Sloan considers lineup change for unsettled Jazz
Good question. Hard answer.
That was the consensus response from key Jazz veterans Raja Bell, Ronnie Price and C.J. Miles when asked Monday whether a Utah team prone to slow starts since the season started would benefit from a starting lineup change.
Bell said rotation shake-ups can either soar or sink, and can only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Price pointed to Memphis' recent insertion of guard Tony Allen into the Grizzlies' first unit as proof that a well-timed move can provide immediate improvement, but added that a similar switch for the Jazz could backfire.
Miles? He is just happy that he gets paid to simply play basketball, gladly leaving personnel decisions to Utah coach Jerry Sloan.
"I don't even know what to say now," Miles said prior to practice. "Thinking about it is pretty tough just trying to figure out what you would do."
Welcome to Sloan's world.
The resilient Jazz have rallied for a league-high 12 victories this season when trailing by at least 10 points, while Utah has come back from 15 points down seven times and emerged victorious. In addition, a team that has surpassed original expectations has also produced a four-game improvement compared with last season's squad, while holding a share of first place with Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division.
But the Jazz's primary leaders Sloan and All-Star guard Deron Williams have long been troubled by Utah's early-game struggles.
Williams was the only player queried Monday who would not comment when asked about a possible change. The response was not new: He has deferred to Sloan all season, preferring to not become publicly involved in Utah's coaching decisions.
"I want to run more, that's all I can say," Williams said.
There are many things that Sloan wants out of his first unit, primarily increased effort and production. But he feels like he is "between a rock and a hard place," and is still facing the same issues that have halted a change since training camp started.
Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are locked into starting roles, leaving Andrei Kirilenko and Bell as options to be replaced.
Prior to Utah's comeback victory Saturday against Houston, Sloan said that he would consider making a change if the Jazz did not pick up their game. Utah eventually did, led by 23 post-halftime points from Millsap. But it was also more of the same for the Jazz, who trailed the Rockets by 14 points at halftime, appearing sluggish and unmotivated during the first two quarters.
"I don't think anything's in concrete," Sloan said Monday, later stating that he is not infallible and second-guesses himself every day.
He added: "They have to live with my mistakes and I have to live with theirs. It's not just a one-way street."
Sloan has considered inserting either Miles or rookie Gordon Hayward into the starting lineup. But Miles is Utah's premier scorer off the bench, while the 20-year-old Hayward is still adjusting to the highs and lows of the NBA.
"We try to make the best decision we can. It's certainly not 100 percent, and it never will be," said Sloan, who conceded that he will likely continue to use a season-opening starting lineup of Williams, Bell, Kirilenko, Millsap and Jefferson on Wednesday versus New York.
To Sloan, the most difficult issue facing the Jazz is the game-by-game uncertainty of who will take the court and when they will do so. He is not receiving consistent production from either Utah's first or second unit, and is often forced to play a guessing game when considering player matchups and rotation changes.
"That makes it difficult," Sloan said. "I've never had a team, probably, that's been this unsettled."
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