First and foremost I want to give a shout out to Larry Brown for taking one for the team. I'm sure going into tonight he probably figured that Herb Simon had taken enough abuse over the past few seasons so he thought he would get one for the Gipper so to speak.
Now to us.
The Smashing Pumpkins said it best for me here, "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage".
What does that mean? Well no matter how badly I want to rage against the machine and bang my head and even jump off of a tall building I am still at the mercy of the coaching staff of this team.
First I want to give respect to the Jazz. A well oiled machine that maximizes the talent that is on the floor.
There was one play in the second quarter that I hit replay for about 6 straight times by the Jazz. It was a picture perfect high post, double cut to the glass with a picture perfect lay-up.
I replayed this for myself because I wanted to see what an organized offense actually looked like as I haven't seen one in about 9 years now.
Now to us.
I have been holding off doing one of these because I wanted to kind of do one after a win, but with this team.....
Well I have chosen to go ahead and do one after we have had two games where we did not at least become the event horizon for a black hole. If I would have done one after the Golden State loss I assure you I would have had to ban myself from posting ever again.
But while we have been beaten again by both the Kings and the Jazz at least I felt like we competed.
It did not start out that way tonight though. Honestly with the way this started I was wondering if we would score 70 points for the game while holding them below 100.
But thankfully we picked it up a little anyway.
There are so many ways to go from here. At first I was just going to make this a Troy Murphy and Jim O'Brien free zone and not even talk about them. But it hit me that no matter what I was going to say it was always going to come back to them so I am not even going to avoid the issues.
I don't intend for them to be my main talking points, but I make no guarantees on that.
Although we are not at the 20 game mark it's close enough and I think I am going to go ahead and look at the team overall right now and give the evaluations.
I'll start with the players:
Jeff Foster: By far the most consistent player on the team night in and night out this season. As I stated about 5 years ago to U.B. that Jeff would become a better player once he got older and no longer had the athleticism to rely on. Well I believe that has come true. Since he no longer has the foot speed that he had just a few short years ago he now relies on position, contact and being (I can't believe I'm about to type this) more physical.
In fact by today's NBA standard I would actually consider Jeff a banger.
He has been great on the defensive end, good with rebounding and has not been a total waste of space on offense. He is the elder statesmen of the team.
Now having said all of these warm fuzzy things about Jeff I will still say this. I want Hibbert to start and play more min. Jeff is like Jeff always is; he is good no matter what role or how many min. he is going to play. But the simple reality of the situation is we are not going to compete for much of anything this season so while I still want Jeff to play I don't want to see him gobbling up to many min. because when we are to the point of not being a door mat in the NBA again Jeff will most likely not be here.
However for a person who has never been a Jeff Foster fan I am going to give him a grade I have never given him before that I can remember.
Jeff Foster = A
Danny Granger: Much like Fox Mulder "I want to believe". Look it may just be that after so many years of being a sewer for malcontents, prima donna (notice I did not put that in a plural phrase) and troublemakers Danny looked like Captain America. In other words not only could the guy play ball but he was also the exact image at the exact time that this franchise so desperately needed.
He still is, to a degree.
But as I have been saying in almost every single one of these posts all season long. There is something not right here. I want to believe that it is the heel. I want to believe it is the knee. I want to believe it is some form of physical ailment that is making him at times look like a zombie on the court.
Sadly so for this season he has put away his Captain America costume and picked up his new super hero persona's outfit, Danny the Chucker who's powers seem to be taking the farthest, fastest shot in the entire NBA.
Here is where I will force myself to not go off track and complain about O'Brien, although believe me I want to. I am certain Danny has a green light to shoot, (to a point I am sure he deserves this) and I'm sure Jim doesn't mind Danny taking a quick shot from 3 early in the game to probe the defense.
But I am almost positive (well at least I hope I am anyway) that Jim is not telling him to throw it up from wherever you are with whoever is on you. It could be Danny has lost the faith in his team mates and feels the added burden of trying to be "the man". It could be weighing on him and who could blame him.
But I'm just saying the guy most of the time does not seem to be enjoying playing, at least not like last year. Again it could all be the pain from the heel.
If this is the case coupled with the fact that he is not practicing with the team then I have to wonder if maybe for everybody's long term benefit if we shouldn't sit him for a couple of games. What is the worse that could happen we lose 4 in a row, oh wait...
Defensively he seems to be about what he was last season. Maybe a little better than last season. Rebounding has been hit and miss with some outstanding games and a couple of really low number games.
Leadership is where I seem to be seeing a lapse. Last season only Roy Hibbert cheered more from the bench than him and now this season he seems to not be so involved.
