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News » Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2009-10-19

Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2009-10-19

Utah Jazz Getting Inside 2009-10-19The way they closed the 2008-09 season, losing seven of nine games down the stretch to drop to eighth place in the Western Conference and draw the eventual champion L.A. Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, nobody would have been surprised had the Jazz overhauled their roster this summer.

"A lot of people said that when John and Karl were here," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "I don't pay attention to what other people say. They don't have to be with these guys every day. I know them pretty well.

"I know who they are and what they've been. I think they're good guys. They've just got to continue to work. They're a young team. This is a young team."

Instead, the Jazz shocked many by opting to bring back 12 players from last season's team. That includes Carlos Boozer, whose decision to play the final year of his contract at $12.7 million rather than opting for free agency, sent the Jazz's $82 million payroll skyrocketing past the NBA's luxury-tax threshold.

Only weeks later, Boozer openly campaigned for a trade in a series of interviews, claiming the organization had told him he was no longer part of future plans and even going so far as to name Chicago and Miami as preferred destinations. Boozer continues to stand by his assertion but will open the season in Utah.

Between the awkwardness of Boozer's return, the prospect that he will be traded in-season and the disappointment that marked the end to last season, expectations for the Jazz are the lowest they've been since the team's 2007 Western Conference finals run.

If they can stay healthy, the Jazz have the ability to return to the top of the Northwest Division. If they can secure home-court advantage for a playoff round or two, the Jazz could be playing well into May. But the Jazz inspired little confidence with the way they finished last season.

"It's one thing to have expectations, it's something else to see how good we can possibly be," Boozer said. "The rest of it, the proof's in the pudding. We've got to go out there and do it."

How the Jazz will fare will depend in large part on whether they can improve defensively as well as on the road. They have placed a renewed emphasis on defense and accountability and have watched video of their play far more than in recent seasons.

"I feel like we're going to score points with the players we have," Sloan said. "We've got a lot of offensive-minded people -- that's what we have -- and they've been able to score. But their ability to defend hasn't been as good as they're capable of doing in my opinion."

The Jazz also have to hope that Boozer's presence doesn't become a disruption. Already, they have faced regular questions about whether they are best served as a team with Paul Millsap starting and Boozer coming off the bench, though Sloan hasn't made a switch.

Millsap is all but certain to be the Jazz's starting power forward next season. For now, though, he will come off the bench behind Boozer. It remains to be seen whether the Jazz's season will be anything more than Boozer's farewell tour in Utah.

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- Jerry Sloan, 25th year overall, 22nd with Jazz (1,137-751). Assistants -- Phil Johnson, Tyrone Corbin, Scott Layden.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 48-34 (3rd in Northwest), lost to L.A. Lakers in first round.

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 54-28 (1st in Northwest), second round of playoffs.

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: Although they will face regular Carlos Boozer trade speculation, the Jazz will hold onto Boozer all season, refusing to add payroll for the 2010-11 season and thereby minimizing their luxury tax hit. The Jazz will return to 50-win status simply by staying healthy and being an improved defensive (100.9 points) and road (15-26) team this season. Third-year center Kyrylo Fesenko will be traded this season if he fails to claim a role. Deron Williams will be selected to the All-Star Game for the first time while Jerry Sloan will return for a 23rd season in Utah in 2010-11.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 20, 2009


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