Posted on: March 30, 2011 8:22 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Andrei Kirilenko, and his hair, will be a free agent this summer. He's made mention of maybe going to Russia depending on what happens with the NBA labor situation, but he's likely looking for one last good contract.
Kirilenko is just 30 and when healthy, is a productive swingman and class defender. If Travis Outlaw can get $30 million, Kirilenko will land a deal from someone. (How about those Nets? Not only are they willing to overpay, which is something Kirilenko would like, there's that Russian connection with Mikhail Prohkorov.)
Question is, will it be with the Jazz, or are they moving on? Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor kind of hinted at his intentions in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.
"He's got an opportunity to test the free agent market, and there's nothing we can do about it," O'Connor said. "He's filled his contract. We've fulfilled our side of it. We would like him back, sure, absolutely; that's a conversation we'll have. He'll look at it. Because he's got other options, because he's a foreign player. ... He likes it here. That's what he's told us."
I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like a GM that doesn't see Kirilenko in his team's future unless Kirilenko is willing to take a major salary slash just to stay. "We would like him back, sure." Yeah unless Kirilenko is willing to give Utah a coupon for missing a big number of games the past two seasons because of injury, I don't see him back in Salt Lake.
Kirilenko was rumored to be a big trade piece at the deadline and was reportedly part of the original four-team deal that would sending Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey.
The Jazz are looking to rebuild behind a younger core and though Kirilenko is a nice player and by no means old, he really doesn't fit. Between Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz have some nice pieces. They've got draft picks to use and with a player like Kirilenko coming off the books (owed almost $18 million this season), some cap space to play with.
Posted on: March 30, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: March 30, 2011 9:18 am
The Utah Jazz have reportedly scouted BYU star Jimmer Fredette at least 10 times in person. Will they draft him? Posted by Ben Golliver.
Should the Utah Jazz draft BYU star Jimmer Fredette? Of course they should.
He's a regional icon, he has a defined NBA skill in a draft without many players who fit that bill, he has accumulated a certain starpower that the new-look Jazz are badly lacking and he fits the Jazz culture to a T. With two lottery picks in this year's draft -- thanks to a midseason shake-up that sent franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets -- the Jazz are positioned better than anyone else to absorb any risk factor that might accompany a player like Fredette, who plays questionable defense and is a shoot-first, shoot-second type of college guard that can struggle adapting to the pro game.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Jazz are apparently interested in Fredette and have extensively scouted him.
Twenty-eight of the 30 league clubs requested credentials at the Marriott Center this year, and the Jazz were foremost among them. Their personnel, including Kevin O’Connor, have watched Fredette play in person between 10 and 20 times. At least 25 scouts were on hand when BYU played at San Diego State.
One team executive who requested anonymity because he’s not permitted to comment on prospects says Jimmer’s offense is a go, but his defense is a real concern.The Jazz organization is in a place that it hasn't been for decades: searching for an identity. With long-time coach Jerry Sloan gone, with Williams gone, with new coach Tyrone Corbin still getting his sea legs and with a roster that suddenly looks mish-mashed, the Jazz are staring at a future filled with fourth place finishes in the Northwest Division.
That reality means the Jazz either need to do something to win fans' hearts or win games. Jimmer can certainly handle the hearts in the short-term. Drafting a guy to buy rebuilding time isn't always the wisest decision, but here it makes a lot of sense.
Posted on: March 27, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 6:39 pm
New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams says that he tried and failed to recruit players to play for the Utah Jazz. Posted by Ben Golliver.
One of the NBA's great marketing successes of the last decade has been the degree to which it has encouraged its teams to engage with and give back to their local communities. But behind all of the NBA Cares commercials is a bleak reality: not every NBA market is created equal in the eyes of its players, a fact that is getting more evident by the year as the league's stars continue to flex their considerable influence in determining where they play.
The case of New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams is particularly telling. Williams was said to be frustrated in Utah and seeking a move to the New York Knicks in the future. However, once the Jazz came to terms with his long-term lack of commitment to their organization, they quickly moved Williams to the New Jersey Nets prior to the trade deadline.
