NBA AM: Is It Time For A Trade In Utah?
Is It Time To Trade?: After beating the Orlando Magic last night 97-93 a couple of Jazz players joked among themselves that going .500 for this current road trip was acceptable after seeing Brooklyn, Indiana, Miami and Orlando. They’d take .500, especially without guard Mo Williams who severely injured his right thumb in Miami and will miss some games.
This has been the story of the Utah Jazz all season: good enough to win on any given night, but not good enough to string together the kinds of wins it will take to be a player in a very tough and very deep Western Conference.
Jazz forward Paul Millsap has been mentioned non-stop as a possible trade candidate for the Jazz, but he still sees promise in his upstart Jazz team.
“[We can be] as good as we allow ourselves to be,” Millsap told HOOPSWORLD. “It just depends on how we come out and play and how focused we are when we get out there. A lot depends on focus, especially with a young team. Coach [Tyrone Corbin] is always telling us focus, got to keep our focus and if we do that we’ll be fine.”
The Jazz have plenty of offensive firepower. Where they tend to get beaten is on the defense end of the floor and that’s something Millsap says the veterans have to set the tone for.
“We got to set the tone. We got to set the tone down low, especially to start the game out,” said Millsap. “It’s up to us to get down there and try to set some type of physicality tone for the game. If we do that, everybody else joins with us. We have to take it upon ourselves to get down there and do it.”
The Jazz have an extremely young roster, with a number of guys still trying to find their groove. Getting those guys to engage defensively isn’t always easy.
“I think they come with us by looking, by seeing what we do out there before they get on the court,” explained Millsap. “That’s why it is very, very imperative that you do that so we can set the tone for everybody else.
“The young fellas are the key to us winning and our bench because they play significant minutes for us and our bench is going to be key for us down the stretch. But we’re still going to need everybody; everybody has to be ready at all times.”
Sources near the Jazz say that there isn’t a lot of concern about the pending free agent status of both Millsap and Al Jefferson, mainly because there is a real market for both players should the Jazz look for a deal.
The Jazz view themselves as a playoff contender, and as long as that remains the case dealing a player like Millsap or even Jefferson remains a low-priority items, according to sources.
Of the two, Millsap seems to be the easiest player to trade, mainly because Jazz reserve Derrick Favors is clearly ready to play a bigger role. Moving Al Jefferson is a bit of a different story because his back up, Enes Kanter, isn’t nearly as evolved.
Several of the Jazz players that spoke with HOOPSWORLD said they believed Favors was clearly ready for a bigger role, although Kanter, while having shown flashes of ability this season, still has more work to do, especially on his body.
The Jazz have said from the beginning of the season that their veteran depth would be a key to a playoff berth and as long as the playoffs were in reach they wouldn’t be looking at wholesale changes.
With last night’s win in Orlando the Jazz are now tied with Minnesota for the eighth seed in the West, and sit a half a game out of the playoff picture.
The Jazz get two much needed days off before two home games versus Golden State and the LA Clippers.
There is little doubt that Utah is going to have to explore trading Millsap (and possibly Jefferson) at some point this season, but what’s more likely is that happening a lot closer to the February 21st NBA Trade Deadline when the Jazz truly understand who they really are in the Western Conference.
Jefferson Says It The Defense: Jazz center Al Jefferson believes that his Jazz team has all the offense it needs to win games, where they struggle is on defense.
Jefferson talked with HOOPSWORLD about the youth of the Jazz, their strength as a team and how to set that defensive intensity needed to win.
Cousins Changes Agents: After being suspended indefinitely by the Sacramento Kings for what’s being called “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team”, King’s big man DeMarcus Cousin has fired his long-time agent John Greig and is hiring long-time power agent Dan Fegan.
Fegan has a history of aggressively protecting his client’s interests and is one of the more aggressive agents in the business. Fegan has a track record of either getting his clients what they want in the situations they are in, or getting them traded out of those situations.
During the NBA draft process Cousins defended his decision to go with the lesser known Greig, saying he didn’t want to be just another client of a major agent. He wanted an agent that would make him his top priority, which is exactly what Greig did. However, it seems the temperamental Cousins now wants an agent with clout after a tumultuous couple of seasons in Sacramento.
The Kings have tried to make it work with Cousins. One of the key reasons Keith Smart was retained as head coach was because of his ability to connect and relate to Cousins. For a while it seemed that Smart had reached Cousins.
So far this season, informed source say Cousins has not only taken advantage of Smart’s desire to make it work, he has become almost toxic in practice. The Kings have been denying that trading DeMarcus Cousins is in the works, but it does seem the marriage is on very shaky ground and things could be coming to an end in Sacramento for Cousins.
For Cousins part, he told USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick that he wants to remain in Sacramento, but that an exit is “a possibility.”
The Kings have not set a timetable for Cousin’s return. However, without their marquee big man the Kings did put up an impressive 108-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers last night, shooting 55 percent from the field and a scorching 47 percent from three point range.
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