Utah Jazz: Kevin O'Connor gives 'State of the Jazz' address
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It began as a simple announcement about how the Utah Jazz were going to sign a D-League player because of the wounded team's injury situation.
But after briefing media members on new Jazzman Kyle Weaver, general manager Kevin O'Connor spent another 15 minutes fielding a variety of reporters' questions — with topics ranging from the team's current and future situations, the upcoming draft, Andrei Kirilenko's impending free agency, Al Jefferson avoiding the media to, yep, The Jimmer (well, sort of).
Q: Will this be an audition of sorts for Kyle Weaver or will he be signed simply to fill the injury void?
KOC: More because of the injuries, if you want the honest assessment. What we do is we have a list that we keep of every position in the D-League and every guy that's out there. We call it an emergency list. We evaluate what the emergency is. Marcus Cousin was an emergency when we had all of the big guys out.
(Weaver's) had NBA experience. He's been with a program like Oklahoma City, who does things the right way.
There's two or three reasons you bring somebody up at this time of the year, and I think he fills all three reasons. 1) He's somebody that we want to take a serious look at; 2) He's somebody that we're going to need to probably put in the game; and, 3) What kind of guy is he? And he comes up in good light on all of those.
If you look at him, one of the things you question was his outside shooting. If you look at him statistically on his NBD-League (stats), he's really improved that. He's in his 40s on his 3-point shooting.
Q: How do you feel about the situation the team is in right now?
KOC: It's lousy. We were here when we won 26 games (in 2004-05), and I think we came out of that OK. We had a lot of injuries that year, if I remember. Andrei missed over 40 games and Carlos (Boozer) missed a lot of games and Raja (Bell) missed games at the end of the year ... so we understand what it is and we appreciate it.
As far as the whole thing goes, it's lousy. If they don't make a miracle shot, New Orleans, and (Jordan) Crawford doesn't hit the jump shot (for Washington), then we've won two out of last three and we feel a lot better about ourselves. But you understand that this is part of what you go through. You're teaching the young players you have to do the right things.
Whatever the scoreboard says is what it is and you are who you are with that and you've got to continue to do the right things. You've got to be on time for practice. You've got to do all of the things that you're supposed to do. This organization and the Miller family, that's one of their trademarks. ... We're responsible for doing things professionally in the right way.
Q: What is the core of this team going ahead, and do you consider Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors part of that?
KOC: We're going to have to put it all back together a little bit going into next season. Devin Harris, to me, is a very good point guard. And I think Raja would say this to you that he probably didn't have the kind of season he wanted to have. Defensively, I think he's done a good job, and hopefully he'll bounce back next year with that.
The only guy that's significant that plays that we don't have back next year is Andrei. We have a couple of draft picks, so I think it's a matter of evaluating in the offseason. It's their responsibility, too, as players to get better. Look, Al's 25, it's not like he's coming into the prime of his career hopefully. He needs to get better. We need to do a better job managing. I need to do a better job. Ty (Corbin) needs to do a better job.
The Miller family has given us everything we've asked for, so it's our responsibility and it's right on us. It starts with me and works all the way down to the coaches, to the players, to the people trying to keep them healthy — everybody. Everybody's involved with this and everybody's got to do it. We'll be judged accordingly. Our report card is public.
Q: What is Kirilenko's future like with the Jazz?
KOC: I wouldn't have a comment on it. It's going to be up to him. What does he want to do? He's got an opportunity to test the free-agent market. There's nothing we can do about it. He's fulfilled his contract. We've fulfilled our side of it. Would we like him back? Sure. Absolutely. And that's a conversation we'll have.
He's got other options because he's a foreign player ... He likes it here. That's what he's told us. Andrei said he'd like to be back. He's said he likes it here. That's the only thing. I take a man at his word, and that's what I'm taking from him.
Q: Some basketball experts are calling this a weak draft. Is it?
KOC: I always hear that kind of stuff, but there will be somebody that steps up that plays and plays better than they're supposed to. And you say boy, that kid shouldn't have been drafted at 14 or 13 or 12, but he was and he's done great, and I hope that's the guy we pick if that's the case. It's our responsibility to find those players that can help ya.
