Utah’s lineup madness

This is an intervention.

The Utah Jazz clearly have no idea what lineups they should be using, so I’m here to help. I’m going to start with Randy Foye, because he seems to be single-handedly murdering the Jazz.

Foye has been so bad that I quadruple-checked all the data because it was so jarring. Individually, he doesn’t seem like much of a train wreck – he has a PER of 11.1 and a true shooting percentage of 53.0%. Obviously that’s not good, but it’s not so bad that it jumps off the page. This season, it puts him in a similar class as Mario Chalmers and Toney Douglas, who have each been passable.

Here’s where Foye has been different – when he’s on the court, Utah scores 104.4 points per 100 possessions and allows 110.1 points per 100 possessions, for a -5.7 net. When he’s off the floor, those numbers flip – Utah scores 111.8 points/100 and allow 102.5 points/100, for a +9.3 net. Combine the two and Foye is costing Utah FIFTEEN POINTS per 100 possessions just by stepping on the court. That’s the difference between being the Heat and being the Bobcats.

Now, there’s an obvious counter-argument to this – looking solely at the +/- of one player is rather disingenuous when so much of that statistic is dictated by (a) the other four players on the court, and (b) how productive the team’s bench is when the player isn’t on the court. With Foye, however, that counter-argument doesn’t hold up when you start digging into the numbers.

If you look at Utah’s most-used lineups and the on/off numbers for two-player combos, it becomes obvious that Foye is the problem. Check out how Utah performs based on Foye sharing the court with either Al Jefferson or

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HoopSpeak Network

NBA Playoffs: Adjustments for May 2 games

Some adjustments to look for in the playoff games tonight.

Memphis Grizzlies (0-1) versus Los Angeles Clippers (1-0)

Even with out The Comeback, that might have been the most complete basketball game Blake Griffin has played as a pro. There weren’t any eye-popping numbers, but Griffin buckled down and did all the gritty things that helps teams win in the playoffs. Routinely (and rightly) criticized for defensive effort and performance, Griffin was very solid (especially in the second half) at that end Sunday night.

He battled Memphis bigs all game for post positioning, communicated and rotated effectively on defense. Griffin even switched out on a late pick-and-roll and forced OJ Mayo into a tough shot in the middle of the Clippers’ memorable run. Of course there were a few dunks, but there was no show-boating, no taunting, just a quiet, tough performance that got him something more important than a few highlight reel clips; a win in Memphis. If the “other” L.A. team wants to put a stranglehold on this series, they will need more of that from him tonight.

San Antonio Spurs (1-0) vs. Utah Jazz (0-1)

Playoff underdogs walk a fine line. On one hand, a team should always play to their strengths, but on the other, a team needs to adjust their identity at times in order to create problems or keep up with a more talented opponent. Ty Corbin, coaching in his first postseason, is trying to find where that line is.

To find it, he may want to examine his use of backup point guard Jamaal Tinsley. In Game 1, Corbin stuck to what seems to be his most recent rotation pattern, leaving Tinsley in for quite a long stretch in the second quarter. At the 10:03 mark in that period, Tony Parker re-entered the game for San Antonio and the Spurs promptly scored on 8 of

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Dirk and JET run the two man game to perfection

Monday night’s thrilling triple OT slugfest between the Mavericks and Jazz didn’t go Dallas’s way, but lordy did they show why they’ll be a tough out come playoff time at the end of the first overtime.

Rob Mahoney named his excellent Mavericks blog The Two Man Game for a very, very good reason. At the end of games, few teams can go to an offensive tactic as reliable and deadly as Dirk Nowtizki and Jason Terry with a side of the court to themselves.

Take a look:

Scene 1

21.3 seconds left, first OT. Vince Carter sets the stage by racing along the baseline to clear out the left wing. Terry comes up off a Dirk screen and because he is such a good shooter with a reputation for late game heroics, his defender trails tightly instead of going under the hand off/screen. As Terry turns the corner, Dirk’s defender is loath to help and leave Nowitzki isolated in space or against a smaller defender. Thus Terry gets a free run at the basket where he expertly absorbs the contact from Al Jefferson and curls the ball in.

Watch how these two take their time on the exchange. Terry is careful to make sure his man cannot sneak between he and Nowtizki, that’s more important than going full speed. Once he is satisfied with the separation, he races around the corner before Millsap can help.

