Posted on: February 10, 2011 7:53 pm
BOSTON – Phil Jackson competed against Jerry Sloan as both a player and a coach, and knew him as someone who’d never quit – and whose teams never would, either.
But Jackson has flirted often with the notion of when is the right time to walk away from coaching, and took Sloan at his word that it was just the “right time.”
“I think sometimes you hope you can pick the right time, and I think you want to close the chapter on it,” Jackson said before the Lakers played the Celtics Thursday night. “And if that was the way it ended for him, I know he felt that you have to live your life by your gut feeling and do it that way. So I think it was great that he was able to do it on his own terms.”
Ray Allen, who used to experience Sloan’s hard-nosed defensive style more frequently in the Western Conference, had the same reaction everyone else did upon hearing the news of Sloan’s resignation Thursday.
“I’m curious why,” Allen said. “I think everyone’s kind of wondering what exactly happened – if he stepped down or they went in another direction. … He’s been a great ambassador for the game.”
Doc Rivers always knew what he was getting when he stepped onto the floor to play against or coach against a team coached by Sloan.
“They were going to play hard,” Rivers said. “They were going to cut. They were going to pick-and-roll you to death. They were going to foul you hard. You had to play defense for 24 seconds. And they were going to milk every possession until they got the shot they wanted.”
Jackson, whose Bulls twice defeated Sloan’s Jazz for NBA titles, said Sloan’s lack of a championship “shouldn’t diminish his career.”
“But really, you hate to see a guy go out without having won a champ with all the great teams he’s had,” Jackson said. “… I think coaching 23 years probably is an energy thing. It takes a lot of energy and there’s a time when you feel like you just can’t put anything more into a team.”
Posted on: February 10, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 4:12 pm
Where were you when Michael Jordan retired to go play baseball? When Magic Johnson made his tearful announcement that he was walking away from the game because he'd contracted HIV?
And when the news broke that Jerry Sloan would no longer coach the Utah Jazz?
The NBA changed forever Thursday when Sloan and top assistant Phil Johnson resigned. A person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed it to CBSSports.com after the Deseret News reported the initial bombshell that immediately generated shock and disbelief throughout the NBA. It has been 23 years since someone else has coached the Jazz.
Sloan himself joked at his Hall of Fame enshrinement that it seemed inevitable that he would die coaching. Everyone believed him.
And now this.
The Jazz have officially called a news conference for 3 p.m. MT.
UPDATE: Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin, who has attracted the attention of several teams plotting offseason coaching changes, will be named acting head coach -- with no "interim" tag, sources said. Given that the Jazz have had one coach for nearly a quarter-century, it's hard to imagine them having three in a matter of months -- so it is possible that Corbin could be retained on a more permanent basis at some point. But sources say those conversations have not yet taken place.
The news of Sloan's departure came less than 24 hours after he emergered flustered and late for his postgame media appearance Thursday night after a loss to the Bulls. Sloan had been in a lengthy meeting with general manager Kevin O'Connor, the nature of which neither has divulged.
One thing that is certain: Recent reports that Sloan had just signed a one-year contract extension were erroneous -- or, at best, old news. Several months ago, Sloan had indicated to management and ownership that he intended to return next season. But as has become customary with him, those details wouldn't be finalized until after the season.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.
Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.
The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.
Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.
While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.
Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.
But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.
“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”
Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:
• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.
• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”
• Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”
• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.
• Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.
• Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire, Berger's Post-Ups, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Celtics, George Karl, Jared Dudley, Jazz, Jermaine O'Neal, Jerry Sloan, John Kuester, Kevin Love, Knicks, Kurt Rambis, Lakers, Nuggets, Phil Jackson, Pistons, Rasheed Wallace, Robert Sarver, Steve Nash, Suns, Tayshaun Prince, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers
Posted on: May 9, 2010 12:40 pm
With another playoff rout at the hands of the Lakers looming on Monday, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a familiar position. No organization has enjoyed more stability or embraced the same style of play for as long as the Jazz have under Jerry Sloan. And perhaps no top-tier team has fallen short in the postseason as much, either.
Utah has endured only one losing season in Sloan’s 21 years on the Jazz bench and has earned a spot in the draft lottery only twice. Contrary to late owner Larry Miller’s past assertions that his team would never pay the NBA luxury tax, the Jazz made that commitment last summer when they matched Portland’s offer for restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The commitment was renewed when Sloan persuaded ownership not to trade Carlos Boozer on the last year of his contract at $12.7 million this season.
Despite another playoff disappointment, GM Kevin O’Connor told CBSSports.com recently that the Jazz are prepared to be a tax-paying team next season, too. Whether that entails keeping Boozer, an unrestricted free agent, remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that the Jazz are at a unique crossroads for any franchise – venturing into the second round of the playoffs with a team that has won 50-plus game three of the past four seasons, and owning a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
By virtue of a trade with Phoenix, the Jazz own the Knicks’ first-round pick, which was conveyed to the Suns as part of Isiah Thomas’ ill-fated trade for Stephon Marbury in 2004. The Marbury trade continues to be the gift that keeps on giving in two proud Western Conference cities. The Suns used the resulting cap space to sign Steve Nash, who has led Phoenix to within one win of the conference finals. By virtue of the Knicks’ 29-53 record this season, the Jazz are slotted ninth in the lottery order with a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick.
