Time for Jazz to Get Physical

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Jazz returned home to Salt Lake City briefly in preparation for the resumption of their five-game road trip. Head coach Jerry Sloan berated his team for backing off of their usual aggressive and physical style of play, intimating that the Jazz were not playing like playoff contenders but more like sissies, running to whine to the refs each time rather than play the tough and scrappy game that has gotten this bunch of overachievers to where they are today. "Our guys did not want to be touched," observed Sloan toThe Deseret Morning News.

The Jazz have a chance to re-establish their supremacy over their next five games. The first three are on the road against Toronto, Cleveland, and Atlanta -- all three teams that Utah has a better than even chance of beating, and none of the three teams known as physical defenders. If Utah can reinvigorate its physical and tough-nosed style of play, it could pull out a three game winning streak to end their road trip 4-1.

After that, they host the Washington Wizard, which should be almost as sure a victory as the Atlanta game, before traveling to Seattle to take on Ray Allen and the Sonics. That would be a tough game and could be lost based on how well Seattle is shooting from beyond the arc. If they defend well and get into the middle, however, the Sonics have nothing to stop them in the paint.

That could potentially mean that when the Jazz face the Nuggets for their fourth and final meeting of the season on March 27, they would be in the midst of a five game winning streak, and snapping at Denver's heels for the playoffs. That, plus revenge, should be more than enough motivation for Utah to play their game their way.

Furthermore, it will be a home game for the Jazz, and at home is where they are kings. The Jazz are 23-11 at home and only 11-22 on the road. Fighting for home court advantage in the playoffs is out of the question, but piggybacking on their home fanbase to win a few key games and get into the thick of the hunt is not only a possibility, it is a necessity.

The Jazz are 40% of the way done with their current five-game road trip. They face what should be fairly mediocre teams the remainder of their outing this week, and will return home for Saturday's rematch with Denver. Today the Jazz will be rummaging for their passports and drivers licenses as they prepare to travel to Canada tomorrow to take on the Toronto Raptors. The game starts at 5:30pm on Wednesday, March 17, and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net and NBA League Pass.

Carmelo Anthony retracted his pre-All-Star game comments about Andrei Kirilenko not being deserving of an All-Star berth. "At the time, it was in the heat of the moment. I was just mad," Anthony told the Rocky Mountain Newsbefore Sunday's game. "I wouldn't say that I deserved it over him. Obviously, he deserved it, too."

Curtis Borchardt(surgery for a broken right wrist) missed all of last season on the injured list and has been there again since December. He is back to shooting with his surgically repaired wrist but has still not been cleared to practice. He is likely out at least another two weeks.Matt Harpring(right knee surgery) is out until May at the earliest, and quite likely the rest of the season.


Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning Newswrites: Usually, it's the Jazz who get accused of rough play. But when push came to shove Sunday night, it was Utah that cowered at its own game. In a battle of two teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the NBA's Western Conference, Denver did all the dirty work — and cruised to a 102-75 win. "We don't see it a lot," swingman Raja Bell said of the way the Jazz were hacked and whacked with regularity by the Nuggets. "So, it's pretty obvious that we don't know how to react when people do it back to us." As a result, coach Jerry Sloan called a Monday-morning practice that most with the Jazz probably had not been anticipating.

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examinerwrites: Raja Bell can expect to hear from the NBA in the next day or two. The Jazz swingman was called for a flagrant foul in Sunday's game at Denver, giving him four flagrant-foul points on the season. The league has two levels of flagrant fouls, with both resulting in two free throws plus possession of the ball for the opponents. In the more serious Level Two flagrants, the offending player also is ejected, and he receives two flagrant-foul points. Players face suspensions for anything over five points, so the league issues formal warnings after a players reaches four for a season.

Dan Harrie ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: Utah Democrats may be a minority on Capitol Hill, but that doesn't stop them from being offered -- and accepting -- lots of lobbyist Jazz basketball tickets and free meals.The top three recipients of special-interest freebies during the recent legislative session were Democrats, according to preliminary financial reports. Republicans took up six slots of the Top 10 list of lobbyist gift takers. Gov. Olene Walker headed the GOP contingent by accepting a pair of $320 Jazz tickets for herself and first gentleman Myron Walker... Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, a Price Democrat, topped the list of elected officials accepting lobbyist freebies. The unabashed Jazz fan attended more than half a dozen games and enjoyed several expensive dinners at the treat of lobbyists. House Minority Leader Brent Goodfellow, of West Valley City, was not far behind, attending at least four Jazz games and three meals at the expense of lobbyists.