We’ve decided it’s time to revive our series of Philadunkia scouting pieces titled “Fo’ with the Foes”, which with the help of some accomplished journalists from around the country, preview upcoming 76ers opponents. If you remember we began posting “Fo’ with the Foes” (The name is obviously a tribute to Moses Malone’s bold 1983 playoff prediction.) pieces last year and we apologize that we kind of slacked on it so far this season. Well now it’s back by popular demand.
The first edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” for the 2009-10 season features tonight’s opponent, the Utah Jazz. With a record of 3-5, Utah is a team that has struggled out of the gate this season much like our 76ers. Of course the Jazz actually have an excuse for their slow start to 2009-10 as their lineup has been devastated with injuries to key players. In our view this is a game that Sixers could steal for a several reasons; again, the Jazz are missing a couple of key players, the tempo of the game should promote the Sixers run-n-gun nicely, so we’ll see little of the Princeton offense and tonight the Jazz will be playing in their third game of a four game road trip. Deron Williams will probably go for 40 & 10 tonight against the Sixers non-existent defense, but that’s something the home team should be able to overcome.
For a little more insight into the Jazz team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Spencer Ryan Hall from saltcityhoops.com to answer two questions on the Jazz from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Utah squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia: The Jazz basically have the same core as the team that a few years ago went to the Western Conference Finals. What has been the difference in 2009-10?
Spencer Ryan Hall (SCH) : The difference is toughness. That 2006-2007 WCF team had Derek Fisher and Matt Harpring bringing a nasty demeanor. Even Dee Brown and Rafael Araujo at the end of the bench brought heart and attitude. This year’s team plays dodge ball in the off-season and doesn’t seem to mind letting opponents score at will.
Spence Ryan Hall (SCH) Analysis #1: This team is also struggling with several players out from injuries. Without Kyle Korver and CJ Miles not on the floor to spread the defense, opponents have been able to pack the paint and play zone, which has limited Paul Millsap’s effectiveness. Assistant Coach Phil Johnson mentioned in his weekly radio show that the Jazz could wheel Kyle Korver out in a wheelchair and the opposing team would still respect his shooting and it would open up the floor. Reputation alone changes the dynamics and spacing on the floor.
Philadunkia: While the Jazz have not gotten off to a great start, is there anything that you have you been pleasantly surprised with so far in 2009-10?
Spencer Ryan Hall (SCH) : The biggest surprise this year is the emergence of Wesley Matthews, the undrafted rookie out of Marquette. The injury situation opened the door, but Matthews has been solid. Everyone knows that rookies don’t get playing time from Jerry Sloan, so they very presence of Matthews on the court during the fourth quarter of close games speaks volumes about how Sloan feels about this rookie. He’s not a complete unknown — Matthews’ father played nine years in the NBA and even picked up a few championships with the Lakers.
Spencer Ryan Hall (SCH) Analysis #2: The Knicks used a zone almost exclusively against the Jazz for the last 41 minutes of Monday’s game, and with great results. As Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune noted on Tuesday, word will spread quickly on how to bog down the Jazz offense.
We also hit Spencer with a bonus question regarding Deron Williams and asked our Utah man if he thinks the slick point guard is going to be in Utah for the long haul? After all Williams sure would look good in a Sixers new-retro uniform if he’s available or unhappy in Utah.
Philadunkia: Is there pressure in your eyes for Jazz management to build a championship contending team in the next two years in order to keep Deron Williams?
Spencer Ryan Hall (SCH) : I don’t get the impression that Williams is looking to bolt. He’s locked in to a long-term max contract for the next few years so his happiness is probably one of the least pressing issues for the front office. For all his accolades, Williams still hasn’t even made an All-Star team yet, so my guess is that he’d be the first one to say that he has more work to do on his own game before he demands more support from the rest of the team.
The following exchange with the Baseline was telling (and is the template for keeping your fan base happy in a small market. Boozer should take notes):
SN: Playing in a small market in Utah, do you ever feel that you are sometimes overlooked when people talk about the NBA’s best point guards?
DW: That is something that goes along with playing in a small market. It is something you really can’t control. But there are other benefits to playing in a small market. I’ve enjoyed my time in Utah and look forward to continuing to play there.
— Thanks to Spencer for all his insights.