EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz solid in first preseason game

• Solid Jazz win tonight. Ron Boone continually pointed out on the broadcast how impressed he is by the process and development of this team. Going to practice each day, Ron sees one thing implemented and then another and another … and tonight we could see numerous times where those items started to manifest themselves on the floor. Super impressive.

• One of the main things we saw tonight was the Jazz’s focus on increasing early opportunities for the offense. With a multitude of players who can handle the ball, the Jazz are no longer looking for the point guard to bring the ball up. Instead, whoever rebounds can bring it up. Unless it’s a big, who can simply find whomever they can rather than having the point guard run back for the ball. This showed numerous times tonight for the Jazz with quick, early baskets.

• Quin Snyder used all sorts of different lineups tonight. The Jazz went small for a while with Joe Ingles or Gordon Hayward playing a 4. They went with the triple wing of Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Hayward for a while.

• Burks returned to the floor and you could see where he is going to be a positive impact on this team. He adds a level of pace to the offense the Jazz haven’t had. He’s able to put the other team on its heels. This is new and going to take some time for him to feel comfortable with, but it’s going to be effective and a real weapon.

• One of my concerns with Tibor Pleiss was if he was going to be strong enough to rebound in the NBA. His lower body strength is not where it’s going to be. However, he showed a really special skill tonight in his ability to grab and control a rebound with one hand. He was able to fend the other player off with one hand and grab the board with the other hand. This is going to make it so he can play minutes.

• Tibor also did a nice job taking up space in the lane on pick-and-roll defense.

• Raul Neto showed elite-level defensive hands. Dennis Lindsey has said in numerous interviews that Neto was very good laterally. Combine the lateral skills with high-level defensive hands and Neto was surprisingly impactful on the defensive end tonight. Neto was picking up full court and on more than one occasion stole the ball at 30 feet. That’s the single most humiliating thing in the NBA. If a guy is scared of getting picked at 30 feet, it will neuter the rest of his game.

• Trey Lyles showed some skills. A great pass to Trey Burke in the corner off the dribble and a strong drive to the basket from the left baseline. At the same time, he got over powered by 10-year vet Brandon Bass on a play, which is the reality he will have to learn to deal with this year.

• Derrick Favors and Hayward were both very good tonight (as they have been all camp).

• Elijah Millsap had two strong finishes at the rim. Last year he was 44% in the restricted area. If he can play with his strength and figure out how to finish at the rim, it will be a huge asset to his game.

• Quick thought on the Lakers … The guys playing with Kobe are so young they are in awe of him and are looking to defer to him at all times. D’Angelo Russell is going to be nice. He needs to be put in the pick-and-roll. I can’t see Julius Randle’s game right now translating into any NBA success. Remember, he is basically a rookie so he can adjust.

• Solid outing. Late night Tuesday.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Training Camp (Day 3)

• This was the fifth practice of camp and the first that wasn’t a two-a-day. At some point in every camp there has to be a lull, but from the mood of Quin Snyder when he met with the media he showed no signs that this was the case today.

• Quin complimented Elijah Millsap for his decision making. He mentioned there was an open corner three shooter earlier in camp that Millsap missed, and since then he has been really working hard at moving the ball and making good decisions. Quin seemed pleased with Millsap’s performance.

• Gordon Hayward continued a really solid camp. Snyder commented on his level of assertiveness on the floor. Off the court, Snyder talked about how much more comfortable Hayward seems every day as a leader. This is a position that you have to grow into, and for Hayward it’s really his third year of the process. His first season he wasn’t connected with the head coach as well as he could have been, which made it very hard to lead. Last year, he made big growth both on the floor and in leadership. The beginning of this season has been another step forward for Hayward. The growth he experienced last year is evident in how he is conducting himself as the leader of the team this year.

• Snyder said some interesting things about leadership, saying the ability to lead comes from practice and from being in the moments previously.

