NBA AM: Utah Jazz Quietly Having Strong Summer
The Utah Jazz organization has missed the playoffs just four times since the 1984 season, a span of twenty-eight years. After a one-year hiatus, the Jazz once again reached the postseason in 2012, but were soundly and thoroughly swept at the hands of the veteran laden San Antonio Spurs.
A quick scan of the Jazz’s roster at the end of last season revealed a team that relied on four guys under the age of 22 to average double-digit minutes in the nightly rotation. While they showed considerable promise, rookies Enes Kanter and Alec Burks and second-year players Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward were thrust into pivotal playoff roles usually best suited for veterans.
Without a first-round pick in this year’s draft to bolster the rotation, the Jazz’s front office has gone the veteran route via trade this summer in an effort to add more experience to the locker room and help speed up the development of the team’s youngsters.
In June, the team acquired former All-Star point guard Mo Williams from the Los Angeles Clippers in a four-way deal that immediately strengthened the backcourt. In early July, the team acquired veteran small forward Marvin Williams from the Atlanta Hawks.
Starting power forward Paul Millsap has been impressed with the moves the team has made this summer and views the new additions to the roster as upgrades.
“It’s a great move for the team,” Millsap told HOOPSWORLD about Mo Williams during Las Vegas Summer League. “We brought in a guy who can shoot the basketball. He’s also a floor leader and he’s been around for a while so he knows the game and he’s going to bring the leadership role to our team and help our team out a lot.”
Leadership shouldn’t be a problem for Mo Williams to bring to Utah as the nine-year veteran boasts 41 career postseason games, which includes three trips past the first round of the playoffs.
Marvin Williams is the lesser heralded of the Jazz’s veteran additions, but he boasts close to 400 career starts and was a key part of the Hawks’ current postseason streak, which stands at five. In Atlanta, Williams was constantly maligned for being the No. 2 overall selection in the 2005 draft, ahead of All-Stars Chris Paul and former Jazz guard Deron Williams. But in Utah, Williams should be free from the pressure and able to aid in the development of the emerging Hayward on the wing.
Millsap believes Marvin Williams is an underrated piece that undoubtedly improves the team.
“You’ve got another experienced guy who’s been around in the league for a while,” Williams said of Marvin Williams. “He’s played east coast basketball so it’ll be a transition for him to play west coast basketball, [but] he’s a good defender also. He can spot up and hit the jump shot. He adds another dimension to our team.”
The Jazz have also reportedly signed combo guard Randy Foye to a one-year deal for next season. In six seasons, Foye has established himself as a double-digit scorer and capable three-point shooter.
Millsap believes the Jazz can emerge as one of the sleepers in the Western Conference next season if the new pieces are able to fully mesh with the team’s existing core.
“It’s going to be how hard we work, how we come together in training camp,” Millsap said. “Coach Ty [Corbin] is able to input his system, that’s going to help us out a lot. Still some more faces, new faces so once we get the chemistry down and guys get on the same page, I think we’ll be right there.”
Minnesota Timberwolves Targeting Andrei Kirilenko? According to a report by ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Minnesota Timberwolves are targeting former All-Defensive forward Andrei Kirilenko via free agency. Kirilenko, an unrestricted free agent, played with CSKA Moscow last season due in large part to the NBA labor dispute.
In order for the T’Wolves to sign Kirilenko, they would need to clear the necessary cap space. According to Broussard’s report, Minnesota is actively engaged in trade discussions with the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets to do so. The swap hinges on Lopez agreeing to a three-year $15 million contract in a sign-and-trade move to the Hornets.
In the reported deal, Phoenix would send Hakim Warrick and Robin Lopez to New Orleans. Minnesota would then ship Wesley Johnson and a first-round pick to Phoenix and New Orleans would trade veteran center Brad Miller to Phoenix. The T’Wolves would likely receive two future second-round picks in the deal.
The Brooklyn Nets have long been rumored to be players in the Kirilenko sweepstakes, but after a summer of acquiring a large amount of salary the team may be unable to pull off a signing.
Kirilenko has expressed a desire to return to the NBA for the 2013 season, with the Russian outlet Sport Express quoting him earlier this week as saying: “I want to decide my new team before the Olympics. There are several options in the NBA, but the final choice has not been made yet.”
Kirilenko has played in 10 seasons, recording one All-Star appearance and three All-Defensive team selections. He led the league in blocks per game in the 2005 season.
Team USA Passes Final Test Before London Games, Dominates Spain: Leading up to the Olympics, the U.S. Men’s National team took big hits to their frontcourt due to injuries. The team will be without big men Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, who won gold medals in the 2008 games, and All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who would have likely made the 2012 team.
Without Howard manning the interior, Team USA’s most glaring weakness is its lack of size in the frontcourt. Fortunately for the latest “Dream Team” there aren’t many teams in the world who can capitalize on the opportunity.
Spain was thought to be one of those squads that would provide an early indication of whether the smaller Team USA squad was in trouble heading to London.
But Team USA responded to the challenge by defeating Spain 100-78 in an exhibition contest in which the Americans had to overcome early foul trouble to the lone center on the roster, Tyson Chandler.
“It was a good test for us tonight, but the exhibition games are over, the friendlies are over and we look forward to the real challenge of going to London,” LeBron James said after the game, according to the AP.
Spain and the United States will play in opposite Olympic pools. The two countries met in the gold medal game during the 2008 games with Team USA pulling out a very close 118-107 victory.
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