Mavs try to open season with two straight wins
(Sports Network) – The Utah Jazz open the 2005-06 campaign at home, as they
welcome the high-powered Dallas Mavericks to the Delta Center.
Utah was a big disappointment last season, as it registered just 26 victories
and missed the postseason for the second straight year. The Jazz dealt with a
series of injuries to their key players and were never able to get on track.
The Jazz, who have not participated in the playoffs twice since the 1982-83
season, addressed a pressing need in the draft. Utah was well aware that it
needed to fix its situation at point guard. On draft night, the Jazz made a
big trade, as they dealt their two first-round selections in the draft (sixth
and 27th overall) and a 2006 conditional first-round pick to the Portland
Trail Blazers to move up three spots to No. 3.
With the third pick overall, Utah selected point guard Deron Williams of
Illinois and passed on Wake Forest’s Chris Paul. The 6-3 Williams is more of a
pure point guard, while Paul is more of a scorer and plays with the mentality
of think shot before pass.
By selecting Williams, the Jazz hope that they have found their answer at the
point. Utah’s strength is its frontcourt as forwards Carlos Boozer, Andrei
Kirilenko and center Mehmet Okur makeup a solid trio. The 23-year-old Boozer,
who averaged 17.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in 51 contests last season, and
Kirilenko, who was limited to just 41 games because of injuries, give the Jazz
a youthful duo that should be able to provide years of productive service,
while Okur is still developing his game and should continue to improve.
Williams has excellent playmaking abilities and seems to be able to find his
open teammates for some easy baskets. With Williams handling the rock, Boozer
and Kirilenko should be able to benefit offensively from his strong passing
The Jazz also added free agent guards Devin Brown and Milt Palacio, and re-
acquired veteran center Greg Ostertag from Memphis in a five-team deal. The
6-5 Brown, who spent the last two seasons with the Spurs, showed a lot of
promise last season for the Spurs, while the 27-year-old Palacio gives the
Jazz a solid backup at the point.
Gone are center Curtis Borchardt, who was traded to Boston in the five-team
deal, guard Raul Lopez, who was dealt to Memphis in the five-team transaction
and forward Kirk Snyder, who was sent to New Orleans in the five-team trade.
Raja Bell also found a new home, as he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free
agent. Bell’s defensive ability as well as his 12.3 scoring average will be
Head coach Jerry Sloan is back for his 18th season as the general of the Jazz.
With a new young point guard at the helm and some healthy players, Sloan will
be up to the challenge and will do a great job.
Even though last season was filled with disappointment and injuries for Boozer
and Kirilenko, the talented forwards are still the keys to Utah’s success.
They need to be healthy and must be able to produce on both ends of the court.
Boozer can be a monster down low, while Kirilenko is more athletic and is one
of the top defensive players in the NBA. Their games complement each others
Utah hopes it has found its lead guard for the next 10-plus years in Williams.
The Illinois product should mesh well with his new teammates. He is not going
to make Utah forget about John Stockton, but Williams is a hard-nosed player
who plays the way a point guard was meant to. It will be the start of a new
chapter for Jazz basketball in 2005-06.
On the injury front, the Jazz will be without Boozer (hamstring) as the
talented forward is on the inactive list. Center Robert Whaley (suspension) is
eligible to return on Saturday against Phoenix.
The Jazz are scheduled to visit the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Dallas plays the second game of its season tonight. On Tuesday, Dirk Nowitzki
scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, as the Mavericks outlasted Phoenix
111-108 in double overtime in the season-opener for both teams at America West
Jason Terry scored 23 points, including eight in the first overtime for the
Mavericks, who rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to post the
improbable win and exact some revenge from last year’s playoff loss. Dallas
was defeated in six games by the Suns in last year’s Western Conference
semifinals. Josh Howard had 16 points and 11 boards for the Mavericks, while
Keith Van Horn came off the bench to score 15 in the win.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Dallas announced that center Pavel Podkolzin
underwent successful surgery on his right foot stress fracture. He will be on
crutches for six weeks and needs a total recovery time of 3-4 months.
The Mavericks are scheduled to play their first home game of the 2005-06
campaign on Saturday against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.