• Derrick Favors is making the same growth steps as Hayward. Snyder said Favors has been practicing as hard as anyone and is showing an elite level of concentration to stay engaged throughout practice.

• Rudy Gobert made enormous strides last season. This year the coaching staff is pushing him to be conscious of the details and to exhibit a high level of precision in his game. This is the next step. Rudy is terrific, but we need to remember that this is his first year as a full-time starter. He needs to be allowed to grow rather than expected to be perfect right from the start.

• Snyder said he wants depth and he wants the ability to play both big and small, fast and slow.

• The Jazz practice tomorrow before flying to Hawaii.

• Also, Chris Johnson didn’t practice after taking an elbow to the head in practice on Wednesday and being diagnosed with a concussion. He is going through the concussion protocol.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Training Camp (Day 2)

• The Jazz defense looks strong—maybe even better than last year in some facets. Tibor Pleiss is really big and long, and if he can play 15 minutes a night then the Jazz will have 48 minutes of 7-foot-2 or more with a reach of 9-foot-7 or more at center. That kind of size is unheard of. This could make the Jazz even better defensively.

• The practice had a defensive focus from the start before moving into some high-paced offensive actions.

• Derrick Favors looked really good today. He has worked on numerous and very specific aspects to his game, and he was able to display one or two of those today. He’s playing the power forward this year, which means on almost every night he will be bigger and stronger than the guy guarding him. This could allow him to bring a post game. He showed a nifty drop step with a left handed finish today.

• Pleiss has really good hands.

• The offense was not as turnover prone today as it was yesterday. Traditionally, the defense is ahead of the offense at this point of a camp. For the Jazz this is true, but it’s accentuated even more because of the quality of the Jazz defense.

• Quin Snyder singled out Favors and Gordon Hayward for their play today.

• Had a really nice time with Thurl Bailey at practice today. Always interesting to hear his perspective. Thurl made a really interesting point about how different the experience has been for Tibor Pleiss over the last seven years playing in Europe compared to coming through the AAU and college games in the United States.

• Interesting point from Snyder about Pleiss and Raul Neto that everything in their lives is different. The language is different. The rules are different. Their teammates are different. The culture, the city … everything. It means they’re thinking when they’re playing and it is a bit more tiring for them moment to moment.

• Effort level is very high and guys are really battling.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Training Camp (Day 1)

• Last year the Jazz opened camp with an hour of transition defensive work. Today the focus fell more on the offense trying to play with thrust and pace in order to get some early action.

• Quin Snyder talked after the practice about the need to cut down on the turnovers, where the Jazz ranked 29th in the NBA last season.

• The scrimmage portion of practice was classified as sloppy and turnover-laden by both Snyder and Gordon Hayward.

• Snyder was pleased with the defensive habits that returned from last season, and Hayward said the team was on point in the defensive drills.

• Hayward had positive things to say about Raul Neto when he’s not thinking. Gordon pointed out that—no different than any rookie—Neto is thinking a lot and that restricts him, but when he just plays he makes nice plays and has good vision.

• Hayward also called Raul “Wolfie.”

* Grant Jerrett did not participate in practice.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Bryce Cotton on the hammer dunk

• A fun way to the end the season at EnergySolutions Arena. Great energy all night. Lots of highlights. The Jazz play hard every night with this crew.

• Really cool night for Bryce Cotton. He plays super fast and with great tempo. He’s a good shooter. He’s troublesome due to his speed. He works hard and is trying to overcome his lack of size. He said it well after the game: “I’m just a kid trying to prove himself time and time again.”

• With everyone sitting out, Rudy Gobert was the best player on the floor and he looked like it. 20 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocked shots.

• Cotton finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, and he added 2 rebounds and 4 assists.

• Cotton had the dunk of the season—an alley-oop from Rodney Hood which he caught high above the rim with his left hand and hammered home. It was a play they used to run for Cotton in Austin.

• Utah’s defense clamped down in the third quarter, and that ended the game.

