The three biggest Jazz questions everybody's wondering about and their definitive, absolute, 100 percent sure answers, sort of ...
1. (a) Will Jerry Sloan return as coach?
Yes. What else would he do with his time? Piddle around? No. Sloan has always looked young for his age -- now 67 -- until the end of this season, when he aged 10 years in the span of seven months, making him now 77 in Sloan hang-dog years. Check the lines gridded out alongside his perennially busted-up nose on that face, which looks like a Rand-McNally cartogram of downtown Salt Lake City. The wrinkles signify either great wisdom or great frustration, maybe with some rugged living mixed in. When he was asked the other day whether he would return, his typically undecipherable answer came quickly, which is an indication that Sloan will be back.
1. (b) Should Sloan return as coach?
There are two ways of looking at that question. On the one hand, Jerry is inflexible and old-school, a coach who wants his offensive plays run just so, with screens set with conviction, with passes piled on passes to get shots ever closer to the basket, and his defense overly protective of the low-post area. That's why the Jazz give up so many threes -- they bring help in the paint and expose themselves to the kinds of perimeter shots from opponents that Sloan would generally disapprove of in his own offense.
He has softened a bit with his players, but he remains stubborn and rigid about certain decisions, such as giving Brevin Knight the minutes at backup point guard when your 5-year-old nephew could plainly see that Ronnie Price was the better choice. To his credit, after inserting Price at the back end of the second half in Game 5 -- a little late, eh? -- against the Lakers and seeing the energy he brought his team, Sloan confessed that he had made a mistake. That's honorable and all, but the question remains: Why couldn't Sloan see what was so clear to see?
He continues to say his players have to motivate themselves, it is not his job to motivate them, which, of course, is a load of bull manure, and a bit disingenuous, too, because when Sloan makes that claim, he is, in fact, trying to motivate the same players he says it is not his job to motivate. Point is, one of the key responsibilities of a coach is to get the best out of his players. That is his job. And sometimes Sloan leaves a bit to be desired in the communication department. With younger players, that's pretty important, and whether he'll ever get that corrected at this late juncture in his career is doubtful. Too bad.
On the other hand, Sloan's biggest contribution is the overall effect he has on his team, expecting his players to work hard, to play hard, to play team basketball, to be professionals, to be grown men, all of which is ironic, considering the way the Jazz crumbled down the stretch in 2009, after all their players were healed up and available. Sloan once said that when players stop listening to him, he's a dead man coaching. At times, that happened this past season, leaving fans to wonder whether Sloan's presence on the bench floats the team to certain heights or weighs it down to certain limits. And the answer is ... both.
Should he stay on as coach? There's an hour or two of daylight left, but eventide is closing in quickly.
2. Will Carlos Boozer remain with the Jazz?
No. Even if Boozer opts in with the team, the Jazz will find a way to get rid of him, regardless of what's being said publicly now. They cannot afford Boozer, and having him stay on the roster, all while there are other players they want to sign, all while the payroll rockets into the luxury tax realm, does more damage than good.
The late Larry Miller said he did not want his club to cross that threshold, but he also once said he would be willing to go there -- if it meant a championship was imminent. Having Boozer in the lineup doesn't guarantee that kind of result. In fact, it could hinder it, considering the way Boozer's teammates respond to him. Look at the way they played once he returned from his knee injury this past season. They got worse, not better. There is no proof for it, but there is a suspicion that Boozer jacks up the Jazz's team chemistry and that his presence hurts their cohesiveness. No argument here.
Paul Millsap is not the offensive player Boozer is, but he'll cost them less than half as much, allowing the Jazz, if they want to spend that kind of money, to allocate their resources toward other weaknesses. The Jazz are real good on offense and bad on defense. They could take a hit at the offensive end if they bolstered the defense in the process. It's like a penny saved is a penny earned. Boozer doesn't play defense and that's precisely what the Jazz need. Playing Boozer alongside Mehmet Okur is all about scoring points, but also surrendering them, so, keeping them both doesn't work.
Boozer, who has missed one-third of the Jazz's games during his time here, won't -- shouldn't -- be with the Jazz by the midway point of next season. If he doesn't opt out, he'll be traded and become a 20-and-10 enigma for some other team.
3. Will Mehmet Okur stay with the Jazz?
Yes. Okur will not opt out. He'll go on being the Jazz's second-leading scorer, happily giving them a unique perimeter presence, all while the Jazz seek help for him and others at the defensive end. The center who drives a Ferrari but has the look of a middle-aged man who should be hauling a family of five around in a minivan -- perfect for Utah -- is not the whole package at the 5, but a solid contributor and a valued asset.