Ten reasons for the Jazz's 12-1 start


Felt like doing a column-type thing about the Jazz. My apologies to anyone who reads my blog and doesn't care about sports. Tough cookies.

So why are the Jazz doing so well? Reasons 1-10 are as follows:

1) They're healthy. Despite the recent troubles with AK47's ankle and Giricek's Achilles, everybody else is in perfect shape. Apparently, a healthy Carlos Boozer = twenty points, ten rebounds and three assists per night guaranteed.

2) Deron Williams lost twenty pounds in the off-season and has a much better idea of what it takes to run an NBA team. The added time getting comfortable with Boozer and Okur has helped him set them up for good shots. The three of them have a real chemistry going that wasn't there last year.

3) In all honesty, they've had a pretty easy schedule thus far. We'll learn a lot more about the team when we play the Spurs, Mavs and Cavs. Not saying the Jazz aren't better than those teams, because I think they are. But they need to be tested.

4) Jerry Sloan has realized that in order for rookies to really progress, he has to play them. His old strategy was to let rookies "develop" (i.e. sit on the bench) while learning from Stockton and Malone. He doesn't have that luxury any more -- this is a young team no matter who plays. He learned from the experience with Williams last year (who had flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of suckitude) that, even though there will be inconsistent play, the best way for a rookie to develop (or to show that he's a bust) is to give him minutes.

5) Paul Millsap is a beast, the steal of the draft. Why do people put so much emphasis on draft combines and athletic ability and "potential upside?" If anybody had so much as glanced at Millsap's game tape, they would have seen an extremely hard-nosed player who has an inexplicable knack for being in perfect position for rebounds despite his lack of size. This dude LED THE NATION in rebounding for three straight years. Yes, it was at Louisiana Tech, but I don't care. You can't lead the country in anything for three straight years if you're not doing something right. (The moral of the story: look at performance, not potential, when scouting players.)

6) Sweet powder blue jerseys. (Instantly went on my Christmas list as soon as I saw them.)

7) Derek Fisher. His numbers might not suggest that he's such a huge part of the team's success (certainly he scored more with Golden State). But his veteran presence in that locker room seriously cannot be denied. I interviewed the Jazz players at media day before the season began, and while everyone else was just talking about making the playoffs, Fish had the confidence to say that the ultimate goal was a championship. And it wasn't in an arrogant or wishful way. The guy is a consummate professional. And his attitude has spread throughout the team.

8 ) "The Nuke." (I refuse to call it Ener-whatever-place.)

9) The Jazz have seven players that could legitimately go off for twenty points on any given night (Boozer, Okur, Williams, Fisher, Harpring, Kirilenko, Millsap). Opposing teams will focus on Boozer, yes, but when you have that kind of balanced scoring, it's very difficult to play lockdown defense, because anyone on the floor is a threat. That's why the Jazz have been able to stage these ridiculously awesome comebacks -- late in the game, defenses get tired and have trouble rotating to cover everybody. The player you leave open is the player who's going to kill you. That wasn't true of the Jazz in years past. Because of team depth, it's true now.

10) Karma. We had all those marvelous years where Stockton and Malone never got hurt, ever. We paid the price for all that success in the past four years. Our injuries, crappy draft picks and struggles have appeased the Basketball Gods. As my friend Supermatt said, "WE'RE DUE."

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