Monson: Four on the floor — time for the Jazz to be pros
Utah needs better shooting, point guard play and team unity.
Published: February 17, 2012 11:19PM
Updated: February 16, 2012 11:51PM
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From left to right, Utah Jazz's Earl Watson, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap sit on the bench in the final minutes of the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday, Jan. 27, 2012, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 116-101. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Four things the Jazz don’t have that they have to have:

1. Perimeter shooting.

This shortcoming has blown past problematic straight to laughable. Jazz deep shooters, if that designation actually applies, tiptoe around the region beyond the arc as though it’s infested with landmines. When they do get an open look, they clutch and double-clutch before sending up a betty that’s bound to bounce all over the gym. Somewhere … well, right from his seat on the bench … Jeff Hornacek is cringing. Any game this season, the Jazz assistant coach could have walked directly onto the court, still dressed out in his Armani and Guccis, and drained long floaters with more precision than anybody on this roster.

As a team, the Jazz are shooting about the same percentage from deep as … John Salmons of the Sacramento Kings. That’s not a good thing.

The Jazz rank dead last in the NBA in 3-point shooting, hitting a fraction better than 29 percent. They haven’t shot less than 30 percent from range since John Stockton was still coming off the bench.

This jams up the Jazz’s offense, despite it being a layup-first attack. Opponents are fully aware the Jazz can’t hit the side of a tractor-trailer, so they dare them to go ahead and give it a hurl. When guards hesitate to let shots spin, lacking the confidence to do so, that’s worse than hoisting a few up and caroming them all over.

The team’s answer is simply to shoot fewer 3s. They rank 28th out of 30 clubs in 3-pointers attempted and in 3-pointers made per game.

“We attack the basket first,” Ty Corbin said. “That’s what we want to do.”

That seems like a shortsighted, limited solution, as though the Jazz are willing to brawl one-handed.

“Yeah, we’d like to have better 3-point shooting,” Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor said. “We certainly have the inside game to be able to swing the ball around. Would we like to have somebody out there who’s a stone 3-point shooter? Absolutely. But we don’t. … If there’s somehow we can [get one] without disassembling the rest of the team, we’d like to do it.”

2. Better point-guard play.

In the South, I’m told, people can say whatever they want about anyone, be it a colleague, a friend, a family member, as long as at the end of the criticism, the phrase “bless his heart” is added. As in …

Devin Harris is a lousy Jazz point guard, bless his heart.

It’s not so much that Harris is a crappy player. It’s that he doesn’t really fit what the Jazz need from their floor leader, all as he’s pulling down more than $9 million.

Harris is averaging 8.7 points, shooting 43 percent overall and 29 percent from 3, and totaling 4.3 assists. Earl Watson gets 3.6 points, shooting 41 percent overall and 21 percent from 3, and 4.8 assists.

We all know Stockton and Deron Williams are long gone, there’s no living in the past, but … compared to Harris and Watson, the past sure looks fine right about now, bless their hearts.

3. Team unity.

It takes no Freud to know that the Jazz are royally ticked at one another at the moment. After a completely explicable road loss to Oklahoma City after an inexplicable loss to New Orleans, which had a collection of nine available players, the total sum of which couldn’t have won the Estonian League, the Jazz locker room is a mess.

Let’s see if we’ve got this straight: Al Jefferson thinks the Jazz aren’t bringing enough effort. Paul Millsap doesn’t believe the Jazz even know what’s wrong. Raja Bell knows what’s wrong but doesn’t think anybody cares about his opinion. Gordon Hayward doesn’t want to use being tired as any kind of excuse. Corbin thinks the Jazz were tired on that back-to-back-to-back roadie, and that everything’s going to be OK.

Yeah, the Jazz are OK, the world’s crazy. It’s time for the Jazz to start doing what they’re told to do on the court, executing with the players who are given the minutes, and quit whining and worrying about anything else. There’s a fragile balance on this team with veterans and youngsters and too much looking out for individual concerns. The belief here is that Corbin should quit fiddle-faddling around with the minutes of players such as Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks — and give them the floor time they need to become stars. It was ridiculous the other night, when the Jazz were getting rolled by the Thunder, that Favors got only 17 minutes.

Make the commitment to the young, talented players, coach them up and allow them to blossom sooner rather than later. Sprinkle in the veterans, and if those vets complain too much about their minutes, give them the what-for, plain and simple. Or trade ’em.

Better for the players to give whatever they’ve got in whatever minutes they get, to run the floor, set hard screens, make crisp passes, move the ball to where it needs to go, and flat-out play hard.

4. A pro’s approach.

Sure, No. 4 is the same as No. 3, but it can’t be stressed enough. Quit pouting and start playing. When you go 9-4 to start the season, don’t beat your chest. When you drop seven of your last 10, don’t look like somebody drove an F-150 over your puppy. Just play — and work like grown men. Do that, and you might win more than three out of 12 road games along the way.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone.