Tag:Utah Jazz
Posted on: June 22, 2011 10:42 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 10:55 pm
 

Derrick Williams: Compare me to Dirk, not LeBron

Arizona forward Derrick Williams distances himself from LeBron James but welcomes a comparison to Dirk Nowitzki. Posted by Ben Golliver. derrick-williams

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Derrick Williams would rather be compared to Dirk Nowitzki than LeBron James.
 
In one of the most interesting scenes from Wednesday's NBA Draft media availability at the Westin in Times Square, Williams, a forward out of Arizona who is expected to be the second player selected in Thursday's 2011 NBA Draft, went out of his way to repeatedly distance himself from James.

Williams, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Wildcats as a sophomore, has done this through the pre-draft process any time someone asks him what it would like to be taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick. Clearly, there will be a huge burden that goes with filling James' sneakers after he abandoned the Cavaliers to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the Miami Heat. The storyline takes on added emphasis in Williams' case because he throws down his fair share of highlight reel dunks and because he wore No. 23 -- the number James wore for the Cavaliers -- at Arizona.

"I don’t want to be LeBron, I don’t want to be anything like it," Williams said bluntly. "Whoever gets picked at the No. 1 spot, that’s what the city is going to be looking for. ‘The Next LeBron.’ If they pick me, I don’t want to be labeled next to him. He’s going to go down as one of the top 25 best players to ever play the game. I’m not trying to be like him. I just want to go out and play my game like I’ve been doing my whole career."

While Duke University point guard Kyrie Irving is the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall, Williams told the media that they shouldn't count him out yet.

"I think there’s always a chance," he said. "We’ll never know until that draft pick comes. One or two, it’s an amazing feeling."

As Wednesday developed, "one or two" started to sound less and less like a guarantee. The Minnesota Timberwolves hold the No. 2 pick and are reportedly shopping the pick hard while also giving consideration to Turkish big man Enes Kanter. Williams is considered a clear-cut top two player in this draft by most talent evaluators, but the Timberwolves already have forward Michael Beasley in place, who shares some similarities with Williams in that he is a combination forward who is a versatile scoring threat.

"Me and Mike Beasley probably play a little similar," Williams admitted. "I probably like to shoot a little bit more than him. On the advantage side of that, it’s hard to guard two guys that similar. You rarely have two guys that play similar on the same team."

It's unclear whether having two players who both need touches on the same team with Kevin Love would actually be an advantage or a disadvantage. At least it's clear Williams has given some more thought to questions about his position.

Soon after the Draft Lottery, Williams began steadfastedly maintaining that he is a small forward, even though his body -- 6-foot-9, 250 pounds -- and his college résumé pegs him as at least a stretch power forward, if not an undersized four. On Wednesday, he seemed to concede that his game probably isn't as clear cut as he might have wanted to make it. 

"I don’t want to be labeled as one position," Williams said. "My whole life I’ve been labeled as multiple positions and multiple spots on the offensive and defensive side. 

"There are so many types of different players these days. You look at Dirk Nowitzki, he’s a four but he’s never in the post, he’s on the wing. Lamar Odom, he’s a combo four. Hybrid fours like Antawn Jamison. I think I fit well in this league."

It's strange to hear a high-flyer like Williams compare himself to Nowitzki, and that's probably wishful thinking. There's only one Nowitzki. Physically, the two don't have similar body types and Williams definitely doesn't have Nowitzki's array of jumpers. The Odom and Jamison combinations fit a little better.

Williams knows that regardless of what position he plays, defined or not, he has an adjustment coming. "There’s a lot of bigger guys on the court. Strength-wise, I would probably say that [is my biggest fear]," Williams said. "Just not being as big as everybody else. At the college level I was bigger than most guys. I can’t use that to my strength now.

In this, Williams, who won't fall past the Utah Jazz at No. 3, is correct. If he's worried about his strength at the NBA level, he definitely shouldn't be compared to James.

