Utah Jazz notebook: Pick-and-roll or not, defense just needs stops
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Pick-and-roll problems have been a prevalent theme for the Utah Jazz.
But it's a subject Deron Williams — who not long ago said that aspect of the Jazz's defense has struggled with his entire six-year NBA career — is tired of addressing.
"We've just got to get stops," Williams said at Monday's shootaround ahead of Utah's game against the Sacramento Kings. "I'm not going to talk about pick-and-rolls anymore. We've just got to get stops."
Coach Jerry Sloan isn't quite done discussing the issue, though, especially in light of how the Oklahoma City Thunder so effectively picked apart the Jazz on Saturday with that Basketball 101 strategy.
The Jazz coach, whose teams have tortured opponents with pick-and-rolls for decades, believes that his players are locking their knees and aren't being active enough in trying to fight through the screens.
"I think effort has to be there to make pick-and-rolls work, defensively," Sloan said.
And that, he believes, has been the Jazz's biggest blunder with that defensive problem this season.
"We've played teams and they didn't come up and really get themselves involved and didn't get after it," Sloan said.
After recalling how John Stockton and Karl Malone were solid pick-and-roll defenders, he added: "When you don't get the effort, nothing's going to work."
Small forward C.J. Miles said the Jazz have three basic philosophies when it comes to pick-and-roll defense, depending on the opponent's tendencies and strengths.
Simply put, the Jazz will try to defend the offensive player by going over the screen, by going under or by employing a trap.
"If the guy's not a shooter, then maybe you go under (the screen)," Miles explained. "If he is a shooter, you definitely go over the top so he can't shoot it."
Adjustments are made if those strategies don't work. For instance, the Jazz might try a zone for a bit.
"When you play the pick-and-roll," Sloan added, "it's pretty tough sometimes."
Especially, noted rookie Gordon Hayward, when the guy popping off the screen hits jumper after jumper — as was the case Saturday against the Thunder..
"It's something we obviously need to work on. We're trying to do things," Hayward said. "We've tried a lot of different ways of stopping the pick and roll, but I think communicating might help us out a little bit more. It's a hard play to stop."
Defensive player rotation and help — which require that communication — also play important roles in trying to throw a wrench into pick-and-roll efficiency.
It takes a team, in other words.
"I think it's more not individual effort," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "I think it's more two, three, four guys' effort. It's a lot from the guy who's helping and a lot from the guy who's helping the helper.
"Sometimes the guy who got screened on the pick and roll, he's a little afraid of his guy getting flash, getting for the layup so he doesn't help much.."
That can lead — and has often led — to easy buckets.
"We have trust each other," Kirilenko said. "We have to kind of work through it and start believing in each other more on that rotation."
Or, to simplify all of that as their team leader did, the Jazz need to get stops.
DONE DEAL: Sloan confirmed to NBA.com and then to other media members Monday that he has signed the contract extension to return to the Jazz's bench for the 2011-12 season, formalizing a widely reported agreement the Hall of Famer made with Utah's front office in November.
"I thought I'd answered that question," Sloan said about his contract situation, which would bring him back for a 24th season in Utah. "Everything is normal. It never has been a problem."
Sloan said he hasn't thought about how an eventual NBA lockout would affect his decision.
As usual, the soon-to-be 69-year-old will take time to evaluate his future in the offseason before finalizing his return.
SANS A SENSEI: Francisco Elson was a late scratch from the Jazz lineup because of inflammation in his left knee. This comes a few weeks after the backup big man, nicknamed "Sensei" by teammates, missed one game (Jan. 22) with left quadriceps tendinitis.
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