One byproduct of that trade? Williams is now free to speak honestly about the situation in Utah. He doesn't paint a pretty picture, admitting to the New York Daily News that he couldn't convince anyone to join him in Salt Lake City.
"That was the hardest thing for me," he says of playing recruiter for the Jazz. "I tried every summer. I played with the best guys year after year and guys that were becoming free agents and asked if they wanted to come play with me and they're like, 'In Utah?'"
"I tried to tell people it's a great city. If you want to go out and party every night, it's not where you want to be. It's a clean city. There's a lot to do for families. The fans are great. Great foods. Great restaurants. The only thing it didn't have is partying."While that statement doesn't paint the average NBA free agent in the best light, it's an even harsher (yet accurate) assessment of the reality facing many small-market teams who compete for the same free agents year after year. Any player worth a damn who reaches free agency will have the same offer available to him from multiple teams. Williams' point is that the Jazz, who have been a model franchise for decades, simply lagged behind in a crucial tie-breaker that they will never be able to remedy: desireability of location. Given recent trends, it's virtually impossible to argue with what he's saying, as desireable cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago -- have stockpiled the best talent.
The Sacramento Kings' proposed relocation to Anaheim will make for an interesting test case of Williams' analysis. The analysis regarding Sacramento's expected move to Southern California has largely focused around the team's desire to play in a slightly better building and to reach a much larger television audience, but isn't it possible that the Kings would instantly become bigger players in the free agency game simply by virtue of a new zip code? The Kings will have plenty of cap space this summer, a young core in place to build around and will no longer be in an NBA backwater, instead playing within spitting distance of one of the world's most idealized cities. That should seriously help them land someone big this summer or next summer, right?
In any case, Williams' talk is indicative a fundamental imbalance, and it's a part of the league's push in its recent labor negotiation rhetoric towards leveling the playing field for all 30 teams. While the NBA can't make Salt Lake City's nightlife more enticing, it can certainly do a better job of helping small-market teams retain their best players and compete for free agents.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:51 am
Posted by Royce Young
Last week, the Jazz officially announced what many of us already had figured out: Mehmet Okur was done for the rest of the season. Okur had been battling an Achilles injury, an ankle injury and a back injury. He tried to come back briefly during January, but as Okur admitted, it was too soon.
But with Okur shutting down after a lost season filled with injury, some thought he might be leaning towards retirement. Okur says not so fast.
"The smart thing was just to shut me down and get rehab and get ready to go next year," Okur told the Deseret News. "I should be OK. I'm not that old. I'm just 32. It's going to be a huge summer for me. Obviously, I'm going to keep getting rehab, especially start with my left leg and make it stronger, then my back. I can't wait."
Next year is the last year on Okur's contract (he's owed $10.9 million by the Jazz), so obviously he's looking to go ahead and cash those checks. But Okur said that he's got a few more years left in the tank and is hoping to play until his later 30s.
Easy to forget that Okur was a pretty darn good big man before injuries started slowing him down. He was an All-Star in 2007 and as a seven-footer with range past the 3-point line, he always was a difficult matchup for anyone. If he can get healthy, he'd surely make a difference for the Jazz next season and might be able to wrangle another contract after that.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 11:31 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 5:36 pm
New Orleans Hornets forward David West has torn his left ACL and is out for the remainder of the season. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Update (Friday): The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: "Sources say David West has torn left ACL and is out for season." WVUE in New Orleans reports that the "Hornets confirm PF David West has a torn left ACL and is out for the season." Yahoo! Sports sets the initial recovery timeline at "six months of rehab." Clearly, this was the worst case scenario discussed below.
The Hornets released the following statement: "'Obviously we are very saddened by this news,' Hornets General Manager Dell Demps said. 'David is the ultimate warrior and competitor, but an even better person and we know that he will bounce back in time.'"
ESPN.com reports that the Hornets will sign Patrick Ewing Jr. from the D-League's Sioux Falls SkyForce to a 10-day contract to fill out their frontcourt.
For more on how the Hornets will cope in West's absence, check out Royce Young's breakdown here.