Utah is 1-for-2 in its two most recent forays into the lottery. Coming off a 42-win season in 2003-04,O’Connor held out hope that he’d be able to land No. 1 pick Dwight Howard. He wound up with 14th pick Kris Humphries instead. After a 26-win season in ’04-’05, Utah got the third pick and drafted franchise centerpiece Deron Williams.
“I think with the fact that we’ve only had one year with a losing season and were fortunate enough to get Deron Williams has really helped,” O’Connor said.
With a playoff-ready roster, a lottery pick, and a commitment to capitalize on both by paying luxury tax again, O’Connor hopes he’ll be able to parlay that flexibility into a series of moves that finally will push the Jazz past the second round for the only the second time since Michael Jordan put a dagger in them in back-to-back NBA Finals more than a decade ago.
“Larry had said at one point he’d never pay [luxury tax,” O’Connor said. “He said it a couple of times. But then he said, if we know that we’re going to have a very good team and it’s not for a long period of time, he certainly would expect to do that. I think it’s a commitment going forward. I don’t think it’s a commitment that we’ve broached yet. We need to see what the numbers are going to be and everything else. But I think we’ve proven already that we’re willing to pay it and I think the results have justified us paying it.”
Portland’s offer sheet for Millsap was heavily front-loaded with a poison pill designed to force the Jazz to choke on the luxury-tax implications. Utah matched anyway, and Millsap’s salary declines from $10.3 million to $6.2 million next season. Boozer’s $12.7 million salary comes off the books, and there has been only one publicized discussion between O’Connor and Boozer’s agent, Rob Pelinka, about re-signing with Utah. The situation gives O’Connor the flexibility to explore sign-and-trade scenarios, and sources say you can expect high-level discussions with Miami on a Boozer trade at the February deadline to be rekindled.
The point is, as bleak as things look for the Jazz now – and as much as this resembles a seemingly endless replay of postseason heartache – the franchise is positioned better than it has been in years to finally take the next step. At a time of year when coaches are getting fired and teams are enduring front-office turmoil, the Jazz just keep sticking with the status quo because the status quo has worked.
“I think the stability has come from the fact that we’ve consistently won,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think you have stability without that.”
I know this is getting old, but maybe this is the year it finally pays off.
Posted on: March 11, 2009 2:47 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2009 10:02 pm
The last time the Utah Jazz were winning like this, John Stockton was running the pick-and-roll with Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan was hoping for a third straight NBA Finals appearance, and the NBA was picking up the pieces after a damaging lockout.
With the Jazz, the names change but the song remains the same.
Utah tries for its 13th consecutive victory Wednesday night in Atlanta. Other than the fact that I surely just jinxed them, Sloan's crew is beginning to look as dangerous as any Western Conference team as we trudge into the final quarter of the NBA season.
You heard me, Lakers. Beware of the workmanlike, no-frills version of basketball artistry that is quietly getting warmed up in a big way in Salt Lake City.
UPDATE: And of course, I jinxed them. The Jazz fell in the second game of a back-to-back in Atlanta, losing 100-93 to the Hawks.
The Jazz won 11 in a row from April 1-18 in 1999. If they keep it going Wednesday night, they'll head to Florida this weekend with a shot at equaling the franchise mark of 15 straight, achieved twice during the 1996-97 season -- which ended with their first of back-to-back Finals losses to Michael Jordan's Bulls.
That night in what used to be called the Delta Center 11 years ago -- when Jordan picked Malone's pocket, dribbled the other way, and politely shoved Bryon Russell to the floor on his way to immortality -- seems like yesterday. Hard to believe it's been that long since the Jazz were in the Finals. Is it premature to start thinking they could be on their way back?
I don't think it's crazy.
I understand that as the fourth or fifth seed -- Utah is currently fourth -- the road would be exceedingly difficult. Assuming the Jazz could get past likely first-round opponent Portland, they'd be on a collision course with Kobe & the Lakers in the second round. The Jazz are 1-1 against the Lakers this season, playing both games without Carlos Boozer, who is back with a vengeance after missing 44 games with a knee injury. But Utah is 3-6 against the Lakers the past three seasons, becoming road kill for Kobe. Bryant is averaging 34.4 points per game and shooting .532 against the Jazz in the regular season since 2006-07. Kobe also scored 30 or more in five of the six games in the Lakers' 4-2 series victory in the conference semifinals last year.
