Utah Jazz preview: Jazz know 'D' needs work
The Jazz's disappointing 2008-09 season can be attributed to two things: injuries and a lack of defense.
While there's nothing anyone can do about 149 games lost to injury, coach Jerry Sloan and his players know they are capable of improving their defense.
Heading into Wednesday night's season opener at Denver, the Jazz insist they are committed to getting better.
"Our team has been offensive-minded the last few years," Sloan said. "We're a pretty good offensive team. I think we can score points. But you don't win championships without defending and rebounding and doing those things that are dirty work."
C.J. Miles believes the players are ready to do what is necessary.
"The guys came in this year and were determined to make the effort," he said. "There should be no excuse. ... When we play good defense, we're as good as anyone."
Last season's numbers tell a woeful story.
» The Jazz allowed 100.9 points per game -- tied for 18th in the NBA.
» The Jazz finished 20th in opponent field-goal percentage (.464).
» The Jazz ended tied for 24th in opponent free-throw attempts (27.2).
"Our players just have to focus," Sloan said. "I don't think we're telling them anything they haven't heard before. They just have to make a better commitment to it -- something we haven't had enough of. ...
"In the last few years, we lost [Derek] Fisher and Matt [Harpring] and that hurt us. They were dirty-work guys. We need more of that with the guys we've got. It's tough to win if you don't have some of that."
It's odd the Jazz should be worried about improved defense, considering the pedigree of their coach.
As a player, Sloan was a four-time member of the All-Defensive first team. He still ranks third on the Chicago Bulls' all-time steals list.
"He is a great defensive coach," said Deron Williams. "But he can only do so much for us. It's got to be us -- out there -- wanting to play good defense. You have to want to get stops and that's how we have to attack it this year."
Said Sloan: "Everybody can improve defensively. I know I didn't have any talent as far as running and jumping and quickness and all that. It's a commitment you have to make within yourself and within your team because, if one guy breaks down, it's not very good."
The Jazz finished 48-34 last season. They were 12-31 when allowing 100 points or more. They were 36-3 when holding opponents under 100 points.
Against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, the Jazz allowed 111.8 points in four losses. Their only win: 88-86.
Improving the shoddy defense that was so evident in the postseason has been a priority during training camp, according to Carlos Boozer.
"During practice, if somebody makes a mistake, we are correcting it right then and there so we can move forward in the right direction," he explained.
"We're watching more game tape this year, too. We're being a lot more proactive about becoming a better defensive team, both as individuals and as a group."
Don't expect a lot of new looks on defense, however.
"We've tried some things in the past with the people we have," Sloan said. "We've tried zoning some because we're not as physical as we should be. But we're probably going to stick with just getting up and guarding people a little harder. Hopefully we'll improve with that."
Said Williams: "We have great principles. We just have to be consistent. We can talk about it and practice it, but the bottom line is we have to go out and do it."
Jazz opponent's field-goal percentage and the Jazz's record over the last 15 season
1992-93 .467 47-35
1993-94 .448 53-29
1994-95 .453 60-22
1995-96 .445 55-27
1996-97 .438 64-18
1997-98 .439 62-20
1998-99 .413 37-17
1999-00 .446 55-27
2000-01 .439 53-29
2001-02 .447 44-38
2002-03 .434 47-35
2003-04 .432 42-40
2004-05 .458 26-56
2005-06 .449 41-41
2006-07 .455 51-31
2007-08 .461 54-28
2008-09 .464 48-34
Note: The 1998-99 season was shortened to 50 games because of a lockout