Posted on: June 22, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 9:13 pm
 

NBA Draft: Brandon Knight says he's ready now

2011 NBA Draft prospect Brandon Knight says he's ready to lead a team right now. Posted by Ben Golliver. draft-brandon-knight

NEW YORK, N. Y. -- Brandon Knight isn't looking over his shoulder and he doesn't have any time to waste.

The one and done Kentucky point guard addressed the media on the eve of the 2011 NBA Draft, and it was the verbal equivalent of a rim run: straight, direct, no veering or wavering.

Knight, who averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists as a freshman, wants to be picked at the top of the board, he wants to start immediately and he wants to win.

"My competitive nature wants me to go as high as possible," Knight said.

One day before NBA Draft night, Knight is projected to go as high as No. 3 to the Utah Jazz and no lower than No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings. The Toronto Raptors at No. 5 are also a possibility should the Jazz elect to draft Turkish big man Enes Kanter at No. 3.

Knight holds himself to a high standard -- notching a 4.3 GPA in high school -- and is equally demanding in his expectations for his NBA home.

"A place that can use a point guard, a place that wants me, obviously," Knight said. "A place where I can compete. I don't want to go somewhere where they have no chance of winning at all. A place where I know I can compete, where I have great teammates."

The Jazz figure to be the best fit for that description. While they have a starting quality point guard in Devin Harris already in place, Utah certainly has a longer tradition of winning than either Toronto or Sacramento. Utah had made the playoffs four straight years before this season, which saw a trade of franchise point guard Deron Williams and the retirement of longtime coach Jerry Sloan. The Jazz also have a string of making the postseason 20 straight years.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have made the playoffs in just two of the last nine years and arguably have one of the two or three least talented roster in the league. The Kings are far removed from their glory days at the beginning of the aughts, having missed the playoffs in five seasons. A turbulent and tenuous ownership situation only makes seriously competing that much more difficult.

Pressed about his fit with the Jazz, Knight did his best to remain open to all possibilities.

"The draft is inexact," he said. "I might not be taken by the Jazz. I might. I definitely would be comfortable there. I had a great vibe with the coaching staff and front office." 

Outsiders might view Utah as a perfect fit. Knight could serve as Harris' understudy, learning the pro game and gradually taking on added responsibilities and minutes. Knight doesn't necessarily see it that way.

Asked if he felt he was ready to step in and assume starting point guard duties from Day One, Knight, who is 19 years old, said, "Yeah, I do." No hesitation. No blinking.

He listed off the attributes he brings to the table in a methodical manner, stripping emotion from the process as if he was reading a boring legal document.

"The ability to shoot, spread a defense, defend other point guards, run a team," he said. "That's something I've got better at this year."

One thing he doesn't bring to the NBA? Second thoughts about returning to Kentucky for a sophomore season.

"Once I knew I might be a top 10 pick," Knight recalled without a trace of regret. "My mind was decided."

For all that readiness and self-assuredness, Knight did admit that one thing has tripped him during the pre-draft process: the travel.

"I've never really lived out of a suitcase before," he said, allowing himself a rare grin.

He'll get used to it.
Posted on: June 21, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 21, 2011 11:09 am
 

Report: Valanciunas won't be stateside till 2012

Posted by Matt Moore

Drafting a Euro big always has its complications. Will he be able to adjust to the NBA style of play? Will he struggle with the physicality? Will his buyout be reached within a reasonable timeframe and will any of the core he was drafted into still be around then? Teams looking to draft Jonas Valanciunas will be faced with that last question it seems, if only for one more (possibly lockout-shortened) year.

Yahoo! and Draft Express' Jonathan Givony reports that Valanciunas' club Lietuvos Rytas has decided to stick with their demand of Valanciunas being unavailable until 2012 under any buyout agreement. That means that any team that wants Valanciunas will have to wait at least a year to get him, leaving him open to injury, second thoughts about coming across the pond, or any number of factors. More importantly, it means those teams looking to acquire a franchise center to build around now will have to have second thoughts. This has two consequences. 

