Rush, who is rehabbing from knee surgery, and Williams, who is working his way back after having surgery on his Achilles, both played in three-on-three games during practice over the weekend, coach Ty Corbin said, their most serious activity so far this year.
"He was feeling pretty good, so we’ll see where we go with him today," Corbin said of Rush.
Williams, meanwhile, was said to have been pain-free after the session.
Last season, his first with the Jazz, Williams averaged 7.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 73 games. He started for Corbin in 51 of those games.
Rush, acquired in a trade with Golden State, could provide much needed 3-point shooting for the Jazz upon his return. He shot 45.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2011-12, his last full season.
Corbin said Rush is still working his way back into shape.
"There’s no way he’s going to be in game shape," the coach said. "He’s in better shape than when he first came to camp, but he’s not in game shape just yet. He hasn’t been up and down the floor in five-on-five with contact."
So not exactly full practice but close! Look forward to seeing what Rush can bring. Marvin OTOH...
Center Andris Biedrins suffered what the Jazz are calling a moderate left ankle sprain late in Monday’s practice. The veteran big man is doubtful for Wednesday’s regular season opener against Oklahoma City.
Outlining the team’s expectations Monday, general manager Dennis Lindsey said Favors needs to "increase his motor." That’s troubling. The book on Favors from his days in New Jersey was that nobody was sure about his level of effort and commitment. The Nets may have seen glimpses from him, but they quickly determined he never would maximize his ability.
He’s certainly progressed in that regard with the Jazz, but what happens now? His view of the contract’s impact is "no pressure for me," Favors said in a news conference. "It’s a big relief."
That’s not necessarily a disturbing answer, because it means he’s free from any distractions about becoming a restricted free agent and can just play. Yet the truth is Favors must keep improving. The contract certainly plays into those expectations, and not unfairly so.
He hasn't really showed much improvement and that's what worries me. The more shots his gotten the more his % has dropped.
Recent reports have varied greatly on how far apart the two sides are when it comes to reaching a deal. If no agreement can be reached, Hayward will be free to test the market next summer, and the Jazz risk the possibility of having to either match an offer sheet or allow the 23-year-old Hayward to leave.
Hayward, meanwhile, risks walking away from a guaranteed, sizable raise.
"It’s really going to come down to whether or not there’s a deal that makes sense for both sides," Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said. "Gordon loves it in Utah, loves playing for the Jazz. … He’d love to make a long-term deal there, but you only have so many times in your career when you make these decisions."
The Jazz will have money to match an offer sheet if it comes to that. Even with Favors now set to make in excess of $12 million next year, Utah is currently poised to have more than $30 million in cap space next summer.
But Utah won’t be the only franchise with money to spend come July.
Ten other teams are projected to have at least $12 million in cap space. The Lakers, 76ers, Mavericks and Suns all figure to have $19 million or more.
Hayward should certainly have a chance to prove his worth this year.
Now the focal point of Utah’s offense, Hayward spent the preseason filling up box scores. He led the Jazz in minutes (29.3) and points (15.9) while also averaging 4.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
And the Jazz want Hayward to do even more on the court — this year and beyond.
"I would love to be here," Hayward said Monday. "That would be great, especially to play with Fav and be a part of this franchise. It’s a great franchise, so I would love that."
Favors would also like to continue playing with Hayward.
"Me and Gordon, we’ve been together for going on three years now," he said. "We’ve been in the USA camp together. We’ve got a good chemistry going. With Enes [Kanter] and Alec [Burks] and those guys, they’re wonderful teammates. It’s important to keep the young core together."
But Favors also said he won’t try to sway his teammate’s decision.
Hayward and Derrick Favors have fully stepped into the spotlight for the Utah Jazz, whether they are ready or not. After seasons of deferring to players like Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the fourth-year players are the unmistakable future of the Jazz. Utah moved into rebuilding mode by shuttling four of their top five scorers after finishing last season at 43-39, just missing the playoffs.