• After shooting 3-for-15 from three in the first half, the Jazz hit all six in the third quarter.

• Danté Exum and Rudy Gobert have played 81 games this year.

• Chris Johnson looks like he’s going to try to make a living out of making corner threes, and that’s a smart way to make it in the NBA.

• Why the Mavericks played “Hack-a-Cooley” on a night when they didn’t bring their primary players is way beyond me.

• Jazz controlled the turnovers a little better tonight with just 15.

• Great to be with the home crowd again tonight. Thanks for all the great energy at the arena. Nothing beats a home game.


• This season. What an incredible year filled with different stories and remarkable performances. Tonight the Jazz had a line-up of Bryce Cotton, Elijah Millsap, Chris Johnson, Jack Cooley and Jeremy Evans that spurred on the 4th quarter run that won the game. Incredible. This is a culture win. The foundation has been built for a program that has an expectation of how you are going to play, what style you are going to play and the type of effort that is expected from the team.

• None of this happens unless Trevor Booker has an out of body experience. Boy did he ever. 19 points in the first quarter was the 3rd most by any player in the 1st quarter all year. Booker had only scored more than 19 points in a game 7 times before tonight and he dropped 19 in the 1st.

• Trevor Booker joined the Jazz with 1 career three pointer. He has hit 28 this year. Consider this for a moment. In his first year from 10+ feet Booker shot 15% since then from 16+ has been nearly 40%. The work he has put in to improve his shooting has been incredible. Kevin McHale said it very well this year you either improve or you are out of the league. Booker has found what he has to do to be successful in this league and has improved in those areas.

• This was a cool night. The Jazz jumped the Blazers early when the Blazers thought they could walk through this game because the Jazz were without Hayward and Favors. The Jazz had a 10 point lead at halftime. The Blazers came to get this game in the 2nd half. They didn’t have LaMarcus but they went after this one. They took the lead and the Jazz answered and took control of the game. Amazing to re-gain this game after the Blazers took control.

• In the 4th the jazz played with great tempo and scored 34 in the 4th. Bryce Cotton brings a fast tempo to this team.

• The Jazz lived on the Bryce Cotton/ Jack Cooley pick and roll for a good deal of the 4th quarter.

• One of the reasons the Jazz rested Hayward and Favors was to give other guys opportunities and the main one is Rodney Hood. Hood has played over 30 minutes in 4 straight games. He has had the ball in his hand at the end of games. He has had to control the game as a first year player and he has answered the bell. What this last month will do for his development is terrific. Tonight he had 21 points (averaging 20 for 5 games) and hit on 7 of 13 shots with only 1 three point shot. Instead tonight he answered a question I asked earlier of whether he could start going to the foul line more. 8 free throw attempts.

• Hood also had a career high 8 assists. 8 assist and 1 turnover. He hit Booker a ton early.

• Jeremy Evans 15 minutes, 12 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. He has played very well recently when he has been given stretches. He is never going to gain weight and at times it is an issue but he is able to make an impact every time he is on the floor.

• Portland forces opponents the take the most mid-range shots in the NBA – the Jazz tonight took 31 of their 79 shots in paint non restricted or mid range. This is just 39% of their shots. The Jazz took 61% of their shots in the “smart” areas tonight (restricted and three’s) the Blazers usually only allow 52%. That is good work.

• The Blazers only allow 31% of their opponents shots in restricted area and the Jazz got 39% of their shots in restricted. Plus the Jazz shot 42 free throws.

• This season …….

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Great test as Grizz were in a must win

• If it is a foul at the 8:14 mark of the 1st quarter it is a foul at the :01 second mark of the 4th quarter. That is what the league is trying to establish. It will be interesting to see what the league report says but I think it will say that Gasol fouled Hayward. This is a huge step in the right direction for the league. There has been a long belief that the league has a different set of rules in the final minutes. You hear broadcasters all the time say “You don’t call that foul at this point of the game.” The league is trying to eliminate that idea. That is what the 2 minute report is for every close game. Make the officials call the game correctly or be publically scolded. It is working. The no call on Rodney Hood by JT Orr and the call tonight are related. Evidentally, their was a similar play in the Spurs/Rockets game. Will be interesting to see how the league comes out on these? I didn’t understand why the league did these reports when it first started but I understand now and it is a wonderful step.

