November 27, 2022

Three thoughts on Utah Jazz’s 125-116 loss to the Detroit Pistons from Salt Lake Tribune Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen.

1. Undisciplined Jazz has the worst defensive night of the season

Will Hardy was pretty clear about his team’s defense tonight:

“Very poor. I think we’re doing really bad with pick and roll defense. I need to learn that better, we’re on screens. Our pick up points are bad. We’re not physical with the ball handler.”

Yes, I agree. Overall, the Pistons got as much of what they wanted, especially inside, and the result was the worst defensive performance of the season against a bottom 10 offensive team missing two of its top five players.

The last game the problem was largely the transition defense. That was bad again tonight. But the half court defense was more concerning, frankly.

Sometimes it was a loss of focus. Collin Sexton gets slammed behind the door here, mainly because he’s looking at the ball and not his man.

Jarred Vanderbilt is usually a sponge on defensive rebounds – I can’t remember a jazz player who usually tries harder. What is this? (And why isn’t anyone helping him?)

Kelly Olynyk is in a position to help here… and then gives up.

If the Jazz want to stay good, they need to defend more possession per possession. It’s hard to play like you did in Game 1 in Game 20, I understand that. But the reason the Jazz lost to the Pistons tonight, in a game they preferred to win by 12 points, is because they once again left too many defensive responsibilities.

2. Collin Sexton’s career high in assists

Collin Sexton got a lot of criticism when he didn’t play well, and I think fair. Tonight, however, was a real game changer for him as he racked up a career high in assists with 12.

There’s some really good stuff in those assists too, with Sexton using his aggression to trap his teammates, rather than drive into dead ends. This is after a basket made, but Sexton sprints downfield to even the defense, then finds Walker Kessler over the top for an easy layup.

Here Sexton is open to his own 10 footer, but finds Malik Beasley with a better and more efficient shot over the top. Great vision!

He can isolate against Isaiah Livers, then use the collapsing defense to find a slashing Olynyk for an easy dunk.

He can sprint onto the pitch, find Beasley and open his best 3-point shooter by handing it off and slightly bumping the defender.

These are all smart point guard plays! Very good manipulation of space and defenders to get his teammates open – the kind of thing a super-athletic Mike Conley would do.

Can I tell you my favorite thing in all these videos? He celebrates after each of his assists. He jumps up and down after a second-quarter assist from Kessler. He has his hands in the air as Beasley shoots the three. He really enjoys the success of his teammates and finds pleasure in more than just scoring.

I really hope this can be a turning point for Sexton. If so, it would be huge for his road to a long jazz career.

3. Talk about game ops

This is going to be quite a niche point for all the fans who go to Vivint Arena Jazz games. We’re going to talk about game operations, or “game ops” for short – that is, all the things that happen in the arena while the game is off. Time out entertainment, half time shows on the field, pre and post game stuff and so on.

And here’s my unfiltered truth: the Jazz is pretty bad at it right now.

As part of this job, I’ve been to every road arena in the league and hundreds of NBA games outside of Vivint Arena. Jazz fans are top notch. The renewed Vivint Arena is also of the highest level. The in-game experience, beyond the game, is not.

Tonight at halftime show, two random fans had a contest to see who could name more Thanksgiving dishes and holiday traditions, then tried to catch footballs thrown from the crowd by Jazz Bear, then tried to play Password with clues on their forehead. This is very low level entertainment not befitting an NBA franchise! It’s the latest in a long line of weird and underwhelming halftime shows over the past few years. I miss Red Panda.

Honestly, it was a tough job for co-arena emcee Andrea Urban to be able to carry something like that halftime show. Andrea is great, but it was too much for everyone. New emcee hire is Mike Goodkind For real loud, and he’s clearly new to Utah – as evidenced by the fact that he said “Utah” about 30 times per game when he was first brought in. But he gets better as he gains experience, articulating clearly so that he’s able to be heard through the sound system, something previous emcees haven’t done.

(Speaking of the sound system, it’s really rough – possibly the worst in the NBA.)

There are some good time out entertainment options and some bad ones. The best of the bunch is the Qualtrics putting competition – a very good and exciting competition with real stakes. I don’t mind the America First shell game with the coins either, nor Press Your Luck with Jazz Bear as the whammy symbol.

LGCY Power’s “timeout party” where they turn off the lights and play an annoying video on the Jumbotron is definitely not a good time. It’s a dazzling experience. The jazz dancers honestly have some of the worst choreography in the competition. I think that’s partly because previous owner Gail Miller really held them back, but all the NBA teams’ dance routines are more impressive, and so are the Utah’s college dance teams I’ve seen.

The stunt team, which got most of its performers from the Weber State stunt team, was pretty good – that’s been eliminated. The dunk team has yet to perform this season as well, I suspect they are out as well. We haven’t seen any old solid standbys like baby races, puppy races, trike races, or shooting competitions.

Player videos don’t seem to exist for the Jazz this year. There are no videos of the players doing trivia contests or answering prompts or telling fans to get loud – or showing personality in any way.

Fan giveaways are rarer in Vivint Arena than for other teams. I know they have T-shirt slingshots, but we haven’t seen much of that this year. No T-shirt Gatling gun either. Those all provide fan engagement but have been eliminated for some reason. Crumbl cookie giveaways are good, but in just one section – everyone else knows they won’t get a cookie.

Gifs of screaming Malik Beasley and celebrating Jordan Clarkson are hits, and rightly so. Chik-Fil-A’s free throw action is great, as it is for many teams in the league.

Finally, I have to say, the game launches this year have been terrible. This is the song they play right before the tip.

This is a great song, and I have nothing against Nardo Wick. It is terribly little energy. It’s not a hype song.

To be clear, the Jazz’s game operations are some of the worst in the league isn’t just an opinion of Andy Larsen. This is the opinion of the majority of people who travel through the league and have no choice but to notice some of these things. To the jazz fans’ credit for being as loud and engaged as they are despite all this.

I want Vivint Arena’s in-game entertainment to be as good as Dallas, Memphis, Portland, Atlanta, Sacramento, Chicago, or Philadelphia. Jazz fans deserve better.

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