This sounds a lot more negative than I intended for it to be but I guess that is really where I am at right now with him. I still love him as a player and would not trade him for anything less than upper tier talent but I will just say I was hoping for a little more. Maybe my expectations were too high?
Danny Granger = B
Dahntay Jones: Better than expected. In fact up until the mindless benching (I promise I am not going to go off of track here) I thought that he was probably the most important part of the very early success that we had.
Offensively he was far better than advertised and on defense he was giving us exactly what we expected. However what was more important than either of those things was the fact that he brought toughness to our lineup that we have lacked for several years. A player who would bite, kick, scratch and claw not to lose a game.
Now he is not without faults though. While certainly his offense has been a very pleasant surprise he will probably end up with the Al "I've never met a shot I don't like" Harrington award for being the teams black hole. Once it goes in it ain't coming back out. Come hell or high-water he is either going up with a shot or going to take it to the rack. Sometimes this has spectacular success; other times he misses team mates who have wide open shots.
However I tend to be more forgiving, maybe even more that I should be, to players like him because he is always fighting and does not give up. I guess he is the type of player you would want to go to war with.
Dahntay Jones = B
T.J. Ford: His game is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. There have been games where he is simply the worst point guard in all of basketball; I'm including my nephew's 6 year old league btw here. But then there are other times that he has been vastly under rated on this board for sure and actually put in solid overall play.
On defense there has been several times that he was very disruptive to the other team only to be outdone by being very disruptive to our offense on our end of the court.
Look the guy is never going to be a Mark Jackson style of point guard. In fact, again I will not go off of track to talk about O'Brien even though I want to, in style of offense that we employ he would not be allowed to be even if he was. So for those who complain about is few assists a game and lack of overall being a floor general I want to say that while we all might want that our coach does not. So it is hard to blame T.J. for not being something we might want but playing in the style that the coach wants.
But it really has been erratic for him this season. I mean he has had monster swings from game to game and really that is not what you are looking for from your p.g. no matter what style the coach is playing. So while I am not nearly as down on him as others are I will be the first to say that an improvement at the point would not be a bad thing.
T.J. Ford = C
Earl Watson: Exactly about everything you would want from your back up point guard. Hard nosed defender, does not do many stupid things with the ball and has the ability to hit a shot when needed.
Now that is not to say that he is without problems either. He went through a streak of games where he made Jeff Foster look like Jeff Hornacek from the floor. While his defense never waned his pure lack of offense would sometimes kill us.
But very hard to be upset with someone signed to a min. contract asked to come in and be the main backup right away who at least does the first rule of medicine "first do no harm".
Earl Watson = B (this is not an indication that he is better than T.J. btw, it is just based on his play vs. what is expected of him)
And now we come to the musical portion of our show.
Roy Hibbert: This will be very very very very very hard for me not to talk about the coaching staff here. I will try with all my might but I may not be able to help myself.
To begin the year with this guy was as good as any of us would have ever expected him to be. In fact he had far exceeded any expectations I had of him. On offense he was solid, on defense he was not a liability in fact he was actually somewhat of a space eater inside and the rebounding, oh my the rebounding. I never dreamed that the guy would average over 5 rebounds a game for any length of time but he was pulling in 9+ a game and was one of the league leaders in blocked shots.
Then Troy Murphy returned from injury.
From there it has been a free fall that would make any Army HALO jumper proud. However since we are not the army this is not a good thing.
He is at best a shell of himself from earlier this season. Now you can blame it all on Roy or on circumstance or whatever, but there is a disconnect the size of Texas between the way he played when he was paired with an athletic power forward who could defend his man vs. being paired with a power forward who's idea of defense is to formally write and request that his opponent not drive on him.
I don't really even know how to rate Roy here. I know some think I am too easy on him, maybe I am. No matter who is out there with him on defense that does not give him excuse for dropping the ball in the post or getting fooled by a pump fake from 45 feet out from the basket. But still I just think there was a world of difference.
Roy Hibbert = C+
Solomon Jones: Again I will make myself refrain from talking about coaching here. When he was given a chance early in the season he was affective, to his abilities anyway, and he offered up some form of resistance in the post when Roy was not there. In fact between Roy & Solomon and the others we were the best shot blocking team in the NBA.
He is a better free throw shooter than you think; he is also a better scorer than you think as he can hit a jump shot from about 10-12 without much problem.
Look don't get me wrong the guy is not going to challenge Dwight Howard anytime soon as a post presence and I am not saying he should be a starter or even the first backup off of the bench or anything. But I am saying that compared to others who are getting ungodly min. compared to what they are producing I just can NOT see why this guy is getting DNP-CD'd game after game.
But again, low cost back up who is willing to be a good soldier makes me maybe be a little soft on the grade scale with him.