"Most of the time me and Gordon talk it’s mostly about basketball," he said. "Other things, we really don’t talk about that stuff together. I try to stay out of it, let him take his time and decide."
if he’s unable to improve his ability to generate his own shot in a pinch, even hitting 90% of his pick-and-roll potential won’t justify such a large contract unless he becomes a truly elite defender.
The atmosphere of the free agent market no doubt played a large role in the Jazz’s decision, most notably the recent max extension signed by Boogie Cousins in Sacramento. And while Utah did well to avoid being roped into simply matching Cousins’ number for a player who could be very similar if he reaches his ceiling, it’s still curious to note bigs with whom Favors is now on an even footing or even earning slightly more than. Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are all in the same ballpark, and while the latter two are chasing titles late in their careers, Noah is a defensive commodity on the same level as Favors (only far more proven against NBA starters) with a much more polished offensive game.
Perhaps the best comparison point, though, is Larry Sanders, the Bucks defensive ace who just signed a four-year, $44 million extension this offseason. The two were extremely similar offensively, with Sanders even less impactful than Favors in the post and on isolation plays but significantly more effective as the roll man in pick-and-rolls (1.01 points per possession for Sanders, .85 PPP for Favors, per Synergy Sports). But while their ceilings defensively are similar, Sanders has already realized far more of his potential in this area.
Despite playing more minutes against starters, Sanders was far better last season against isolation (.62 PPP allowed versus .82 PPP for Favors, a massive discrepancy) and post-ups (.70 PPP versus .92 PPP for Favors), while the two were nearly identical in Favors’ strongest area, pick-and-roll defense. Moreover, while the Jazz were notably better defensively with Favors on the court, allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions compared to 105.5 without him, the Bucks were an entirely different team with Sanders out there: his massive 6.8 on/off court point discrepancy per 100 possessions is equivalent to the difference between the third-ranked defense in the NBA and the 23rd-ranked defense (all PPP stats from Synergy). The eye test backs all this up; Sanders is the better rotator, the quicker guy on isolation defense, and is less prone to mistakes with balance and timing.
In the end, the Jazz took the safer route and locked up their guy while they still had full control over the situation. They can’t be criticized for this alone, but given all the unknown elements of Favors’ development and comparable salaries for more proven commodities elsewhere around the league, it would have been nice to see them work for a bit of a better bargain. Playing hardball with the risk of allowing an asset to enter restricted free agency is always scary, but the Jazz have gobs of cap room for the foreseeable future. Even if Favors were to exceed projections this year, the relative risk of being forced to match a max extension for him was worth taking a shot at getting him for $9 or $10 million a season and having a bargain contract if he made a leap anytime during the extension. They’d then have had extra room to not only lock up the rest of their young core in the next few seasons (Hayward, Burks, etc.), but to hold cap space open for their two incoming first round picks in an absolutely stacked 2014 Draft.
NBA free agency is an ever-changing game, and the Jazz have always done a respectable job of contending despite their inherent disadvantages. Even if this was an overpay, they still have a bright future ahead with one of the best
if you believe that Rush finally cracked the code after Indiana and that his 2011-12 season represents his true level as a player, there’s a lot there. That season, he was actually the 7th most efficient player in the NBA by points per possession, finishing with 1.12 PPP. Impressively, it was due to his efficiency in all manners of scoring, not just his famed shooting. In isolations, he ranked 42nd in the league. As the pick and roll ball handler, he ranked 13th. As a cutter, he also ranked 13th. As a spot-up shooter, he ranked 16th. Many guys are good at one or two of these aspects, but rarely can players be so efficient at all of them at once, leading to a meaningfully versatile player.
