Three thoughts on the Utah Jazz’s 124-90 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.
1. A quick thought on New Orleans
New Orleans is unlike any other major city in America. The early French influence changes everything about how the city was built: the buildings are extremely European, with a focus on balconies, outdoor seating, and beautiful architectural flourishes. The food, mostly influenced by the city’s unique relationship to the invading Gulf of Mexico to the south and the giant Mississippi River winding through its streets, shocks you: jambalaya, gumbo, muffalettas, stuff either just invented or popularized in New Orleans. It opens your eyes to what food can be.
Maybe it’s those two things that bring people together and gives New Orleans its incredibly communal spirit: it really feels like everyone has everyone else’s back. There are more laughs per capita in New Orleans than anywhere else in America, I’d reckon. People live for each other, they live for enjoying each other, and it shows.
My favorite aspect of the city, though, is the music. Obviously, New Orleans is the birthplace of lower-case jazz, maybe because those same people sitting around the city’s beautiful buildings and eating its delicious food needed something to listen to while they did so. But it’s not just jazz: big bands guaranteed to have saxophones and trumpets, playing rock and roll plus brass and soul. Just like with the food, the creativity shocks you — it’s not just novel, but substantial, too. Exceptional.
Last night, we went to Bamboula’s on Frenchman Street. There, we saw two bands: one led by frontman Marty Peters and his “Party Meters” backing band, and another called Delta Funk. The Marty Peters and his spoonerism friends were great, but Delta Funk blew my socks off.
At one point, it was somebody’s birthday, but rather than just play Happy Birthday or the Beatles’ birthday song or whatever, they flew through about six different well-known surfer songs, changing lyrics to birthday related ones, and juggling different keys and tempos at such a dizzying rate that their play just about threw me into the stratosphere, so joyful was the sheer creativity and excellence of what they were pulling off. And in a birthday song!
This is at a 3.5-star Yelp rated bar, which you can also rent out by sending the manager a Facebook message. If I went to Bamboula’s last night, I can only imagine the quality of places the uppercase Jazz went to on a night out in New Orleans, and the mindblowingness of the bands they listened to.
Yes, beverages were had; no, they were not on the Tribune’s dime. Yes, everyone made it back to their hotels safely, and everybody made it to the team’s shootaround the next morning, and of course, also to the game that night. But also — there may have been hangovers of both the poisonous liquid variety and of the emotional variety.
I’m not blaming the Jazz’s loss on the city of New Orleans. But I’m not not blaming New Orleans, either.
2. Attacking the teeth of a defense
The Pelicans play extremely big right now: C.J. McCollum is small, but in their starting lineup, the four of Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Jonas Valanciunas are all way bigger than typical players at their positions. Furthermore, the Pelicans were helping a ton on the Jazz’s ball-handlers, putting their length right up in the Jazz’s grill and forcing them to deal with it.
The way to deal with that is by quick passing: take advantage of their aggression, and find the guy who’s not being guarded. This is something that the Quin Snyder Jazz are usually very good at — no team in the league is as well trained at making split-second decisions than the Jazz are, full stop.
But instead, the Jazz just drove into the teeth of the defense, which is basically just a really good way of getting the ball stripped.
So no, Jordan Clarkson, this isn’t it. Drive, sure, but be aware of where help might come from, and be ready to take advantage of it.
Bojan Bogdanovic was also a frequent turnover tonight.
Both of those guys can have tunnel vision at times, though we should also note that Clarkson had the team’s highest assist total with a whopping four. But in the end, both need to recognize when perimeter help is coming, and then deal with it when it comes.
Frankly, even when the Jazz did that tonight, the players receiving the passes didn’t shoot their open shots. So maybe that wouldn’t have worked either, but it probably was less likely to result in pick-six style runouts on the other end, anyway.
3. What will Jazz get from Rudy Gay?
Pretty much everyone was awful tonight — maybe with the exception of Hassan Whiteside, who finished some pretty easy dunks and layups. But I’m also pretty confident of the level that the Jazz will get from most of the rest of the rotation: I basically know what I’m getting from Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and so on moving forward.
I’m not exactly sure what value I’m getting from Rudy Gay. Right now, he’s playing simply the Georges Niang role of the team’s backup four, but he’s less good of a shooter than Niang, and probably playing a bit less hard. Gay is a better rebounder and simply a smoother athlete, though, even playing like this, so it probably evens out compared to Niang.
But is that it? The Jazz acquired Gay to be more impactful than that, with the idea being that the veteran could be a jack-of-all-trades player that the Jazz could pull out and use in a wide variety of situations and roles. And right now, he’s getting less playing time than Danuel House, a 10-day guy, and Trent Forrest, a two-way guy.
Maybe that’s just because the Jazz are trying to limit his minutes as he comes back from heel soreness and a non-COVID illness. But his play during even just the Niang minutes isn’t exactly screaming out that he’s an underused resource. And heck, maybe that’s because he’s a 15-year veteran playing the regular season in third gear, but maybe it’s because he’s 35 and just has declined as a player a bit.
With 20 games left, though, I want to see more from him later in the season, to see if he can play at a higher level in games that matter most. I truly don’t know if he can, but he might be able to, and I think it’s worth finding out.