The last missive from the road -- for now
The last middle-of-the-night (well, Eastern time, at least) posting for a little while. I’m going to be home eventually today and back on some sort of normal schedule like I used to keep so things will be as they were starting tomorrow.
Unless there’s jetlag and I’m up all night. Then all bets are off.
Until then …
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
So, where are they?
We all wondered how they’d come out of this difficult start, what with the nine new guys and the eight road games against the West in their first 12 games.
And I think they’re probably right where they should be, record-wise and the way they play.
It was never going to be a seamless transition from what they looked like on paper to how they performed on the court and we’ve seen all kinds of blips in the first dozen games. The interior defence, which is as much about slow rotations by wings as it is the bigs, is scary bad at times, and passable at others. Perimeter defence? Same thing. Horrible and passable, passable and horrible. Sometimes within the same game.
But, really, 5-7 isn’t that bad. It’s about what I expected and it suggests they’ve survived this stretch without fracturing.
I mentioned when the season began that something like a 3-9 or 2-10 start would be disastrous to the psyche of a team still trying to find itself and the feeling I’m getting being around these guys is that they really think the pieces are there and the consistency that’s been sorely lacking will come.
Maybe it will – I still say we need 20 games to truly assess what they’ve got and what they are – but going 5-7 through this stretch isn’t terrible.
It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as it could be.
Now, about that house
The theory sounds great: Protect the paint, shrink the court, make teams beat you with contested jump shots.
In reality: It’s the one glaring and consistent weakness of this team right now.
One play comes quickly to mind from last night.
Think it was in the second quarter – or maybe the first – but a Jazz shot goes up and Andrei Kirilenko goes from the left elbow to the right side of the rim to tip in the miss.
Not a single, solitary Raptor even shot him a passing glance, let alone put a body on him and it’s a perfect example of them not protecting the paint.
Now, it was one play that stood out but the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that they have to work harder at doing what the coaches want them to do.
Ups and downs
Oh, those rookies. They can be such teases.
How many thought DeMar DeRozan had broken through some imaginary boundary with his 17 points against Denver on Tuesday night?
I know a lot of you did because dozens told me yesterday how he had to play more because he’s good and ready to make that next step.
Well, how’s two points in 15 minutes, four missed shots in five attempts, the same number of rebounds that I got and absolutely no impact on the game whatsoever.
He got lost fighting through screens, found himself standing in the corner watching on offence instead of getting involved and had one of those Rookie Nights that are going to pop up every now and then.
And in other news …
This is one of those ‘duh!’ stats but what the heck.
When these guys give up 100, they’re 0-7.
When they score 100, they’re 5-0.
When the other team scores less than 100, they're 5-0.
Not sure what that means but it was in the notes package we got last night so I figured I’d pass it along.
Remember a while ago, I was making an astute observation that one thing I disliked about hotels were elevators that only had the floor buttons on one side because I always turn the wrong when I get in them?
(Yeah, that was a major digression, wasn’t it?)
Well, after four hotels in seven nights on the road just now, here’s another:
Or, more correctly, no wall plugs.
Seriously, great expanses of boring wall and you’d think they’d put a socket in there somewhere so a guy could use the iron and ironing board without having to stand in the freaking doorway to the bathroom.
So, all you hotel builders who are reading this, get it together!
So, what do you think of the Jazz?
If you’re me, after one whole game of seeing them, you think they are very much a middle-tier team in the West. Yes, they were without Okur and he’s a big part of what they do but they just don’t seem to have it all together.
They’ve got two kids – Matthews and Maynor – playing big minutes, I don’t like the offence they get off their bench at all and I think they’re behind the Lakers, Suns, Blazers, Spurs and, probably, the Mavs right now.
Speaking of Salt Lake, here’s how the game played out in the local paper.
You’ll never guess who I ran into in the airport on the way from Denver to Salt Lake yesterday? Give up?
How about Mike Lupica of the New York Post.
Anyway, we’re chatting and he brings up a point I had entirely forgotten about. When I told him I was headed to Salt Lake for another game, he mentioned that the Jazz, thanks to the largesse of one Isiah Thomas, have New York’s unprotected first-round draft pick this coming June.
How sweet is that for the Jazz?
You know what you should do today?
Click here and make a kid’s Christmas. The Proudfoot Corner of the Star’s Santa Claus fund is one of the very, very best things we do – my man Perk works tirelessly at it – and it’d be very nice of you to make a little donation, if you can afford it.
Hmm, let’s see.
No game, no chat, no video.
What’s a guy to do with all this idle time?
For real, it’s going to be quite odd to be home tonight after just a regular day of writing and traveling.
Odd. But fun.
One more digression, and I swear that’s it for today.
Slovenia beats Russia and qualifies for the World Cup?
Just saw the highlight here on ESPN and I’m pretty sure that was Rasho I saw running down the streets of Salt Lake waving the flag.