Scene 2

13.4 seconds left, first OT. This time Brian Cardinal, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter align themselves along the perimeter on the left side, leaving the right side of the court to Terry and Nowtizki. In this exchange, we see why Dirk is truly a unique talent in the NBA. Not only can he shoot like no 7-footer ever, he can run

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No Small Market Sympathy

David Stern floats the possible “franchise tag” as a player movement blocker, while a vocal contingent conspires to keep NBA talent in the most obscure outposts. Much of my anti-franchise tag thought is informed by Beckley, who explains its flaws with an eloquence that makes British nobility sound like drunken grifters. Seriously, watch this video if you want to hear God speak through a man: And now you know how to make a perfect omelette.

Note: Such a tag couldn’t work within the NBA as we know it. When an NFL team gives a player an average of the top five salaries for his position, it’s a pay raise, within the context of a hard cap. Basketball has a soft cap, and many “max” contracts (the average of “max” is “max”). So I’ll take this abstract franchise tag to mean some theoretical constraint on a player’s ability to play where he actually wants to. Which I’m against.

Our new era of self determination has monocles shattering around the country. It seems something must be done, because, well…because the NBA is always drowning in the unsolicited advice of concern trolls who hate the league?

Don’t listen to the haters, this big market exodus has been fantastic for pro basketball. Normally boring chapters have been injected with trade-chatter intrigue. Even better, players are gravitating to places where human beings actually live–which is, by some crazy coincidence, where TV ratings also live.

But, something will be done, because the league–like the Democratic party–often bends over backwards for those who would break it. Think the players all dress like thugs? Dress Code! Think the players are entitled punks? More technicals! No taunting! More photogenic charity work! Of course, the anti-basketball ninnies will never be placated. And addressing a “problem,” merely advertises the

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What’s in a market?

(This post is meant to accompany this data!)

The term “big market” gets tossed around a lot this time of year as NBA front offices negotiate and jockey for a chance to improve their team. It’s a common perception that larger media markets, because they generally earn more money from local TV deals and non-shared revenue like team store gear, have an increased ability to spend on free agents. In the view of many, this means that big market teams have an unfair edge when it comes to signing the most coveted players available. These advantages in resources tear top talents from cities nestled in the peaceful Mountain Time Zones like Utah, Phoenix and Denver, and deposit them under brighter lights in bigger cities.

But then how do we explain Miami or Portland, two cities that have been active and aggressive in acquiring talent over the past few seasons? Portland is in only the 22nd largest media market and Miami the 17th (neck and neck with LeBron’s old home market of Cleveland-Akron). To start, the two teams have the first and third wealthiest owners in the NBA, respectively. What’s more, Paul Allen and Micky Arison have both shown they are willing to shell out cash to pull in players, despite their relatively small-time locales.

Or consider the dichotomy between the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. The two teams play in the same building, but does anyone think of the Clippers as a big market team? Probably not, because it has historically been a cut-rate organization that could never develop the assets or cultural cache of the Lakers due to awful ownership and perhaps a bit of bad karma.

The 76ers play in the league’s sixth largest media market, but Philadelphia is so focused on football and baseball that seats

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John Wall, learning the ropes as an NBA point guard

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that John Wall is only a rookie. His buzz attracted national attention for three years preceding his professional debut, and now seems to have faded amid the point guard debate echo chamber and Blake Griffin’s megaphoned redshirt ROY campaign. But Wall’s inconsistent play over the Wizards’ holiday weekend homestand was an example of how the twenty year old point guard is still finding his way, and still deserves the hype.

On Saturday night, Wall looked hurt, tired, and disenchanted. It was frustrating to watch Wall allow himself to be contained by the Raptors’ notoriously penetrable defense. On pick and rolls, he was indecisive, and on his signature full court sprints to the hoop he struggled to finish, often appearing out of control. What’s worse, he gave Jose Calderon, a slightly above average point guard, free reign to drop 21 points and 15 assists by failing to pressure the ball away from Calderon’s comfort zones.

It was the kind of performance that rookies have when they’re on a bad team, playing against another bad team in a half empty arena. This was the Raptor’s second meeting with Wall (who did not play in the teams’ first meeting), and like most teams this season they sunk deep in the paint on pick and rolls to discourage Wall from driving. What was alarming wasn’t that this strategy kept Wall from getting inside, but that it seemed to prevent Wall from finding a rhythm in the rest of his game.

Mental exhaustion seemed to be the culprit in his eight point, nine assist, three turnover performance. It was all he could do to manage the game, he didn’t have the juice to dominate it.