One, Valanciunas may take a hit, as Ken Berger reports. A lot of the teams at the top of the lottery (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto) are looking for immediate impact players. They have antsy ownership wanting quick results. Telling them "You're going to love this guy we got... once he gets here." is not going to go over well, even if the lockout is going down next year. Sure, it makes no sense for ownership to be unhappy about a player missing out on a year they're not going to play, but you've already gone down the wrong path by assuming ownership is a set of rational actors. Shame on you.

Second, it helps Enes Kanter considerably. Kanter has allegedly slid a bit on draft boards because, well, he hasn't played anyone in a long time. Trying to figure out how good he is is like looking at a picture of a car on the internet. You don't even know if the thing is three-dimensional. With Valanciunas not available for immediate help, Kanter becomes the top Euro big in the draft, the top center overall. Expect there to be even more talk about the Cavaliers taking Kanter with the No.4 pick.

Valanciunas could still get picked up by a team with long-term prospects, like Utah, which is clearly willing to wait for things to develop. Someone in the top 10 will swallow the extra year on Valanciunas who will only be 20 when the 2012 season begins. But in a draft rife with disappointment, this is certainly an extra tough pill to swallow for those top-five teams looking to grab an impact player. 

There's still a chance Lietuvos Rytas could back down from its demands but with two days to go before the draft, they hold all the cards here.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 6:51 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Report: Jimmer Fredette invited to green room

BYU guard Jimmer Fredette has reportedly been invited to the green room for the 2011 NBA Draft. Posted by Ben Golliver. jimmer-fredette

Jimmer Fredette apparently isn't all hype.

The much ballyhooed guard was a national sensation as a senior at BYU, but many questioned how his game and physical tools would translate to the NBA level.

The early indications are that Fredette will translate at the lottery-pick level.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Fredette has been extended an invite to the green room for next week's 2011 NBA Draft.
Former Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette has been invited to the famed green room for the 2011 NBA Draft, which is scheduled next Thursday in Newark, N.J. 

Only draft picks expected to be taken with selections 1-14 are normally allowed in the green room.
A green room invite isn't a total guarantee that you'll be picked in the first half of the first round, but those invites aren't handed out lightly. 

This news will certainly fuel speculation as to where Fredette will land. Teams that have reported interest in him include the Sacramento Kings at No. 7, the Utah Jazz at No. 12, the Phoenix Suns at No. 13 and the Indiana Pacers at No. 15.

At this point, given all the buzz surrounding his draft workouts, it would be very difficult to see him falling past the Pacers, and the public pressure for the Jazz to take him at No. 12 is immense.
Posted on: June 16, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Utah Jazz making Millsap, Harris available?

The Utah Jazz are reportedly making forward Paul Millsap and guard Devin Harris available. Posted by Ben Golliver. derrick-favors

Owners of the No. 3 pick and the No. 12 pick, the Utah Jazz figure to be one of the major movers and shakers in next Thursday's NBA Draft.

Indeed, ESPN.com reports that the Jazz aren't simply looking to deal picks. They could also be open to moving major roster pieces.
Jazz looking for deals. Would be open to discussing Paul Millsap or Devin Harris.
Trading Millsap, Harris or both would be textbook rebuilding trade(s). If the Jazz ship either player out it shouldn't come as a surprise.

In Millsap's case, the Jazz must decide whether forward Derrick Favors, acquired from the New Jersey Nets in a deal involving Deron Williams, is ready to be their franchise forward. Given his talent level and sheer size, he should be sooner rather than later. Once the Jazz determine Favors is ready to be the guy, Millsap, an undersized power forward set to make $8.1 million next year, is a poor fit next to him. They'll either compete with each other for minutes or be forced to play alongside each other in an unconventional frontline. Either way, it's not ideal. It could work for next season, maybe, but eventually the training wheels are going to come off of Favors and someone's going to get their minutes and/or touches crunched.

