Utah Jazz basketball: Team chemistry, young talent have Jazz brimming with optimism
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — He occasionally grumbles and has intimidating physical features as a powerful 6-foot-10, 289-pound man, but Al Jefferson is an affable guy.
There's a reason why his Utah Jazz teammate, Paul Millsap, chuckled while talking about the center and pointed out, "Al has a relationship with everybody."
Three of his old pals — Mo Williams (a fellow Mississippian), Marvin Williams (All-American prep pal) and Randy Foye (ex-teammate in Minnesota) — joined forces with him in Utah this offseason.
"It's like all my friends came to my team," Jefferson said.
The friends were thrown into an already talented group that, for the most part, previously got along pretty dang well.
Combined with an increase in overall basketball skill, shooting capabilities, defensive commitment, improved youth and a deep bench, that chemistry bodes well for a team that has high hopes of building on last year's playoff appearance.
If making the postseason surprised outsiders in 2011-12, here are some reasons why Jazz fans have reason to be optimistic for even more pleasant surprises in the 2012-13 season:
CHEMISTRY: That the Jazz don't already hate each other after one month of intense practices, scrimmages and rotation positioning battles can only be considered a positive sign.
Big Al (or is it Big Pal?) believes it matters because teammates that mesh well can offer positive support and constructive criticism.
"The good thing is we able to talk to each other even when things are bad," Jefferson said. "Mo can get on me and pick me up, I can take it and understand it's all about getting a win here. Everybody on the same page. Everybody want to win."
Jefferson continued: "If I see Paul struggling or Paul see me struggling, he can come to me or I can go to him and help boost him up and not criticize him in a negative way. … That's the good thing about it. We able to talk to each other on and off the court."
Millsap sees a bonding taking place, and not just when it comes to Jefferson and Enes Kanter or his old buddies.
"We're coming together," Millsap said. "I think just the regular training camp helped us out a lot. We're able to get some type of chemistry, some type of bond with each other."
And the more that happens, the more likely they'll trust in one another, play hard for each other and succeed together.
"I feel like we've become more comfortable," Marvin Williams said, "and I think it's shown out there on the court."
DEPTH : Coach Ty Corbin has reminded reporters — and his players, no doubt — that the NBA season is long. It begins Halloween Night and the 82-game regular season doesn't conclude until mid-April. Throw in injuries and struggles, and there will be ample opportunities for most guys.
The reason he has to throw out that reminder is because the Jazz believe their talent cupboard is stocked deep.
The starters will be Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Millsap and Jefferson. Young bigs Derrick Favors, whom many thought could start at power forward, and Enes Kanter, the preseason MVP and early breakout player, demand chunks of court time because of their current impact and eye-popping potential.
Experienced point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson (when healthy) and veteran combo guard Randy Foye figure to play key roles off the bench at various junctures. The Jazz also love the hustle, defense and improved offense DeMarre Carroll provides, the athleticism and energy Alec Burks brings and the ridiculous bounciness and X-factor traits Jeremy Evans offers.
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