• This was a terrific game. If Memphis won they held #2 by themselves, if they lost they would have fallen all the way to 6th. Marc Gasol said after the game these are all playoff games for them with this much seeding on the line. The Jazz played with the Grizzlies for huge portions of the game.

• The game had 14 lead changes and 9 ties and neither team ever had a double digit lead.

• Quin Snyder said after the game it was about the last 5 minutes. With 5:30 left the game was 82 all. The Grizzlies shot 3 for 11 in the final 5:30 of the game with 1 turnover. That is big time defense from the Jazz. Back to back plays the Grizzlies went to Randolph isolated on Favors. The Jazz brought no help and Favors made the defensive plays.

• The Jazz offense in the final 5:30 was 2 for 9 with 3 turnovers and only baskets came on fast break baskets at the 5:15 mark and the 4:43 mark. At the 4:43 mark Gobert scored on an alley-opp and the next Jazz points came when Hayward hit the first two free throws.

• This is going to be the yin and the yang of the Jazz future. They are elite defensively but they struggle to score. As they try to add scoring will they be able to maintain the defensive prowess. Will the players simply mature enough to become better down the stretch? Will they get to know each other better and be able to make the correct reads? These are at the crux of the decisions that confront the front office in the off-season.

• After a big first half Rodney Hood went 2 for 8 in the 2nd half and 0 for 3 in the 4th quarter when the Memphis defense zeroed in. Hood is playing great and showing all sorts of NBA skills but it is still a process and a rookie is going to struggle in “playoff” type moments.

• Marc Gasol was the best player on the floor. He is 1st team all-nba. He did what an all NBA player should do in this circumstance. He lifted his team and carried them in a must win situation. His 2nd half was 9-5-3. All of those 9 points came in the 4th quarter.

• Joe Ingles is still on fire.

• Tough night for Trevor Booker – 0 for 4 in 15 minutes and 4 fouls. He is so great with his energy and his effort and his toughness but he lacks a little still to be able to impact the likes of Randolph and Gasol.

• Nice 15 minutes from Bryce Cotton. 11 points and dang is he quick.

• Solid performance against the #2 team in the West that had to win. Hayward was great by the way. The last free throw is easy to talk about but when you are doing that make sure you mention the 27 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists against the #4 defense in the NBA

I forgot — the play by Rudy Gobert to close the first half is one of the most athletic incredible plays I have seen in the NBA. He set the pick for Hayward on the a three on the angle left and then he rim dove and got the offensive rebound. Missed the follow dunk recovered and jammed. Insane. He set the pick outside the three point line.

EMPTYING THE NOGGIN – Jazz win a game they should

• Really a dud of a game. Sacramento without Rudy Gay or DeMarcus Cousins lacks the skill of an NBA team. The Jazz have reduced the minutes of their main guys. The Jazz locked down for five minutes and won the game. That is what it takes when you are the superior team.

• Sacramento has been killed by shooting guards all year and Rodney Hood got them for the second straight game.

• George Karl wanted this game to get to the fourth quarter, but the fourth quarter was completely controlled by the Jazz.

• The Jazz played a lot of different combinations on the floor that they don’t usually use, and it showed as they had a ton of turnovers and didn’t play offensively with a lot of force. This is largely because they don’t know each other that well.

• Gordon Hayward played just 20 minutes, but Quin Snyder is not planning on shutting him down. It’s clear, though, that they are reducing his load.

• Rodney Hood had another 20-point night. He also had a career-high 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He hit 3 of 7 from three. He had been struggling from three so it’s good to see him hit a few.

• Favors was the best player on the floor and in his 22 minutes he was totally dominant.

