The Utah Jazz will open their preseason on October 7th against an all too familiar opponent: The Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers and Kobe took the Jazz out of contention in the second round of the 2008 playoffs. As Williams threw up one last desperate shot in an attempt to tie the game and force overtime in game six in Utah, his shot was just short and a little to the left. That one shot left a bad taste in the mouth's of Utah fan's which has lasted throughout a rather quick summer.
Another season where the Utah Jazz came up short in the post-season....another all too familiar taste....
Even though this game is just the pre-season opener and a game that has virtually zero implications, expect the usual chip on Deron Williams shoulder to be securely attached and in plain sight. His emergence as one of the top point guards in the league over the past two seasons has given this Jazz squad legitimacy in this increasingly competitive arena of talent we call the Western conference, and by most accounts the west side will remain the best side when it comes to competitive teams with great players and winning records.
The Utah Jazz were one of the best offensive teams in the league last season- consistently ranking among the top five in assists, field goal percentage and points scored.
Unfortunately several unnecessary lapses on defense from Utah against LA in the second round made them appear as soft as Charmin at times and contributed to Utah being booted out much too soon....as a Jazz fan it was difficult to digest. If only Utah could transfer some of their offensive brilliance to a new found defensive focus, a true contender will be born. The tools we need are there, the Jazz have some of the most underrated defensive players in the league on their team in Milsap, Harpring and AK but there is like alot of people say: "something missing" from this squad.
I would say it is a defensive focus and communication on every single possession. Some agree the Jazz need another low post defender of which Boozer was not, well at least not against LA, but it is unfair to blame it all on one player like many people do with Boozer, this is, after all, a team game despite how individualistic it appears to be at times.
The truth is Utah needs to let defense take precedence over offense, this is what gets teams past that 'solid' or 'decent' team status in the league. October 7th is an early chance to see if we are ready to bang with our biggest competition in these early days on the edge of 2008-2009 season both offensively and defensively.
If only Utah could execute defense as deadly as it does offense, the Jazz would easily slice and dice their way through any playoff series, including one in California.
The Lakers and their fans seem convinced that they will no doubt be right back where they were last season, in the finals—anything short of this will be considered a failure. With the addition of the young center, Andrew Bynum, the Lakers and Laker fans are warranted in their beliefs.
The Jazz on the other hand have not made any major changes and have not added any defensive prowess. With all of the Yao's and Bynum's and Oden's on the horizon, a defensive presence in the post will be necessary to compete in the west and make it out of the wild west shootout still standing.
Sometimes a chip on the shoulder is just not enough....
While this Utah team is equipped with two olympians and some of the best young talent in the league today it will take more than just alot of talent, a high field goal percentage and a dominant homecourt to reach the mountaintop.
Defense wins championships, not offensive execution.