Solomon Jones = C
Luther Head: Oh let's see here the last game we won I believe that Luther had 14 points in 22 min. of play. Then the next night he played 11 min. and was one of only 3 players in the + side of the +/- category (which I pay no attention to but for some reason our coach seems to want to go there when talking about certain players) but since then? Not a single min. on the floor.
This is actually somewhat surprising to me because to be honest with you I would have thought that Luther would have been exactly what O'Brien would want from a p.g. But he has not chosen to go that route.
There are only so many min. in a game so someone is not going to get to play that some of us think should so I guess that would be Luther and Solomon for me.
Defense can tend to be a little spotty as I still have nightmares about S. Jones picking up a foul in the pre-season because Luther let his man blow past him like he was in cement.
But again super cheap back up that is willing to be a good soldier and does seem to produce when called upon?
Luther Head = C
Tyler Hansbrough: Wrecking ball. When I see him on the floor I see a player who is not afraid. Look I have no dog in the fight of if he should or should not have been drafted or if he should have been taken lower or where he went to college at or any of that.
But from what I have seen, I like it. That is why his second half disappearance vs. the Jazz was so both disappointing and maddening. I won't say it is a mystery as to why he didn't play; I think we all know why.
I saw Carlos Boozer back up to him and try and back him down and he did not budge. In fact Carlos bounced off of him and lost the ball. Ford will get the steal for that but it was created by the rock hard physic of Tyler. Btw, this guy dwarfs Millsap in both height and much to my shock strength. In fact Paul looked like a guard compared to Tyler.
For the season though I think we are getting good work from him. I have no idea what his ceiling is and I don't think any of us can really speculate with anything other than a guess.
He does have weaknesses for certain but what I like about him so far anyway is that he seems to be able to learn from his weaknesses and tries to compensate for them.
I want to see more time from him, not less. So you can guess who I want to give up min. for him to get them from.
Decent face up shooter, far better than expected defender. Rebounding seems to be coming along although he does need some work on this. He does have a legitimate problem sometimes getting lift in the lane so he has had his shot blocked a few times.
But overall I will have to say I am pretty happy with him.
Tyler Hansbrough = B
Brandon Rush: To call him a disappointment would be to say that the Titanic was a small mishap.
Look I love defense. Defense wins games yada yada yada...
But you can NOT have your shooting guard score so few point in a game. Unless your name is T.R. Dunn and you are a shooting guard you damn well put the ball in the basket at over 12 points a game.
Look this is one time that I can NOT blame coaching. In fact he has gone out of his way the other way to help Brandon (Oh if only he would do this for Roy). But like Mel Gibson said to the Land Barons in BraveHart "for Chists sake help yourselfs". Well the only person standing between Brandon Rush and success is Brandon Rush.
He was all but given the job on a silver platter. Heck Dunleavy didn't even play for the first few games so that wasn't even an issue.
But giving him minutes on the floor is like giving him the GlennGary leads, he is just throwing them away.
Brandon Rush = D (the only reason this is not an F is because he has done a very admirable job on defense and while I appreciate that we need something else)
Troy Murphy: I think I will just sum up my thoughts on Troy Murphy by posting a photo of his defensive stance.
No it is not fair to state that our entire problem is Troy Murphy, in fact I am glad that vs. the Jazz he didn't suck as bad on defense as he usually does (now that is a ringing endorsement if I have ever uttered one). But to say that he, and to be more specific our coach's love of his game, is not a major problem would not be right either.
This guy is so bad on defense on most nights that he literally makes player around him worse. His shot had not been dropping prior to the Utah game so the one thing he did offer the team (his three's) has not been there either. However to his credit it does look like he has worked on driving the lane this year so I will give him full credit for that.
Look I don't want to sound like a reactionary here but I will just go ahead and make this statement now.
I understand the long term plan. I understand that 2011 is the goal but, and believe me I know this is a huge but, if there is anyway at all to expedite his departure from the team we have got to do this now.
Ok, I'll caveat that by saying he can stay but O'Brien has to go. Actually the more I think about that I still want Murphy to go as well.
Look him playing center instead of Roy makes me want to experiment with LSD. Him playing over 35 min. a game while Tyler plays less than 15 makes me want to put on sack cloth and ashes and whip myself with chains.
Remember this is coming from a person who wanted him here. This is also from the same person who used to defend him to his naysayer for his salary.
But no more. This guy has got to go and I do not want to wait till 2011 to do it.
But like I started out saying "despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage" and I know that this suck fest will continue for the next year and a half at least.
Troy Murphy = F
A.J. Price, Mike Dunleavy & Josh McRoberts have not played enough for me to score yet.
I will get to O'Brien and Bird later; it will take an entire post all by itself I assure you.
Now for those of you who have suffered through this nonsense I present you with a parting gift of fruit.