For those reasons and others, Rush comes in at #4 in our pre-season JazzRank. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton projects Rush as one of the Jazz’s best reserves, second in projected scoring only to Marvin Williams and in Wins Above Replacement only to Jeremy Evans. The ESPN/TrueHoop panel also likes Rush better than anybody outside the Jazz’s core of five; at #222, he came in a few spots behind Alec Burks and one spot ahead of Williams. Even Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay has made it clear in his comments that he considers Rush as part of the team’s extended core, saying in response to injuries to Rush, Williams and Trey Burke that “three of our top seven guys” are banged up.
Of course, the alternate explanation is that Rush’s one good NBA season was a fluke, that he’s due for a regression to his career norm. He’s either a flawed player who had an outlier performance in a year on a bad team, or he’s a guy who was finally starting to put the pieces together when injury luck dealt him a setback.
The question is an important one to the Jazz as they evaluate Rush’s value, either as a player or as an asset. His very affordable contract expires this summer, so if he excels like he did in Golden State, he could be the kind of role player that’s incredibly valuable to teams with postseason aspirations. He could be shopped as a player with similarities to Danny Green, for example, to teams like Memphis, Miami or Chicago that need some 3-and-D help in exchange for a draft pick or other asset. On the other hand, if he reverts to Indiana form, he has very little trade value and the Jazz’s big summer salary acquisition trade suddenly looks weaker. It could go either way.
In fact, the Jazz may care more about Rush’s play as a function of his trade value than they do about his actual on-court output. If they could continue flipping those Warriors pieces into more assets, they effectively make last July’s trade haul better, and Rush represents their best chance at doing that given his low salary and relative on-court value. Playoff teams probably won’t come begging for Andris Biedrins, but some will inquire about Rush if he’s had a decent season in Utah.
That gamble makes Rush an intriguing player to keep an eye on if you care about the Jazz’s long term future beyond this season. So we wait for the Rush coin to show heads or tails.
F: For Hayward to fail his play would have to drop significantly. Basically he would have to regress to his play at the start of last year. Shooting less than 35 percent from the 3-point range and seeing his assist-to-turnover rate go back up would fail him.
D: Hayward has to at least become the team leader to get a passing grade. A minimum of four assists a game gets him a passing grade. He would also need to flirt with 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
C: The non-scoring numbers go here. He would need to have five assists and five rebounds to go along with double-digits scoring to earn this grade.
B: Here is the stat line: 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. That is a great year for the young man who becomes the go-to player for the team.
A: There is no other way to have a top season, but by making the All-Star team. As a wing in the West it would take probably 18 points on top of the six rebounds and assists. ESPN has talked about him as a nominee for Most Improved Player and that is the kind of year he would have to have.
It would take the Jazz winning for him to make it and that would be a tanking fail.
F: "F" is for fouling out for Favors. Alliteration aside, if he leads the league in fouls — he was near the top of the league in player efficiency rating-36 last year — he will fail this year. If his fouls keep his playing time under 30 minutes per game this year, it will be a failure for him.
D: A passing grade is just playing. If he gets more than 30 minutes per night he will at least pass the season. His natural talents will make it a decent year.
C: To earn this grade he will need to play more than 30 minutes per night and average 10 rebounds per game. His points matter, but if he can at least rebound, he will show he can play.
B: He will need to have more than 40 double-doubles to earn this grade. A solid 10 points and 10 rebounds per night would justify his contract in Year One, even if it isn't glamorous.
A: He will have to make a “team.” That is any sort of defensive team or All-Star team. Much like Hayward, he would need to get votes for most improved or even Defensive Player of the Year. He would need to have 14 points, 10 rebounds and be top-five in blocks in the NBA.
I'd say anything less than a double/double and 2.5 blocks a game would be very disappointing.
F: Burke failing would be him not playing. He would have to fall out of the starting lineup. As long as he plays he will at least pass this season.
D: He just needs to play 60 games. His finger injury will hold him out, but if he can come back only missing 22 games, which would be just into December, he would be able to show what he can do.
