Should Kirilenko, Jazz split? Davis vs. Terry and more
Posted: Monday April 30, 2007 12:18PM; Updated: Tuesday May 1, 2007 1:28AM
There's just something about a 6-9, weepy millionaire that turns the rest of us into pop psychologists. I'm sure I'm not the only one who spent the first week of the playoffs wondering why Utah's Andrei Kirilenko was so frustrated, and why his play has been so off for most of 2006-07. AK's team is flourishing, finally, but his production has tailed off: he established career-lows in points, rebounds, and steals in his sixth season, playing his third-lowest minutes per game mark (29.1).
So what's the issue here? Has he finally had it with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan? Have the back and knee injuries that plagued him his entire career caught up with him? Is he unable to handle watching teammates like Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams lead the team he once lorded over?
Could it be as simple as the position he plays? Kirilenko is not a small forward, but he's been shoe-horned into that position ever since Boozer returned from the injured list late in 2005-06. Kirilenko can guard small forwards with the best of them, but he can't roam for blocks and steals while having to pay attention to a sweet-shooting wing some 25 feet from the basket. And on offense, his suspect ball-handling and iffy outside shooting makes him a rough watch.
According to the game-watches at 82games.com, Kirilenko played nearly 60 percent of his minutes at power forward in 2004-05. This season, he played just four percent of Utah's overall power forward minutes. During the postseason, he's yet to spend a single second at power forward. Though the Jazz should look into finding AK some cursory minutes at the position, it's obvious that they've made their power forward choice -- and AK is the odd man out, production be damned.
All the more reason why the Suns should go after Kirilenko (offering Kurt Thomas, cap fodder, and Atlanta's first round pick in the June draft) once the season ends. The Suns would get a defensive-minded power forward fit for their running game, Shawn Marion can handle life at the wing with his three-point shooting ability, and the Jazz could find a wing player who wouldn't force Sloan to start a 6-1 point guard at shooting guard every night.
(Wait, they already have a couple? So why is Derek Fisher playing so much, again?)
I love watching Dallas' Jason Terry and Golden State's Baron Davis go at it, especially while taking into context their respective career arcs. Both were drafted in 1999, with Davis going to a ready-made playoff contender in Charlotte that had hopped up the lottery. By his second season, he was starting on a conference semifinalist. Terry, meanwhile, had to toil away in relative obscurity with the Atlanta Hawks, earning an unfair label of a wild chucker on a bad team. The Hawks stunk, but it was Davis that boasted the chucker instincts, while Terry honed his craft with a more subdued screen-and-roll attack with whatever defensively challenged power forward the Hawks brought in that year.
Now they're going back and forth in the midst of an ultra-exciting first round matchup between the Warriors and Mavericks, and I have to wonder if Terry's regressed a little. The stats are there (almost 20 points a game), but his shooting percentage is down, and he was killing Dallas in Game 4 with his inability to get Dirk Nowitzki the ball. Nowitzki deserves plenty of blame for not being more aggressive, and he is being zoned away from easy looks for most of the game, but Terry has to find ways to lob him the rock with the 6-7 Mickael Pietrus guarding the Maverick All-Star. Dallas is done if he doesn't.
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