Original Post (Thursday): With the Utah Jazz leading the New Orleans Hornets 103-101 in the closing seconds of regulation, Hornets forward David West attacked the basket from the left. West reached the rim and, as he attempted a dunk, absorbed contact from Jazz forward Paul Millsap. West completed the dunk, to tie the score at 103, but was thrown off balance by the collision, forcing him to land awkwardly on his left foot.
West's left leg buckled and he immediately crumpled to the ground underneath the hoop, clutching his left leg. After being tended to by New Orleans' medical staff, West left the court in a wheelchair.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported: "Hornets say West has left knee trauma. X-rays negative. Will wait for MRI to make official announcement." The paper also noted that Jazz big man Al Jefferson "said he hopes he's wrong, but he thinks West's injury is major. Compared it to when he tore ACL with Minnesota." The Times-Picayune reported that a "large immobilizing splint and crutches [were] brought into the Hornets dressing room" after the game.
Here's video of the play.
West, New Orleans' leading scorer this season and an All-Star in 2008 and 2009, is averaging 18.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.
The Hornets went on to beat the Jazz in overtime, 121-117, improving to 41-31. The Hornets sit in the Western Conference's No. 7 seed, one game up on the Memphis Grizzlies, who are in 8th, and 3 games up on the Houston Rockets, who are in 9th. Without West, the Hornets wouldn't have a go-to interior scorer to complement Chris Paul and would be a severe disadvantage against all of their potential playoff opponents -- the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks -- because of it. With 11 games remaining in their season, it' s possible that West's injury could drop them out of the playoff picture.
To make matters worse, West has a player option for next season, worth $7.5 million, but indications were that he was planning to test the free agency waters this summer. It's possible, if not likely, that the severity of the injury will have millions of dollars worth of implications for both team and player.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 12:49 am
Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur has been ruled out for the season with a back injury. Posted by Ben Golliver.
When Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur looks back on the 2010-2011 NBA season, he will view likely it as a lost year. Okur began the season rehabilitating from a ruptured Achilles suffered last April, and while he made it back to the court briefly, he strained his back in January.
The Jazz announced on Wednesday that the lower back strain had reached the point where it was in Okur's best interest to shut it down for the remainder of the season.
Following a complete and in-depth evaluation with Mehmet Okur, Jazz team orthopedist Dr. Lyle Mason, Utah Jazz medical staff and back rehabilitation specialist Dr. Graham Hill, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor announced today that it has been determined to be in Okur’s best interest to discontinue any further attempts to return to play this season.
“His efforts and determination to return from his combined left Achilles’ surgery and back issues may have put undue stress on his body,” said O’Connor. “We feel that a concentrated effort to return his back and Achilles’ conditions to acceptable levels is our main concern. Mehmet is expected to be at full speed for the start of the 2011-12 Jazz training camp.”Things could be worse for Okur, 31, as he's under contract through the end of next season and set to earn $10.9 million in 2011-2012. He'll have the entire summer and any work stoppage to get his body right before making a run at his next payday.
On the season, Okur played 13 games and averaged 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game. In his absence, the always steady Jazz have imploded, as head coach Jerry Sloan resigned, franchise point guard Deron Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets and the team is currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. If the Jazz don't make a late-season push, they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005-2006.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:43 pm
The Denver Nuggets have signed head coach George Karl to a contract extension. Posted by Ben Golliver.
We're seeing an interesting pattern developing in the Northwest Division: over the last week, three teams in flux have moved to stabilize their future by locking up their head coach to a long-term contract extension.
First, on March 2, the Utah Jazz extended coach Tyrone Corbin's deal in the wake of Jerry Sloan's resignation and the trade of franchise point guard Deron Williams. Then, earlier Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers extended coach Nate McMillan's contract following another season squandered due to a string of injuries, including to potential franchise players Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.
Tuesday afternoon, the Denver Nuggets joined the list, extending the contract of head coach George Karl just weeks after the team traded franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.
ESPN.com reports that "George Karl and the Denver Nuggets have agreed to terms on a new contract extension, according to league sources. Exact terms of the deal are not known, but one source said the multiyear extension is worth at least three years."
CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that it is a three year deal with team options for a fourth, fifth and potentially sixth year.
The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security.
