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News » Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2008-10-29


Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2008-10-29


Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2008-10-29
Ever since the summer of 2004, when they signed Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur as free agents and Andrei Kirilenko to a contract extension, the Jazz have been building toward this season.

They drafted Deron Williams the following summer and have kept their core players together going on four seasons. The question is whether that will pay off with the first championship for the Jazz and Jerry Sloan.

After winning 50 games, two Northwest Division titles and three playoff series the last two seasons, the Jazz opted to keep their team almost intact for this season.

Thirteen players are returning, including seven who are in their fourth season together. The only new faces belong to veteran point guard Brevin Knight, acquired from the L.A. Clippers in a trade, and rookie center Kosta Koufos.

The hope is that continuity will help the Jazz take the next step. They were the youngest team to reach the playoffs last season after Atlanta. If they stumble, though, the Jazz could face dramatic changes next summer.

They have seven players who could become free agents after the season, including Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver, all of whom can opt out of their contracts. As one of the NBA's smallest-market teams, the Jazz cannot afford to become luxury-tax payers in order to keep anything short of a championship team together.

Either way, though, it will be a milestone season in one respect. With another five victories, Sloan will celebrate 1,000 wins with the Jazz. He also will celebrate his 20th anniversary of taking over for Frank Layden on Dec. 9.

Sloan already has offered clues as to his excitement over this season's team.

The Jazz were in the best collective shape Sloan had seen going into training camp. He also has declared this team his most talented ever.

But after giving up 99.3 points a game last season, Sloan noted that the NBA's most recent championship teams -- Boston, San Antonio, Detroit -- all have been among its toughest defensively.

If the Jazz can make a better defensive commitment, they should be able to improve on last season's 17-24 road record. And if they do that, the Jazz could be primed for a run at a championship.

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- Jerry Sloan, 24th year overall, 21st with Jazz (1,089-717 overall, 995-596 with Jazz). Assistants -- Phil Johnson, Tyrone Corbin, Scott Layden.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 54-28 (1st in Northwest), lost in Western Conference semifinals to L.A. Lakers.

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 57-25 (1st in Northwest), lose to Houston in Western Conference finals.

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: The Jazz are expected to experiment with bringing Andrei Kirilenko off the bench in Matt Harpring's absence, but likely will make the move permanent even after Harpring returns. Deron Williams is likely to play off guard at times this season, even though he dislikes playing anything but point guard, so Jerry Sloan can go with a small backcourt using either Brevin Knight or Ronnie Price.

With a glut of young shooting guards, 2007 first-round draft pick Morris Almond could be traded if the only other option is to send him back to the Utah Flash in the NBA Development League. Kyle Korver was used exclusively as a reserve last season after arriving from Philadelphia, but will start if C.J. Miles isn't up for the job of taking Kirilenko's place in the starting five.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 29, 2008

 

 
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