Posted by: Spencer D. on March 18th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Jazz Head Coach Tyrone Corbin has an interesting problem on his hands right now. He’s got a team with an envious mix of young bucks trying to earn recognition in the ridiculously competitive league that is the NBA, coupled with savvy All-Star veterans who already have reputations and large contracts. This Jazz team could be very good if there had been a summer league, as well as a regular length training camp and pre-season. The cohesiveness and camaraderie a winning team needs is still building in Salt Lake City. But Corbin is faced with a dilemma that’s going to prove his worth as an NBA coach. He has to find a way to develop the young talent sitting on his bench in the coming years, and create a winning atmosphere in EnergySolutions Arena that will help the youngsters grow in a successful environment.
Utah is just absolutely loaded for the future. Only one other team in the league tops the potential the Jazz have, and that would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. The difference between the Jazz and the Thunder is simple: the talent sitting on the Jazz’s roster is younger than that in Oklahoma City. Out of all the rookies and 2nd-year players in Utah this season, only Gordon Hayward can legally buy a beer. Hayward is barely 21. Meanwhile, Enes Kanter is a mere 19 years old. Alec Burks and Derrick Favors are both 20. These kids – yes, they’re kids – have already shown Jazz Nation glimpses of what lies beneath their surfaces, and they haven’t even hit their prime yet. So, it becomes extremely important in the coming years to help turn these newcomers and no-names into regulars on Sports Center’s Top 10.
How to do that is the hard part. Becoming a good player in the NBA takes a lot of hard work, but all the hard work in the world can’t overcome how damaging playing in a losing environment is. Look at Jimmer Fredette for instance: everyone in Provo and the rest of the nation knows this kid can shoots the lights out, but his play in the NBA has suffered because of a few things. One, he’s short, and it’s hard to get those open looks he had in college when he’s got 6’3” or 6’5” guards defending him. Two, he’s stuck playing in Sacramento, a team fallen far from its former glory in the early 2000’s. Losing more games than he’s won has hurt Fredette mentally, and you can see he’s got less of the killer instinct and fire he had while he played in college. Oh, and DeMarcus Cousins isn’t the best teammate in the world, either.
What Corbin has to do with this Jazz team is going to be tough: he has to make sure he balances minutes between the veterans who’ve worked hard all their lives for a starting spot on an NBA squad, and at the same time make sure the young guys who are the future of basketball in Salt Lake City get adequate time to learn the NBA game.
So far this season, it’s been up and down as far as playing time is concerned. CJ Miles, a 7-year veteran, and Alec Burks, a rookie, have been competing for minutes all year. Jeremy Evans won the dunk contest but hasn’t been seen on the court in weeks.
I think it would benefit the Jazz to commit heavily to playing the younger guys more often in games. I can think of many nights when the starters didn’t bring their best game, but Corbin resolutely left them on the floor in hops of winning. And that’s what you expect a coach to do. But at this point for the Jazz, a line has to be drawn between how many games the team needs to win versus how many minutes the young guys need in order to develop. An emphasis still needs to be put on winning as many games as possible; as I’ve already pointed out, losing games won’t help anyone. But the young guys needs a more active role and need to be trusted just a little more than they are at present.
The more the young guys play, especially during this stretch of the season when teams are vying for playoff spots, will benefit them greatly in the long run. A few more games may be lost if Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap had closed out the game rather than Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but the experience gained will be invaluable in the coming years as the Jazz attempt to build another title-contending team.
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