"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."The deal obviously gives Karl a significant measure of job security and personal stability, and it comes less than a year after Karl missed Denver's playoff run last season while battling cancer. Given the Nuggets' success and Karl's ability to overcome a life-changing health ordeal and a franchise-altering player depature make this is about as fairy tale an ending as an NBA coaching extension can get.
Basketball-wise, Karl's situation is very similar to McMillan's, as both work for first-year GMs, both boast consistent, winning track records and both are now at the helm for franchises that enter next season with new self-perceptions now that their star players have either been traded (Carmelo Anthony) or limited significantly by injury (Brandon Roy). Both relish the underdog role and have been recognized for their ability to coach overachieving teams through adversity. As it happens, McMillan played for Karl in Seattle and there's a certain poetic justice that their contract extensions are announced on the same day.
Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri drew praise for the package of players he finally received after months of trade rumors involving Anthony, and he certainly deserves praise here. An extension for Karl was expected after weeks of hints about a forthcoming agreement, but locking up a top-tier coach should never be taken for granted and the added measure of flexibility with the extra team options is just the icing on the cake. Without Anthony, Ujiri needed something to sell to his current players and free agent targets and, if only temporarily, Karl has now become the face of the organization. Masai was brought on board to help Denver navigate towards its post-Carmelo future; with Anthony traded and Karl locked up, Masai's first two missions are accomplished. Now, he can really get to work on the future.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 5:03 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
First-round fodder. Opening round patsies. Target practice. These are the kinds of terms used for the low playoff seeds each year. The NBA, more than any other sport, crowns a legitimate champion each year, in large part due to the difficulty of lesser teams to overcome better teams in a seven-game series. As a result, when you have eight teams from each conference to make the playoffs, you're going to have a whole lot of beatdowns. And we'll certainly see the same this year, with the conferences more top-heavy than ever. So in reality, the 6-7-8 seeds are largely irrelevant in the discussion of basketball that "matters."
Outlook: 37-26. The Nuggets lost Melo, and have now won three straight. They are sharing the ball, playing with emotion, fighting in tough games, making the plays they need to in order to win, and invigorating the fanbase. But they have yet to face an elite team. In the next month, they have Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, and Atlanta. So there's going to be some discovery in terms of who the Nuggets are. They're riding a huge wave of emotion following the trade, but there's a question if that's going to hold. They do have a four game advantage over the ninth seeded Suns, but that's not a monstrous gap. With Memphis improving and Portland having acquired an All-Star, the Nuggets could find themselves in a dogfight very quickly if things change. But with Ty Lawson emerging with Aaron Afflalo, Nene holding down the middle and George Karl coaching his rear off, you have to like Denver's chances to at least make the playoffs.
Best-case scenario: They make the playoffs as the fifth seed following a huge fall by the Hornets, and wind up pushing Oklahoma City around due to their relative inexperience. A great playoff run sets them up for the future as a core that plays together, even without a star.
Worst-case scenario: The emotion runs out, the injuries pile up, and the team winds up in the lottery where they only have about seven tradeable assets, extra picks and cap flexibility. So pretty much, Denver's okay no matter what.
Outlook: 34-27. The Blazers just added a former All-Star in Gerald Wallace to make a push for the playoffs. They sloughed off very little salary, so they must make the playoffs. It's imperative for Paul Allen all the way down to the fans. They have to make the playoffs, make some money, and give the fans some hope in a season that's seen massive injuries. Again. They Blazers were at a position to either bail on the current core and rebuild or make a big push for the future. They chose to try and win now.
Ten of the next fourteen games for the Blazers are against current playoff teams. The going gets tough from here on out and the Blazers will be fighting tooth and nail to hang on to their spot.
Best-case scenario: A sixth seed appearance versus the Lakers, leading to a seven-game push to make a statement against the rivals. Blazers fans will tell you that they have a chance against the Mavericks. Blazer fans, as much I love them, are wrong. The Mavs are too good, too deep, and can match up too well with the Blazers. Besides, wouldn't pushing the Lakers be more satisfying for Blazers fans?