You don't compare drafts. You take the talent and you try to evaluate it from one to where you're drafting and even after that obviously. You can't say, 'The 18th pick is not a good pick. I like 15 players and that's all I like.' You've got to draft 18th unless you want to pass on the draft or unless you want to try and figure a way to move up or move back.
I've always liked what football does. Football has value picks, they always call them. I've tried to always emulate that and say where is the pick that will do it. Fortunately for us, we have the ability to sign a player and there's a level that you can sign them at because of the rookie pay scale.
I would wait and see what people say after that. I think there's some good players in the draft to be honest. I think I'll tell you better May 9th (when early draft declarations become official). We'll wait and see. I can't talk about a guy. On May 9th it'll be in writing, and then you've got to kind of evaluate it.
Q: What are the chances you'll try to package your two (potential) first-round picks and move up? (The Jazz have New Jersey's pick and will keep their own first-round selection if they don't make the playoffs.)
KOC: Well, we did that once before and it worked pretty good (in 2005 when Utah traded up to get Deron Williams). If you go back and look at the number of people that have done that over the years, I think you'll see that there's very few. History tells you that one through five is something that works percentage-wise as far as good players go (more often) than after that. ... If I've done it before then people aren't probably going to want to do it with me.
Q: How much did your scouting strategy change after the trade?
KOC: None. We said at the beginning of the year we've got to treat this draft ... like any other draft. What you try to do is you don't have a microcosm. You kind of go macro. You see all of the players. ... Every year we treat it like it's an expansion draft and we've got to know every player in the draft. That's how we treat it. In today's day and age, depending on who comes out and who doesn't come out, we also have to say everybody's a player. (We can't say) 'Well, he's only a freshman, or he's only a sophomore.' We try to evaluate what level they're at and can they play in the league? And if they can, we've got to evaluate it.
Q: Did you have a problem with the way Coach Corbin played the rookies at the end of Monday's game?
KOC: Our head coach makes those decisions. Before Jerry (Sloan), Frank (Layden) made them ... so the coach makes the decisions. I would also say, coming from 12 down to going two ahead in the game, they earned the right to be on the court. There's never any second-guessing with what the coach does. We support everything that he does as far as that goes. He's the one that's on the front lines and he's the one that's with them every day.
Did they both throw the ball away in the overtime the first two possessions (of overtime)? Absolutely, but we wouldn't have been in that position if they hadn't have played crazy to get us to that position.
Q: Corbin is obviously in a tough spot this season. Are you evaluating how he's doing coaching now or giving him a pass until next year?
KOC: Everybody's going to be questioned. Again, if those two shots didn't go in (for the Hornets and Wizards), we wouldn't be sitting here talking about it maybe as much. But what you've got to understand is he's going to be questioned because he's a young coach.
The second reason he's going to be questioned is he's following a coach who was here for 23 years and was successful. All of those things he knew going into it. That's why we felt he was the right person for the job. That's why we felt that everybody outside of the organization needed to understand that's why we gave him a contract, because going forward we feel he's the right guy for the job and going on from there.
One of the funny things is if Coach Sloan had done it and played the young kids (people) would have said, 'That's great. Jerry stuck with the young kids and did that and whatever happened he was in there with them.' But now you're questioning it because it's somebody else that's the coach. You (media) should be doing that. That's your job and your responsibility, but let me say this, our responsibility is to support our coach, which we do.
Q: Do you see any problems with Corbin and Jefferson?
KOC: No. I don't see anything. Look, there are always going to be dust-ups and (when we) have issues we'll try to keep them as internal as possible. I really don't (see it). I'm around it enough to say. Look, do you get upset with each other at times? Do you get upset with your boss? You don't want to answer that, do you? (Laughs) Ask me your question again. You see any problems with Al then? No comment. (More laughs).
Q: Jefferson didn't talk to the media after Monday's loss. Do you have a problem with him (or other players) not talking to media after games?
KOC: I do. And that will be addressed. Here's what I've got a problem with — we're professionals, we've got to do the right thing whether we win or lose. If that's the situation and that's occurred, I can understand being upset and giving a one-word answer. But (not talking) that's not who we are. That's not what we'll continue to do. He'll address the press afterwards, as far as that goes. You've got a job to do. We've got a job to do. Players have a job to do and we'll make sure that all of our jobs are done and done professionally.
Q: Do you like Jimmer?
KOC: No comment, but I'm not allowed to (by NBA rules).
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