Monday, April 21, 2014

Utah Jazz: Jazz's Foundation Five could see more time on the court together

By Jody Genessy, Deseret News

Published: Sun, Jan. 26 9:50 p.m. MST

 Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke (3) brings the ball down the court past Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) during a game between the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves at EnergySolutions Arena on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke (3) brings the ball down the court past Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) during a game between the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves at EnergySolutions Arena on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — On Oct. 12, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter took to the court to begin the third game of the 2013 preseason for the Utah Jazz.

With this being a season of developing and redirecting the franchise, many people believed this group would be the main first five.

Let the kids play and learn together, right?

For a variety of reasons, which included Burke’s injury that night, Kanter’s eventual struggles, Burks’ success as a sixth man and the chemistry of another starting unit, that young crew has not started a game together since the exhibition experiment.

Utah has used eight different lineups in 44 games, but the Foundation Five, as some call that group, has not started once together in the regular season.

In fact, the five players, all considered future pieces to the Jazz’s puzzle, have only played together for 31 minutes.

Yes, 31 minutes combined. All season.

However, that PT is trending in a direction that might appease the curiosity of fans who’ve been astonished that Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors and Kanter haven’t played together more often than that.

“It’s the progression of the season,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.

In Saturday’s 104-101 win over the Washington Wizards, that group played together from the 5:46 mark of the fourth quarter until Kanter was replaced by Richard Jefferson for defensive purposes in the final 21.5 seconds.

“They’re understanding more the importance of the little things,” Corbin said. “I thought our pace last night, especially on the offensive end, was better with them.”

Some mistakes were made, of course. But Corbin believes the chemistry of that core is improving enough that he plans on increasing their court time. Kanter and Favors, in particular, have had spacing and on-court chemistry issues with each other, limiting their effectiveness together.

“They’re getting better together,” Corbin said of the entire group. “The more they can create a tempo that’s favorable for us, the better chance we have of putting them on the floor together.”

Like he did in the preseason, Corbin is open to giving the youngsters another shot at starting together when it counts.

“Hopefully,” Corbin said when asked if he’d consider that lineup move. “… (There) may be an opportunity to get back to it.”

Burke’s broken finger made the lineup combo impossible for the first 12 games of the season. By then, Corbin liked the offensive spark Burks was giving the team off the bench. The coach has also appreciated the veteran leadership and contributions regular starters Jefferson and Marvin Williams have provided.

The fact that Burke, Hayward, Jefferson, Williams and Favors are 12-8 in 20 starts together is another reason why Corbin has stuck with that group.

Some might not agree with his decisions, but Corbin believes he’s making choices that give the Jazz the best chance of simultaneously winning games and developing players.

Corbin is also concerned what would happen to the bench’s offensive production if Burks (13.1 ppg) and Kanter (11.5 ppg) were made starters.

“There’s two sides to it. Guys are going to play,” Corbin said. “I know everybody wants to start in this league and people have an opinion of who should start because of … who they like. I have to do what I think is best for this group of guys.”

Burks recently showed what he’s capable of producing as a starter while filling in for Hayward during his five-game injury absence. Burks averaged 18.8 points, including a 34-point outing in a win over Denver.

“His play is getting better. He’s going to play, man,” Corbin said recently when asked if Burks could become a regular starter. “You should always want to start in this league. That’s a great goal to have, but he has a big role for this team whether that’s starting for us or whether that’s coming off the bench.”

Ask Burks and Kanter about whether they prefer starting or coming off the bench, and you get rehearsed-sounding lines about how they’ll do whatever Corbin wants to do.

“I’m just out there being aggressive,” Burks recently said. “However minutes I get from Coach Ty, that’s all I’m doing.”

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com

TWITTER: DJJazzyJody

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1. TerryHaimes
Sturgis, MS,
Jan. 26, 2014

Well Well, Jody has decided to put on, "a little gentle pressure". I like it. As for Corbin's plea about the bench points. A second team of the veterans on this squad would probably play well together besides they don't need to play much about four minutes at the end and beginning of the first and second quarter and the third and fourth quarter. Use Evans as a sixth man with the starting five shifting around depending on who is coming out.

2. jamsenior
SANTAQUIN, UT,
Jan. 27, 2014

People underestimate RJ's leadership value as well as Marvin. I want the young to play a lot but the reality is they are still learning.. RJ has been there and done that before in most situations. Good vets are still needed. Show me a championship ring made up of 5 men 22-24 yearsold. There isn't because of inexperience. Very seldom do you see a rookie lead team to victory. Those that have are all in Hal of Fame. Magic and bird are the only one in recent years. It even took Jordan 4-5 years before he could win championships because they had to get the right coach and players and then build chemistry..

3. gehelmke
Bastrop, TX,
Jan. 27, 2014

Interesting that the core group has only been on the court as a unit for 31 minutes the entire season...Give or take a minute or two, that's 1.5% of the time. And more than that, it's indicative of the fact that Ty Corbin has ignored the program Dennis Lindsey set in motion when he didn't re-sign any of the vets from last year's team....This year was supposed to be a year when the core group spent a lot of time on the court together, both to get game experience, and to get to know each other's habits, likes, etc. I remember comparisons to the way Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Timmy Duncan know each other.

It hasn't happened. Instead, Corbin has had two vets who will be gone next year out on the floor for a total of some 2,274 minutes...in an effort to satisfy his own agenda.

4. Jazz Source
Alpine, UT,
Jan. 27, 2014

I think it is about time to stop referring to what Burkes does off the bench a "spark". He averaged better stats and shooting %'s than Hayward has as a starter!

Thankfully Hayward has started shooting better %'s of late but this is a career trend of his. He starts poorly and gets better as the season progresses.

Reality says starting all these guys will likely cause issues. Alec Burkes needs the ball alot to do what he does. There are only so many possessions to be had. Kanter demands the ball in the post (and he is like his mentor...a black hole) he rarely passes out of the post. Trey Burke shoots a bit more than I care for.

There probably is not enough ball to go around to let them all do their thing. Some of them will inevitably not be utilized in relation to their skillset.

Playing Favors and Kanter together? Neither one of them can guard a stretch 4 who shoots outside. Kanters defense, especially pick and roll, is like Al Jefferson. Absolutely awful. Conversely his footwork is off the chart amazing for a player his age/experience.

I say trade Kanter for value.

5. JBQ
Saint Louis, MO,
Jan. 27, 2014

Obviously, this has been a frustrating year not only for the players but the fans as well. The idea is to develop players but not to win. They want a chance at a big draft choice. The Kings come to town tonight. They have not been playing Cousins or Gay, their two best players. The winner of the game moves out of last place in the West with a fading chance of a high draft choice. David Stern is retiring. A new commissioner will have to make some big decisions to keep the NBA from just being a playoff organization. I have already read allusions to the Miami Heat being so good that they don't even care about the regular season. The idea is to make it tougher to get into the playoffs. Sure, it is all about money. The East may have three teams with losing records in the playoffs. Good teams in the West will chew each other up including Golden State who are coming to town on Friday in an effort to earn the right to play the Heat in the Final.