We’re pleased to host the Grand Re-Opening of longtime Jazzman Ben Bagley’s Jazz Bags here at USN!
Many of you will remember Bagley as a producer and sidekick of the Utah Jazz’s flagship station’s afternoon drive show Locked on Sports with David Locke. Bagley went on to co-host his own afternoon show with Alema Harrington, now pre, half, and post-game host of the Utah Jazz games on ROOT Sports television.
“Bags” worked as a producer, host, reporter and sideline reporter on the Utah Jazz flagship station from 2000 – 2012. Served as the Jazz locker room reporter and post game interviewer since the final two years of the Stockton and Malone era to the end of the Sloan era and beginning of the Ty Corbin era. Keep up with Bags on Twitter at @benbags.
Today Bags tackles the heartbreaker with the LA Clippers and where the Jazz are, and maybe should be, headed.
USN: In the spirit of your once-infamous Jazz Bags, on the game at Energy Solutions Arena against the Los Angeles Clippers, what observations did you make about the Utah Jazz in a game that gave us tons to talk about?
Ben Bagley: Funny you should ask about the “more than famous” Jazz Bags blog. After watching last night’s game, I heavily contemplated for the first time since leaving radio to put together a Jazz Bags blog.
This game was such a telling one in letting Jazz fans know what is wrong with this team and who exactly this team is. So as I would with Jazz Bags, let’s go piece by piece.
Paul Millsap needs to accept his role
Early in the game there were about three possessions where Paul was going out of his way (and the offense) to prove that he could play with Blake Griffin. On one of the plays he made a great shot, but failed on the other two. Even on the make, it was a feat of great effort on his part. (You watch others, like Blake, make the same moves and plays but look effortless in doing so.) In a way this will answer your fifth question as well so I’m going to combine them.
There were a few times in my experiences in the locker room where I feared the question I asked hit the wrong nerve. The majority of those times were each of the three times at locker clean out that in some form or another I asked Paul if he thought he was a starter, or would accept a role coming off the bench. In each instance, in a tone best described as terse and stern and a look to match, Paul made it clear he considered himself a starter, period.
In a way you have to appreciate the desire to succeed and the work he has put in to make himself a much better player than he should possibly have ever been. However, Clint Eastwood said it best when in Magnum Force saying “A good man always knows his limitations.” He is not a starter. He is undersized as a power forward, and under-athletic as a small forward. He has improved over his career, but not to the level of a starting four on a winning team. Paul Millsap would be a force and a terror against second unit defenses and bigs. Yet time and again he has made it clear that is not who he sees himself as. This presents a problem in the locker room. When guys like Favors and Kanter continue to improve and show they deserve minutes and even starts, yet are not getting them out of a coachs’ loyalty to Paul or unwillingness to chance bad repercussions in the locker room.
The Youngs are ready
Before I go further, pull back on the reins just a bit. There are still going to be growing pains and bumps in the road with Favors, Kanter and Burks, but it’s time to go through these bumps and growing pains. Give them the minutes. They have put in the work and have shown they are willing and able to compete against whomever they face.
My biggest knock on Alec Burks in the past is how often he found himself lost on the defensive end and how often he played outside the offense. In the latest stint of time he has shown the ability to defend well and act as a teammate. In fact he’s doing it quite well.
USN: The Jazz might end up as three of the Clippers’ Ws in their win streak. What have you noticed about the Clippers, are they for real?
BB: This is a tough question. I think Blake Griffin is over-hyped and mildly overrated. (In past years I’d say very overrated, but I have softened some.)
This is a different Clippers team. They seem to be more of a team, and give the credit to CP3. He is good, and he is demanding this team to play as a team. He is facilitating it with his play and it’s working.
With that being said, I still take the Thunder, Spurs, and even the Grizzlies over the Clipps in the West. Three words: Vinny Del Negro.
USN: Ty Corbin has been widely criticized by fans for some of his handling of in-game situations. What do you see as him doing well, and what does he need to improve on to get more wins (or less heartbreaking losses)?
BB: The complaints about Ty are in many ways fair. I’ve always deferred to coaches as knowing more than me about the game, but there are some simple things that seem to be lacking at times with Ty. For example the lack of offensive/defensive substitutions for Jefferson and Favors late, or how one dimensional the offense is in clutch situations. Ty is a young coach (and a great guy). I wish him success and like the young players will experience bumps in the road.
One of Ty’s biggest positives is how much of a players’ coach he is. The team truly likes him and respects him. This also puts him in a bind as to how to handle Millsap and Jefferson. He doesn’t want to embarrass the vets by benching them. However by keeping the vets happy, he runs the risk of losing the talented youngsters.
USN: What lineup adjustments would you make to beat the Clippers in round three Sunday night? Is the scheme sound, just lacking the proper personnel on the floor?
BB: It’s quite simple. Let’s find out how ready Favors is to be a big time defender in the league. Start him with Jefferson and let him match up against Blake. Let’s see if Favors can stay out of foul trouble and contain Griffin as a starter.
I’d also start Watson or Hayward to guard CP3. Watson can be an annoying defender if he wants, or Gordon could bring the length against him.
USN: Does a long-term Paul Millsap-to-the-bench move make sense for this Jazz team, and would he be willing?
BB: Answered above.
USN, And-1: I can’t think of another team that’s started five players all in contract years before this Jazz team, as Corbin has recently. Do you see the Jazz making a beneficial move before the trade deadline?
BB, “The Boozer Special”: Part of me says the Jazz have to make a move. No-brainer where that move comes from too. Paul or Al. It is the quick, obvious, and reactionary response. However I’m not sure there is someone out there who is available (real world here) who makes it worth giving one of them up. That could all change as the deadline approaches.