D-Wade's influence, small-ball linupes & Mailman memories — Craig Bolerjack answers your questions ahead of Game 2
Craig Bolerjack has been the voice of the Utah Jazz for more than 15 years. The play-by-play man lends his expertise and answers your questions ahead of Game 2.
Q: Mike Conley is out for Game 2 with a strained hamstring. What will he bring when he’s healthy?
BOLER: Mike’s return will bring another piece of stability, leadership and 66 games of playoff experience. Conley was masterful in the 5-game series with Memphis averaging 17-pts, 9 assists and 55% from 3. His return will improve spacing, which allows Donovan more opportunities to drive to the rim and find his way to the free throw line. That spacing also allows Bogey back cuts and more touches for Rudy in the paint and much-needed breathing room for Joe and Clarkson.
Q: Rudy Gobert’s perimeter defense saved the day in the Game 1. What are your thoughts on how he handled the Clippers’ small-ball lineup?
BOLER: Small ball has been and will continue to be a challenge for Gobert. On the offense end ….the Clippers were able to keep the ball out of Gobert’s hands in the first half of Game 1. The Jazz focused more on Rudy in the 2nd half and the payoff was 6 of 9 at the FT line, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. But the Clippers small lineup allowed Gobert to keep multiple possessions alive and made the game winning block on Marcus Morris Sr. in the final seconds to lock down the win.
Q: How were the Jazz able to slow down Paul George and Kawhi Leonard? What’s the biggest adjustment the Clippers will make in Game 2?
BOLER: I thought the Jazz made Kawhi and George work. They both were jump shooters in the first half and looked a bit fatigued after beating the Mavericks in 7 and the short Round 2 turnaround. Leonard had better rhythm from 3 in the 2nd half and I would expect to see both Clippers All-Stars drive the ball more on Rudy hoping for early foul trouble and free throws
Q: What’s the importance of Dwyane Wade being there for Donovan Mitchell during games?
BOLER: Having D-Wade courtside is like a free timeout for Donovan. The Hall of Famer was a mentor of Mitchell’s before becoming a part of Ryan Smith’s ownership group, and to have him within arm's length of Donovan is a coup. I’d like to eavesdrop on the conversations. Wade’s courtside seat also signals to Jazz fans his true interest and involvement with the franchise, and their star player.
Q: Karl Malone was in the building for Game 1. What’s your favorite Mailman memory
BOLER: I get a smile on my face every time I see and talk to Karl. We both came to Salt Lake City during the summer of 1985. Athletes and reporters rarely jump over the so-called line. I was tough on him and he was tough on me. But over time we forged a relationship of mutual respect. When I worked at KSL, Karl wanted people to know him better. So, we set up a series of interviews. He opened up about life, being a black man in Utah, Larry Miller and losing his father. Those talks were LIVE and unscripted, and before we hit air Karl always said “Boler, you going to bring it tonight”? And my answer was hell yes. He’s one of the few athletes I still stay in touch with and recently called me when Mark Eaton passed away. Karl Malone is 6-9 250 and was a Hall of Fame of terror on the floor. But what people may not know is, he’s quietly generous with his time and money. The muscle is still there, but inside, he’s a one-of-a-kind softy.