Worst-case scenario: Not making the playoffs is a disaster to the degree that it's nearly inconceivable. If it were to happen, it would be simply horrific for the franchise at all levels. A more likely worst-case scenario is winding up in the 8th spot and getting swept by the Spurs. A first-round sweep would be severely disappointing for how emotional this season has been for the Blazers, especially after bringing in Wallace.
Outlook: 34-28. Not a lock, by any means, but Memphis is making a strong push. They're on a roll, offensively and defensively, and this is without Rudy Gay. They've added Shane Battier and Leon Powe since the deadline, giving them much improved depth, and having Jason Williams as an actual viable back-up PG helps tremendously. The Grizzlies finally have a bench, O.J. Mayo actually looks better after his suspension, the team is playing together, and everything looks right for them to make a push. But of the next 14 games for Memphis to finish March, 12 are against current playoff opponents and one is against Utah, the 10th seed. These aren't weak playoff teams, either, with the Hornets, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Celtics, Mavericks, and Bulls among them. If Memphis makes it out of April in the same position they're in now, they'll be a lock. If not, they could plummet.
Best-case scenario: A first-round matchup against the Lakers in a 2 vs. 7 seed battle, with the Lakers still in cruise control, as the Grizzlies manage to win one in L.A. and one in Memphis to force a six-game series. That's a huge step for the franchise rebuilding from the Pau trade. Bringing the Lakers in for the playoff games is great for revenue, but terrible for home support as half the crowd would be bandwagon Lakers fans. Any other matchup simply wouldn't draw as well for the team, which says a lot about the fanbase itself.
Worst-case scenario: Missing the playoffs isn't a huge deal versus getting swept. Even without their 2011 first-rounder, the Grizzlies have a solid core for the future and some options for what they want to do. But making the first round of the playoffs as an eight seed, drawing San Antonio, and getting swept in a poor draw matchup to keep revenue low and the franchise without a playoff win? That's the worst of all worlds.
THE LONGER SHOTS
Outlook: How are they still here? They lost Jason Richardson, gained Vince Carter, have very little to rely on and are still hanging around at 31-28, just a game and a half back of the Grizzlies. Phoenix just doesn't know when to quit and with this group of veterans, they could be dangerous down the stretch. If you want to bet against Steve Nash, you go right ahead. I'll be over here. The Suns' schedule isn't tremendously difficult to go from here on out, but with their style, that's not necessarily a good thing. The Suns are 7-8 against "average" teams in the league, so there's no way of knowing how they'll do night to night.
Best-case scenario: Missing the playoffs. Missing the playoffs might prompt a full blow-up from management which would benefit the Suns long-term and push them away from NBA purgatory, constantly floating around the eighth seed. A full revamp with Alvin Gentry at the helm may lead to some progress and some moevement towards another shot at contention down the line. But given Robert Sarver's history, he wants that playoff dough.
Worst-case scenario: Making the eighth seed and getting blown out of the water by the Spurs. After the cathartic release for the fans last year in beating the Spurs, losing to San Antonio again would crush them. So there's that. A four game sweep by any of the top seeds would be extremely likely and extremely disappointing.
Outlook: 32-30. Watch out for flying wheels. The Jazz can't contend with the juggernauts, and are even bleeding against mediocre teams. The Jazz knew they'd be rebuilding after Deron Williams, but their playoff odds are spiraling out. The future's bright, but things don't look great for the Jazz making the playoffs at this point. The good news is the Jazz have a weaker schedule than most of their competitors.
Best-case scenario: A solid run as the team starts to gel, makes the playoffs and manages to avoid playing the Lakers. Even getting swept by San Antonio would be preferable to losing to L.A. at this point. Making the playoffs puts faith back in the franchise and gets the team more money.
Worst-case scenario: Missing the playoffs after the promise of this season would be devastating. Getting blasted out of the first round by L.A. would be similarly upsetting, even though the revenue would be nice. But missing the playoffs seems like a very real possibility at this point.
Honorable Mention: The Rockets could make a run. They've started defending better and moving Aaron Brooks has helped them in serious ways. But they're four games back, and that's a steep hill to climb for a team without a true star, with a defense that's still sub-par. They have to be considered the longest shot, and not just for current position.