If the Jazz fail to get past Kobe again, it'll feel an awful lot like their failure to get past Jordan in the Finals more than a decade ago. But sometimes a top-seeded team that seems destined for the Finals gets derailed by a hot team nobody wants to see in the early rounds of the playoffs. It happened to Dallas against Golden State a couple of years ago, and it's not farfetched to wonder if the Jazz could be that team this year.
Posted on: February 20, 2009 8:08 pm
The NBA lost a great man and a one-of-a-kind owner Friday when Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller died. He was 64.
Miller had been suffering from the ravages of Type II diabetes. The last time I saw him, Miller was confined to a wheelchair on the court during a halftime celebration honoring Jazz announcer "Hot" Rod Hundley, who was calling his 3,000th game when the Jazz played the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 7. Two weeks later, Miller had both legs amputated six inches below the knees -- a telltale sign that the diabetes was taking over.
Miller left his mark in ways that a basketball blog would trivialize if I tried to give him a proper sendoff. The news release sent out by the Jazz mentions his entrepreneurial spirit, the college scholarships he and his wife, Gail, gave away, the charitable foundation that gave back millions to all the communities in which he did business. He lived to see 21 grandchildren born. What could be a better mark of a man?
Since this is a basketball blog, we have to talk about his basketball accomplishments, which are dwarfed by an otherwise extraordinary life. To me, Miller's mark on the game -- sadly -- already has been erased. He has employed one coach, Jerry Sloan, for 20 years. The Phoenix Suns just fired a coach, Terry Porter, after 51 games. Porter was the eighth NBA coach fired this season alone. I could look up how many head coaches have been fired since Sloan was hired, but it would make me sick.
Larry Miller understood loyalty. He understood winning. He understood people. He will be missed.
My father had Type II diabetes. Mercifully, he didn't have to experience all that the disease has to offer. We lost him three years ago to a massive heart attack, on Thanksgiving Day. There are marches and runs and telethons for every disease known to man. Diabetes is as bad as it gets, and those who are stricken with it suffer in anonymity -- and worse, with scorn and humorless jokes.
Whatever you do before you put your head on the pillow, do that for Larry Miller.
Posted on: December 19, 2008 10:07 am
Carlos Boozer was looking dapper in a nicely tailored suit Wednesday night as he stood in the bowels of the IZOD Center chatting with one of my competitors, Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com. What Boozer said during the interview has sent the already fragile Jazz into a tailspin.
What did Boozer say, you ask? That his strained left quadriceps tendon would keep him out until the All-Star break, or for the rest of the season? That Jerry Sloan was a grouchy old man? That Paul Millsap was the most overrated player in the NBA -- not the most underrated, the honor CBSSports.com bestowed upon him Thursday?
Nope. Nothing quite that controversial. Nothing even remotely surprising or combustible at all.
Boozer simply confirmed what anyone who follows professional basketball should have known: That he intends to declined his $12.7 million player option this coming summer and seek a long-term deal.
"I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless," Boozer said. "I am going to opt out, I don't see why I wouldn't, I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
That quote rippled through the Jazz organization, all the way up to owner Larry Miller, who blistered Boozer on his weekly radio show Thursday.
"It's one of the top 10 stupidest things I've heard an NBA player do in 20 years," Miller said.
Why would this come as such a surprise? Top-tier players like Boozer and Kobe Bryant (early termination clauses in '09), plus LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade (player options in 2010) specifically negotiated escape clauses in their current deals -- escape clauses that kick in before the current collective bargaining agreement expires. A host of others -- Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Michael Redd, Yao Ming, Paul Pierce, Richard Jefferson, Tyson Chandler -- have early termination clauses in 2010. What's the big deal?
All of these clauses were negotiated so marquee players would have a chance to sign long-term deals -- in many cases, the last of their careers -- under the current rules. Once the CBA expires in 2011, most players and agents believe the new agreement will be less favorable to them and more favorable to the owners. All of the above players will get more money if they opt out or terminate their contracts before the CBA expires than they would if they waited.
James has parsed his words carefully in discussing his 2010 options, but he has all but said what Boozer said the other night -- that he plans to decline his player option and become a free agent. That doesn't mean James, Boozer, Bosh, Wade and others will leave their teams; after all, their current teams can pay them more and give them longer deals. Boozer went so far as to say that in his quote, adding that he'd "like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
Despite the fact that Boozer was merely being honest and essentially stating the obvious, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan expressed disappointment with his comments. Boozer went into damage control mode with local beat reporters; here is the transcript of their conference call. Boozer and the Jazz tried to blame the messenger, a standard media relations ploy when someone says something controversial. The spin was that Boozer thought he was simply chatting off the record with Sheridan, who spent a lot of time with Boozer and teammate Deron Williams while covering Team USA's gold medal run in Beijing. Boozer even invoked the old "the reporter put words in my mouth" tactic. Don't believe it.
There was nothing off-the-record or sinister about this, and nothing really surprising or controversial, either. It's just business, people. Good business, at that. Can't be mad at Boozer -- or any other player -- for that.