Memphis, Tenn. — Notes following Jazz shootaround Sunday morning at the FedExForum.
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said he plans to start Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson on Sunday night against the Grizzlies. Corbin acknowledged, though, he could alter the Jazz's rotation as the team works its way through a back-to-back-to-back road series at Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
The Jazz had Saturday off in Memphis. With Utah facing a crossroads, Corbin used the rare free day to build chemistry. Due to the nature of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Utah hasn't been able to do much in terms of team-building activities. Last year, players often went out to dinner together, following the lead of former All-Star guard Deron Williams. Jazz players have continued to eat postgame meals this season in Salt Lake City, often dividing up between two downtown restaurants. But with road back-to-backs the norm during 2011-12, there's been little time to bond outside of plane and bus rides. Working off a suggestion and travel arrangements made by Richard Smith, Jazz director of basketball operations, Corbin brought his team to Saturday to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel, which now houses the museum.
Corbin on taking his team to the museum: Team-building. A great opportunity to get some history. … It was great and we had dinner afterwards. We had a really good time with the guys and got a chance to experience the museum and some history along with it. It was really interesting to see their reaction going through the museum, then having dinner with them afterwards was fun.
Who suggested the trip: Richard Smith, one of our guys at home, thought about some things we could do on the road and it was one of the suggestions that he made and we were able to coordinate it at the right time.
Using the visit to help build chemistry: Not specifically, but it always helps. It always helps to get the guys together as much as we can and things other than basketball. We want to make sure they understand about personal growth; the unity that we need to have as a group to continue to grow together as a team. But all that is good, man, because they're good people and they've got to understand the point of not just playing basketball but the lives and the sacrifice that other people made so that we can enjoy the lives we live today.
MLK museum: The Martin Luther King museum was here and it was an opportunity for us to see it here. And it was a great chance to get the guys together to give them some education and a way just to be together other than on the court, and giving direction and working on something other than just basketball — this is life, life skills.
Corbin's first visit: No. I've been several times, actually. Actually, I want to go back now because the building across the street they turned into another museum and the last time I went it was just a hallway where you went into the room. They said last night they've turned it into more of a computerized thing and I want to get over and see it. We didn't have enough time to go through both sides last night.
Seeing the MLK room up close: It's chilling. Just to go through the museum and hear about some of the struggles of the people and what it was like and what some of the folk had to go through. But the encouraging thing was the unity of how folks stayed together and the number of people from all kind of different walks of life that came in and tried to do the right things — even though it wasn't popular in some communities to do it. … It's just good people all over the place and some folk wanted to do the right thing but was afraid because of the laws or the pressure from peers at that point. It was just encouraging, the unity of the people and the spirit of the folk, just to keep growing and trying to make life as best as they could, dealing with the circumstances they were under.
How players reacted: They wanted to hear and understand the history of the country. The history of the people. … They've seen it and heard it in school. But to actually go through the museum for the first time was eye-opening for a lot of them, I thought.
Opposing point guards hurting the Jazz: It's a concern. We have to a better job of, first of all, on the ball channeling guys to where we want to go. We have to be aggressive on their bodies to make sure we're taking something away from them. The weakside guys have to be in position to help and stop the penetration. We think that some of the problem has been they're getting too many deep drives into the basket. And that's because the guy on the ball or the big is not up further enough to stop him before he gets his full-speed run going. And the weakside rotation has to be able to come over earlier to stop him early, to be able to get the other guy to crack down and stop him so we can come up — he's not in between that gap of helping and giving up the lob pass to the other big coming across. It's a thing that we all have to do a better job at.
Not overthinking back-to-back-to-back: You can't be [afraid]. You have to go through it and you can't be afraid of going through it. You can't — for me, the last couple days I've been, since the game the other night especially, I've been thinking about it up until we played Oklahoma City. And then before then, we've got to get ready for that, you know? My problem was, I'm thinking about back when I went through it and knowing how I felt, and I was 35, 36-years-old at that time. It was difficult. But we have to go through it. And you have to give yourself a chance in every game that you play, and not worry about the next one as much so you sacrifice the game that you're in. I think we'll find it. I think our team's pretty much young enough to be able to recover and we'll just see how the games develop and we'll use more guys; just try to stay as fresh as we can to give ourselves a chance to win.
Hayward stepping up as a defender and overall player: You're absolutely correct. He's been doing it all year. For me, I think the largest strides that he's made this year … defensively of taking the challenge and playing the top scorer on the other team. I think he's doing a great job of taking that challenge personally, of getting up into guys. I was concerned the other night when he got that first foul early; that he would back off a little bit. But I was really pleased that he continued to stay up in — what we talk about, getting close to the guy, being physical with him, making them work for everything they got. And as a result, he had a pretty good game. And that actually generates his offense a little bit, because he's looser, he's more focused on what he has to do and then he can get in the flow of a game a lot quicker.
Brian T. Smith