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Front Page » December 11, 2003 » Sports » The Sports View
Published 3,786 days ago

The Sports View


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Friday night I sat in the Delta Center with my son-in-law, who hails from Los Angeles, and watched a team that was supposed to be the dredges of the National Basketball Association beat up on the team that has had that term attached to them almost since they came into the league.

Despite the selfishness they displayed in Monday night's game against Boston at home, I think I have found a new set of athletic heroes. They are the new Utah Jazz.

Here are a bunch of young guys led by a veteran center who seldom has displayed his full talent for playing the game. The team is really international in flavor, which I believe lends itself well to Jerry Sloan's coaching style.

It was fun watching them beat the Clippers like they did, since in the last couple of years the old Stockton to Malone thing had not worked so well against this downtrodden, but significantly talented team. The best thing was that they did it with Sloan's trademark: defense.

Every time the ball would come into an interior player, these guys collapsed and most of the time, someone either got a hand on the ball or at least distracted the Clippers big guys as they went up for a shot.

I had watched the Jazz on television this year, but seeing them in person highlighted some things I hadn't noticed before.

The team members are playing well away from the ball, unlike the last couple of years, when everyone else stood around and watched the two super stars do their thing.

And I like the energy they have. Kirelenko has been a favorite of mine since the first day I saw him play, but more importantly he still looks at the game as a game and he has fun.

Harpring has finally come into his own, much in the way Hornacek did when he came here. I remember Hornacek when he played in Phoenix; he always did big damage to the Jazz, but seemed inconsistent against many other teams. When he came here he really blossomed. Same with Harpring.

I even like to see Ostertag play now. It used to be he came down court in about the time it took a tumbleweed to blow from Castle Dale to Price. But taking out one of his kidneys must have done something for him, because he sure seems to have improved.

Or is it that he no longer has to stand in the shadow of a big whiner?

However, my favorite after Friday night's game was Raul Lopez. This guy can make three fake passes in a second. It's hard to comprehend on television all the things he does, particularly away from the ball. As for a penetrating point guard, he squeezes between the big men like hot fudge running down the side of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Along with Mo Williams (or as I call them "Mo and Lo") they did a great job. If you add the injured Carlos, they are some guard combination.

My son-in-law is a Lakers fan. After the game while I was driving him home, we argued whether the Jazz would be .500 or 1000 against the two LA teams over that weekend.

As it turned out he was right and I was wrong, but it wasn't by much.

As far as I am concerned, regardless of what their finishing record is, this is the best team the Jazz has had since the near championship years, half a decade ago.

If nothing else it is certainly refreshing to watch a team that tries to do the basics and follow what their coach says to do, instead of just playing one on one like so many NBA squads do these days.


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