Harris -- who is on the books for $9.3 million in 2011-2012 -- has been one of the most rumored trade pieces for years now. Perhaps that is because he is a "grass is greener on the other side" point guard for teams unhappy with their own starting one. He has good size, solid athleticism and a good but not great overall skill level. Unfortunately, he always seems to play on losing teams and  doesn't have the talent to right a ship by himself. One other major factor weighing on whether the Jazz keep Harris: they are in position to draft a potential franchise point guard at No. 3, with Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker as two possibilities. Another option: selecting Jimmer Fredette at No. 12. Either way, eventually Harris, and his salary number, is going to stand in the way of a youth movement.  

Building from the ground up requires a hard look at all of the current pieces. Outside of Favors, Gordon Hayward and whoever they draft at No. 3, everyone on the Jazz roster should be expendable. If you're heading towards a youth movement, it's best to go all the way with it. Plus, both Millsap and Harris carry some trade trade value. Shopping them makes all the sense in the world.
Posted on: June 15, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 8:54 pm
 

Jimmer Fredette aces Utah Jazz workout

Jimmer Fredette says he performs well in his highly-anticipated workout for the Utah Jazz. Posted by Ben Golliver. jimmer-fredette

The immense pressure on the Utah Jazz to draft BYU guard Jimmer Fredette just got bumped up a big notch. 

Last week, we noted that Fredette or his camp had publicly challenged Kentucky guard Brandon Knight and UConn guard Kemba Walker to a head-to-head workout.

On Wednesday, Fredette got his wish, or at least half of it, working out against Walker in front of the Jazz.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Fredette spoke confidently of his performance after the workout.
"I thought it was one of my better workouts. I really did. I thought I played very well,” said Fredette, who competed against Walker, Malcolm Lee (UCLA), Josh Harrellson (Kentucky), Senario Hillman (Alabama) and Paul Carter (Illinois-Chicago) for more than an hour at the Jazz practice facility.
Fredette impressed Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin.
“This cat really competes, and he hates to lose,” Corbin said. “He’s a good kid. He really likes to play, and that shows in everything that he does on the floor -- along with his scoring ability. Everyone knows him for putting up numbers on the board. But I think he’s a more complete player than a lot of people give him credit for.”
The Tribune also noted on Twitter that while Corbin wouldn't say whether Fredette outplayed Walker, he at least held his own: "Jimmer wasn't outplayed by Walker. Definitely held his own, according to four other players involved in the workout."

Fredette told the Deseret News that he thinks staying in Utah would be a good fit.
"Yeah, it would be a great place," he said. "I just think it would be a great fit for me basketball-wise. I'd fit into the system. They need a guy who can stretch the floor, get into the lane, get other guys involved and that plays right into my strengths."
Knight, meanwhile, will reportedly only work out by himself for the Jazz. 

The Jazz hold both the No. 3 pick and the No. 12 selection. While management has maintained that it won't bow to public pressure when it comes to Fredette, another solid showing against elite competition certainly can't have hurt his standing.

Posted on: June 10, 2011 8:47 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 9:37 pm
 

Report: Brandon Knight's stock is dropping?

Is UK point guard Brandon Knight's stock dropping? Posted by Ben Golliver. brandon-knight

On Thursday, we noted that BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette was taking a pro-active stance with his pre-draft workout strategy, essentially challenging UK point guard Brandon Knight and UConn point guard Kemba Walker to work out against him head-to-head.

We applauded that strategy, noting that Fredette really has nothing to lose. Knight and Walker, on the other hand, lose a bit of face publicly if they don't agree to work out against him -- or potentially risk slipping down the board should Fredette convincingly best them in a head-to-head setting.

SI.com reports that Fredette isn't the only thing that Knight needs to worry about. Until now, he's participated in a limited number of tightly controlled workouts. The site notes that the strategy is rubbing some people the wrong way.
Sources say the Kentucky point guard could be risking his chance to go third overall to Utah by refusing to work out against competition. Knight has an open invitation to join Connecticut's Kemba Walker, BYU's Jimmer Fredette and UCLA's Malcolm Lee in a June 15 workout with the Jazz, but sources close to both sides said he has yet to decide whether to take part.