C: He needs to get 20 double-doubles for this average grade. It would be a good year for a Jazz point guard in his first year. Points are hard to come by, and if he can get 10 points and 10 assists in 20 games, it will be a pretty good year.
B: Averaging seven assists per game would earn him this grade. Seven assists for would be a really good year for him, and would put him in the top 15 in the league.
A: If he has five games where he makes a play for the win he would receive this mark. Burke made his name in the NCAA Tournament by hitting big shots. He can lock down the point guard position for years, if he can show off his ability to close games.
A+: Burke has the rare opportunity for an A+ with a Rookie of the Year award. He already has some buzz about him and he could get the award. It won't take much — 10 points and 7 assists.
I wouldn't say starting is that important other than the fact they really have no one else qualified to start. Not sure assists are going to be his thing? He needs to show he can shoot the ball first off.
F: With less than 10 points per game he will be tagged with this grade. The Jazz will rely on Kanter to score, and if he can't score reliably, the season will be a failure.
D: To earn this grade he would need to score more than 10 points per game. Kanter is still young, and he needs to gain some confidence, if he is a player for the future.
C: On top of the points he will need to become some sort of defensive presence to net this grade. This will be hard to quantify, but he needs to support Favors. Part of this is staying out of foul of trouble, which was something he struggled with in the preseason.
B: Kanter learned a lot from Al Jefferson last season, but he needs to learn how to avoid gaining Jefferson's ball-control style. Jefferson was a black hole when he got the ball and Kanter needs to become a good passer. Shooting a high percentage while getting assists — over 50 percent and three assists per game — gets this grade.
A: This grade is reserved for Kanter, if he can become a star. The Jazz need someone who can score close to 20 points per game. While 20 might be too high, he needs to score at least 18 to become the guy this year. That's basically what Jefferson put up last year.
3 assists a game is a lot to ask of any big especially one that could hardly pass at all as a rookie. He's already better Jefferson.
F: Burks' failure would come from missing shots. He needs to score points. If he can't make a shot, then he can't succeed. Shooting in the low 30-percent range from behind the arc and scoring under 10 points is simply a failure.
D: Scoring 12 points per game would net him this grade. If he does nothing more than score more than 12 points per game on a fairly consistent basis, then he will have an OK season. He has the ball a lot with the second unit and should easily score 12.
C: Four rebounds and four assists would merit this grade. The second unit has nothing on it. Burks needs to get more than just points. He talks about being aggressive and needs to do it without scoring.
B: Being consistently near his average would earn him this mark. Burks averaged seven points per game last season, but it was two points one night then 12 the next or four points then 15. Whatever his average is next year, he just needs to keep the night-to-night total close to it.
A: Averaging 18 points per game would get him the top grade. Again, the team needs someone to score. He is a scorer and a fantastic season would be 18 points per game and being the guy when he is on the court.
He will score points. I think the big thing is being able to do his thing within the offense.
F: Don't be Raja Bell. Jefferson isn't expected to do much, but he can avoid a failing grade just by keeping the locker room together. If he pouts and complains, he fails.
D: Enjoy his role. If the preseason is any showcase, he will start most games and sit most finishes. He wants to show off his skills for another year or two, but his greatest job is to let the young players improve and close.
C: Jefferson earns this grade by shooting his shot. He is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league over the last few years. In the two years prior to his injury he shot 42 percent and 44 percent, respectively. If he shoots better than 40 percent, he will have a good year.
B: Staying healthy and rebounding will earn him this grade. He has normally been a very durable player, but last two years he has missed too much time. He doesn't need to do much, but getting a handful of rebounds per game — around five — will make hin very valuable.
A: Hitting his averages would mean a top mark for Jefferson. He would need to have a great year to match his career averages of 15 points. That probably isn't the direction for the Jazz, but his 46 percent shooting, five rebounds and 2.5 assists while letting the young players go would make for an “A” season.
He's looked like a good vet to have around thus far.