As Calderon said afterward, “I think he’ s going to be a great

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How to write about the Lakers

The only thing more frustrating than watching the Los Angeles Lakers these days is trying to write anything definitive about them. Every assertion seems to boomerang back and to crack the profaner square in the sternum. “The Lakers are, literally speaking, one of the weakest teams still in the Western playoff picture” is immediately countered by “but they’ll probably end up as one of the top two teams in the world.” This method of observation is self-negating and seems to render conclusive statements meaningless.

But we don’t really have any choice.

Blame the Lakers’ greatest rival, the Boston Celtics, for this situation. The way the Boston played possum for two-thirds of the season then roared to life like an enraged phoenix, dousing the Eastern conference and prognosticators alike in vengeful flames for our insolence. Now everyone’s afraid that the Lakers, with their tremendous size and clutch reputation, will do the same.

These shorts were fashionable in Fisher's first year with the Lakers

We are forced to choose between present and historical performance as our guide.

But these Lakers are not last year’s Celtics. The 2009-10 Celtics began the season at an electric 24-5 pace before injury, not complacency, derailed the beatdown express. These Lakers began well against the groveling serfdom of the NBA, but have been only one game over .500 since their 13-2 start.

As John Hollinger points out, were the Lakers to win a championship, given their start it would be the biggest surprise since the 1977-8 Bullets. Yet he also assures that “absolutely nobody is ready to write off the Lakers just yet. We’re not even to the point of sharpening pencils.” Exactly. We’re just draining the ink from our metaphorical pens until the end of the regular season.

The emergent problems with Kobe and

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NBA Playbook’s Sebastian Pruiti Helps Destroy The Looney Toons

As a new affiliate of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, I’m eager to exploit my membership to tap some of the best basketball noggins around. Last week, I got in touch with the THN’s resident game film guru, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook to ask him a ridiculous question I hoped would inspire him to reveal some killer plays. He didn’t disappoint. Here are two plays Sebastian would bring with him to the other side of the galaxy:

Beckley: Sebastian, imagine if you will, that the MonStars have returned to Earth in SpaceJam Part Deux: The Bloodening. The recession has reached their home planet, so they are once again hoping to enslave the Looney Toons and the NBA’s greatest player, this time LeBron James. As part of their plan to reverse their previous misfortune at the hands of Jordan and Fudd, they’ve hired you for the price of a majority share in Moron Mountain (which you plan to rename). The diminutive extraterrestrials are counting on you to teach them the very best NBA plays available.

Unfortunately for you, these aliens don’t understand the NBA and team building at all. That’s why the original MonStar lineup was a baffling combination of talents including Mugsy Bogues, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Shawn Bradley. They did a little better this time, but not much:

(Cut to MonStars sitting in various NBA arenas, scouting talent)

Announcer’s voices from each arena:

…Yao Ming is simply a giant who rules this land with an iron fist!..

…Dwight Howard is ripping Brian Cardinal limb from limb!…

…Paul Pierce is tossing 17 foot daggers into the heart of this Milwaukee Bucks team!..

…Carmelo Anthony is playing in another time, another space, another dimension, he’s not of this world!…

…Look at Brandon Jennings turn on the hyperjets,

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Deron Williams: The World's Greatest Point Guard

Despite Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash’s excellent performances last night, the fact remains that Deron Williams is simply the best point guard alive.

Before you start writing angry Chris Paul rants in the comment section, let me say Paul is my favorite point guard and that I think, if he returns healthy, he will regain his throne. But after the way he played at the end of this season, coming back from multiple leg injuries (including a very worrisome knee surgery), he has to prove he can still play his stratospheric level.

What makes Williams so special today, and what separates him from every other elite point guard in the game, is that he can excel in any style of play and against any defender.

In the full court, Williams’s devastating combination of size, speed, and control make him an absolute nightmare. His signature move, a full speed crossover he stole from Jason Kidd, allows him to get his broad shoulders past his defender and then use his strength to finish at the rim or draw a foul.

While Williams may look like a runaway train barreling down on defenders tied to the track, he always has his head up and rarely makes the wrong decision. His combination of physicality, control, and awareness, while moving at breakneck speed, is outstanding.

Besides LeBron and Durant, there isn’t a more difficult player to stop once he gets a head of steam. When Paul’s explosiveness returns, he may have something to say about this. As for Nash and Rondo, they are primarily distributors in transition because they lack the strength and explosiveness to finish as consistently as Williams. Check out this dunk and tell me you disagree.

In the half court, Williams benefits from a Utah offensive system that caters

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