• Joe Ingles is playing really playing well in the second half of the season. He’s hitting his three well over 40% and he does a ton of other items as well.

• Andre Miller is still terrific to watch.

• Not a lot to this game. Jazz win.


• Bryce Cotton, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles, Jeremy Evans and Trevor Booker—why of course. That’s the five-man lineup that carried the Jazz through the key run of the game and to a win. Danté Exum, Rudy Gobert and Elijah Millsap took part in the fun as well. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors did not.

• Favors checked out 5:16 into the third quarter and Hayward checkout 6:10 into the third quarter and neither returned to the game. Both of these guys have been carrying this team and Quin has asked so much out of them in practice and shootarounds all season. They are on empty and Quin recognized it. Great call by the coach at this point of the season to realize what you have and what you don’t and let it ride. Not worth winning the game with those pieces overly worn out and instead he let the other guys get amazing experience.

• I’m going to be Debbie Downer for a quick second. The group the Jazz played in the fourth quarter for Sacramento was not good. Without going player by player, none of them other than Cousins is an NBA starter and Cousins is a miracle.

• With that said, Rodney Hood was terrific. I wrote about this in the last EMPTYING THE NOGGIN. He plays an NBA game. He’s in control. He said after the game that he has worked with Quin a tremendous amount and Quin has really talked to him about how to play in and around the paint. Quin is big about playing with balance (which is strength) and skill (handle and vision) in and around the paint as the ball handler. It allows them to react to different defenses and make plays. Hood and Hayward have the strength to do it. At times, Gordon lacks the handle. Rodney is not having that issue.

• Interesting how much Rodney mentioned Gordon’s role in his development in our postgame interview, with Gordon pushing him to be more aggressive.

• Aggressive he was with a career-high 25 points and 13 in the fourth quarter, including nine straight after the game got to 83-82 with 6:11 left. Hood then hit the technical free throw and followed with three and then a 14-foot pull-up jumper, then a nine-foot runner and the Jazz were up 92-84 with 4:24 left. It was big time.

• Another 2-for-4 3-point shooting night for Joe Ingles. If he can play 15 to 18 minutes a night, he might have a nice roll as the fourth wing to Hayward, Hood and Burks.

• Jazz were never able to strangle the Kings defensively like they have other teams since the All-Star break. Utah’s defense tonight was forcing turnovers, which is different than what they usually do. They forced 20 turnovers.

• A rough estimate had the game at nearly 100 possessions, so the Jazz allowing 95 pts still keeps the defensive rating at near 95.0, which is amazing. When you force 20% of the opponent’s possessions into turnovers and only allow five 3-pointers, allowing 48% shooting is not as bad as it looks.

• The Jazz fouled like crazy tonight. Against a good team, they would have cost themselves the game with four silly fouls in the second quarter that put them in the penalty at the 8:00 mark. The Kings didn’t take advantage as much as they should have.

• Bryce Cotton played a nice game tonight. He is crazy fast. He played with pace. Aaron Brooks is the model for Cotton, but Brooks is a bit stronger and Brooks is super tough. Don’t know if Cotton can match him on those two accounts. He played a nice game. Four rebounds in 12:30 shows some toughness.

• Jeremy Evans with a productive eight minutes: 10 points, two rebounds.

• I don’t know how George Karl deals with this. I tell you what, if I was a two-time cancer survivor and had the resume George has, I wouldn’t bother dealing with DeMarcus. I wouldn’t lose one minute of sleep over his antics or let him have a negative impact on my life. Not sure how he does that, but I hope he’s able to because DeMarcus is a sad story. God gave him a gift and he is truly miserable with the gift he was given. It’s really too bad, but he’s going to torpedo the Kings franchise.

• Fun night. The big boys got to sit and watch and three rookies, a seldom-used player, a bunch of guys from the D-League and a big monster named Rudy carried the Jazz to a win. No. 35—10 more than a year ago.