 pts and 6 assists.  Maybe it was the absence of Gooden clogging the post and demanding the ball — maybe it was Jennings simply taking over — but the ball moved, the Bucks shooters got well for one night and the losing streak ended.  They’ll need Jennings to assert and maintain control of the Bucks offense this week in Utah and Denver.

Their left feet: Maggette limped off the court in Detroit Friday, and Skiles mentioned that he was aware Maggette was having problems before the game.  He didn’t suit up.  While Maggette had foot problems in training camp, much less has been reported about Gooden’s left foot.  Gooden has been healthy all year and the decision to sit him down came right up to game time, the reports suggested, though no mention is made of Gooden ailment.

So, what gives? Is Gooden hurt or — given the lack of ball movement when he’s in the game — has he been  benched?   Whatever the situation — and Gooden did seem to hit a wall while playing far too many minutes during the five game losing streak — Jennings didn’t miss him as an option, and had no problem keeping the entire starting five involved in the offense.

This just in: Gooden is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot left ankle injury, Jennings’ starting line-up stays with Ilyasova and Sanders on the frontline.  Maggette is listed as a game time decision.