These Things We Know
These Things We Know
Still a long way from filling out final report cards, this two-day break in the condensed schedule provides an opportunity to evaluate the Jazz.
What do we know?
For starters, the Jazz aren’t yet good enough to compete on the road against the Western Conference’s elite teams. This much was obvious during the blowout losses against the Lakers, Denver and San Antonio.
And this doesn’t come as news to NBA followers. Without the benefit of an adequate training camp, the Jazz weren’t close to being prepared to win on the road. In time, things will change, but for now the Jazz need to find a way to keep these road games in doubt into the fourth quarter.
All is not lost, however, as the 3-3 record indicates.
Perhaps inspired by the hometown faithful, and no doubt playing lesser competition, the Jazz proved worthy of winning home games. At this point, beating Philadelphia, New Orleans and Milwaukee are accomplishments.
It doesn’t matter that Milwaukee and New Orleans were missing their best player. Nor is it relevant that the Jazz didn’t bury any of these opponents. All that counts is the positive result has bolstered the team’s confidence.
“We know that we can compete if we get on the same page,” said coach Ty Corbin. “If we continue to play as a group we can be pretty good together.”
The first component to confidence is faith, even if it isn’t solely based on solid proof. At least to a degree, for now, the Jazz believe they can win.
Individually, we’ve also learned some things.
Starting with the rookies, Enes Kanter is as good as advertised. That’s not to say stardom is in the future, but the teen-ager has lived up to his reputation as a rebounder.
Alec Burks also has been true to form. The report was the 6-foot-6 Burks came out of Colorado with an ability to get to the rim and create for his teammates.
Those skills were evident in the only game in which he’s received significant minutes. The 20-year-old shot 10 free throws and dished six assists in 28 minutes against Milwaukee.
In his second season, Derrick Favors remains a tantalizing prospect. It’s hard not to dream of a mature Favors fulfilling his potential.
Together, Kanter and Favors- whose combined ages equal that of Suns forward Grant Hill - provide the Jazz with a solid foundation of big men. Corbin needs to force himself to play the two together, which he is warming up to doing.
“I got more comfortable with having those two young guys on the floor at the same time,” Corbin said. “It’s great to have two young guys (who are) willing to listen.”
Two other things have become clear.
For as much as Al Jefferson likes to shoot, second-year guard Gordon Hayward seems reluctant to pull the trigger. Both things likely will need to change as the season progresses.
Jefferson is averaging 16.8 shots a game, which is almost seven more attempts than the next in line, Paul Millsap. For a player with a reputation of scoring a bunch of points on losing teams, this is something to keep an eye on this season.
The Jazz can’t afford to become stagnant each time Jefferson gets the ball. Eventually, as Kanter and Favors demand more playing time, the Jazz may look to trade Jefferson. So as he continues to keep the team afloat with his scoring and rebounding, Jefferson could become a valuable trade asset.
Corbin also needs to keep a short leash on Raja Bell. While it’s far too early to banish Bell to the bench, Corbin can’t afford to play an unproductive veteran.
Josh Howard continues to state his case for more playing time. If he stays healthy, Howard should see his minutes increase significantly.
In all, Corbin faces a tough job in putting all the pieces together. Stick around for the ride, which is going to be fun.