What's more, there are rumblings that Utah is less than thrilled at the notion that Knight would even consider dictating the terms with the No. 3 pick (although Turkish center Enes Kanter already did just that in his Jazz workout in Chicago in which Toronto also took part). It's unclear whether the Jazz would take a hard-line stance and refuse to take Knight unless he worked out against other top-line competitors, but that appears to be a possibility.

I attended Knight's workout in Sacramento on June 2 and walked away convinced that Knight saw the Kings as his so-called first-round floor at No. 7. The problem there, predictably, is that the one-on-none approach wasn't well received by the Kings' brass either.
Griping from NBA executives whose jobs hinge on their ability to evaluate talent is pretty commonplace this time of year. Imagine if your job was on the line and you didn't have much control during the most important decision-making time of the calendar year? That would be rough, so the complaints are legit.

But the top prospects have all the leverage every year. As long as they don't go out of their way to be rude, flaky or controversial, players who are regarded as top-5 picks are free to set the terms of their workouts and meetings with teams. It's a classic limited supply, loads of demand scenario that tips the balance in the players' favor.

Now, as for Knight specifically. His personality is top-notch. He's a hard-working, team-first, high-IQ point guard who developed his game during his one year of college and has been regarded as an elite NBA prospect for years. He manages to enjoy the big moment without having a big ego.

Any team that passes on him because he is playing his hand wisely is nuts. But if they want to grumble because they can't see more of him? Totally understandable. 

Posted on: June 9, 2011 7:57 pm
 

Jimmer Fredette wants Knight, Walker in workout

BYU guard Jimmer Fredette makes it clear he wants to face Kentucky guard Brandon Knight and UConn guard Kemba Walker in pre-draft workouts. jimmer-trophy
Posted by Ben Golliver.

No one ever accused BYU guard Jimmer Fredette of lacking confidence with the ball in his hands. His pre-draft strategy now looks just as gutsy.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Fredette has decided to do the draft prospect equivalent of calling out his competition. Fredette is making it clear that he will do what it takes to face more highly-touted point guard prospects Kemba Walker, out of UConn, and Brandon Knight, out of Kentucky, in head-to-head pre-draft workouts.   
Former Brigham Young guard Jimmer Fredette is scheduled to work out next Wednesday with the Jazz, and he has every intention of sticking to the date. But Fredette is willing to change his plans to accommodate the schedules of Kemba Walker (Connecticut) and Brandon Knight (Kentucky). And whether the two highly touted 2011 NBA Draft prospects will face off against Fredette in Salt Lake City remains to be seen.

With his draft stock rising, Fredette wants to work out against Walker and Knight to prove that he can compete with the point guards, who are expected to be taken early during the first round.
The consensus take on Knight is that he should be a top-7 pick, perhaps going as high as No. 3 by the Utah Jazz. Walker is generally regarded as a top-10 prospect. Fredette, though, is generally seen as a late-lottery to mid-first round pick.

That's why this public challenge is so savvy. Getting a chance to knock off the higher-rated guys is a no-lose proposition for Fredette. If he shows well, maybe a team re-evaluates him, talking them in to taking a bit of a risk on a player with a defined NBA skill -- his shooting -- and questions on the defensive end. If Knight and/or Walker get the best of him, it costs him nothing. He was supposed to get beaten anyway and a vast majority of the workouts are private and not open to the media.

Do Knight or Walker need to respond here? Do they lose face if they don't accept -- and win -- the challenge?

You might think so at first glance, but NBA teams are far more concerned with a prospect's overall evaluation rather than whether he is supposedly ducking someone during workouts. Everyone involved understands the politics at play, and most draft decisions will be made on a system fit basis rather than one guy's ability to outplay another.

Still, great PR move from Fredette's team. If it succeeds, he gets his chance to make his name and change some opinions. If not, he comes across confident and motivated, enjoying a buzz bump that goes with the extra headlines. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com