Utah Jazz in search of backcourt help this off-season

utah jazz cheerleaders

All things considered, the Utah Jazz showed steady progress this season when some expected them further drop off post-Deron Williams trade.  Now the Jazz enter the off-season with a glaring need; upgrading their talent in the backcourt.

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Utah Jazz In Search of New Identity This Off-Season

Devin Harris Jazz

Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming.  Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players.  Still, The Sports Bank continues to break down all thirty NBA teams to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.  The Utah Jazz begin a new era this off-season without long-time head coach Jerry Sloan and superstar point guard Deron Williams.

By: David Kay

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Fake Devin Harris Twitter Account Spreads Trade Rumor to Blazers

Devin Harris

A fake Devin Harris twitter account spread a rumor that the newest member of the Utah Jazz was being traded to the Portland Blazers for Wesley Matthews.  Damn social media!!!
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Trade to Nets Proves Deron Williams is NOT the NBA’s Best PG

For the last few seasons there has been a lively debate about the best point guard in the NBA. Prior to this season the discussion was mainly between Chris Paul and Deron Williams (Derrick Rose is now in the conversation). Now that Deron Williams has been traded to the New Jersey Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first round picks, it’s safe to say that the debate is over.

Deron Williams is definitely not the best point guard in the NBA.

By Peter Christian
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All-Big Ten All-2000s Team

By Paul M. Banks

The 2000s was a great decade for a few programs in the Big Ten. Indiana, Ohio State and Illinois all had a national runner-up season. In 2005, the Illini tied the record for the most single season victories. Wisconsin and Ohio State treated us to an epic #1 vs. #2 game during one of their two 2007 meetings. And Michigan St. started the decade off with a national title and also ended 2009 playing for the title, and threw in two more Final Four seasons between 2000 and 2009. So clearly Tom Izzo was the conference coach of the decade.

And when you take a look at the list of the decade’s top individual performers you’ll see that…these Big Ten programs won with coaching and the stressing of team concepts. The conference clearly LACKED when it came to marquee stars, and if I composed a list like this for the ACC, Big East or Pac 10, the names on it would certainly be more impressive than those listed here.

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My Day with Devin Harris (Part 2)

devin

by: David Kay

In his first full season with the New Jersey Nets, Devin Harris made “the leap” from a solid NBA point guard to an All-Star, finishing 14th in the league averaging 21.3 points per game.  He proved to be a building block for a franchise that is in a re-building mode.

Last off-season, the Nets dealt long-time small forward Richard Jefferson to gain more cap flexibility.  A similar move was made earlier this summer when New Jersey traded Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson to Orlando for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie, leaving Harris as the focal point of the team for the up-coming season.

vince-carter-richard-jefferson1“You definitely have to embrace it,” Harris told me in an exclusive one-on-one interview this past Saturday.  “With the move we made, it puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders to be that vocal leader on and off the court, as well as be the primary scorer and the point guard. But it’s something that I’ve wanted since day one… Now I’m starting to become a franchise type player, it’s something that you have to relish.”

Something that Harris won’t relish is the struggles the young Nets are likely to face this season.  Besides Harris, second year center Brook Lopez will be the only returning player who averaged double figures in scoring.  “We have a lot of young guys so hopefully I can bring them along a little quicker so the re-building process doesn’t take as long,” Harris told me.

The re-building process may not take too long in New Jersey.  The former Badger is just one of four Nets guaranteed to be under contract past the 2009-2010 season, meaning they should have plenty of cap space for the much-anticipated 2010 off-season when superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are set to hit the market.  Harris hopes he can be a selling point to a superstar hoping to sign with a bigger market team.

“I’ve been paying a lot of attention this summer to guys who are being brought in. Boston did a great job with bringing Rasheed Wallace in. They sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to recruit him… Those guys know the tricks of the trade that hopefully I can pick up to help bring in another big name.”

devin_harris_4002Harris has also paid attention to what teams in the Eastern Conference have done this off-season.  He acknowledges that the power is shifting from the West to the East, making it more difficult for the Nets to catch-up to the elite teams during their re-building efforts.

“Especially with Cleveland just loading up on talent. Boston’s already been good, but then they add a crafty veteran. Orlando was already in the Finals, but then they add a guy like Vince Carter and Brandon Bass who are proven players. It makes it a little tougher, but a little more challenging as well.”

Beginning Thursday, Harris will be one of 23 NBA stars participating in the U.S. Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp in Las Vegas.  Representing his country in 2012 Olympic Games is a long-term goal, but for the immediate future, Harris wants to help the Nets return to respectability in the NBA.  “It’s a process, sometimes you have to go through the rough ends to make it to the top. We’re working hard to get to that point.”

My Day with Devin Harris (part 1)

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by: David Kay

In an era in which professional athletes are too often egotistical and appropriately labeled as “divas” or “pre-madonnas,” it is refreshing to come across a player like Devin Harris.  Despite his newfound stardom in the NBA, the Wauwatosa East product and former Badger has stayed humble and not forgotten his roots.

I recently had the opportunity to follow the New Jersey Net All-Star point guard behind the scenes at one of his free basketball camps for his “34 Ways to Assist Foundation” which teaches under-privileged kids in the Milwaukee and Madison areas not only fundamentals of the game, but also life lessons.

“We didn’t have much,” Harris told me of his childhood in an exclusive sit-down interview.  “We were kind of a lower-middle class family. My parents did a great job of making me understand that remember where I came from and always try to help people in need.”

nets-harris1And that is exactly what Harris is doing through his charity which benefits youth in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and other similar groups.

What I found most interesting about following Harris during a camp in Stoughton, Wisconsin, was his involvement in the drills and interaction with the kids.  “I’m here every day,” Harris told me.  “Some guys just show up to the camp for an hour and speak to the kids.  I like to get involved, play a little bit.  It’s easy to write a check sometimes and leave it at that, but I have a kick out of it.”

You could certainly tell he was getting a kick out of it; stepping in during 3-on-3 games, rebounding, passing, and dribbling drills, even challenging kids to a game of knock-out (or lightning as some people call it.)  He was constantly smiling, laughing, and joking around with the camp goers who intently followed his every word.

During a Q&A session with the kids, he was asked what his favorite kind of pancakes are, what is favorite song is, and who is better LeBron or Kobe.  (For the record, his answer was Kobe.)  He handed out autographed basketballs to selected kids who had reached certain achievements in the classroom, and gave away a signed pair of his new Adidas kicks.

“Kids especially, they want to be us, they see us in powerful positions so even if we don’t want to be role models, we’re still looked upon in that light.  Obviously to come back and do the things that I’m doing, means more to the kids than anybody.”

devin-layup1And in a time when the media is often looked at as the greater evil by pro athletes, Harris was very friendly with me (maybe because he knew I would be reporting on his interactions throughout the day.)  But there definitely was a genuineness to him that further proves he is one of the good guys who has not let his fame and fortune get to his head.

In Wednesday’s part two of my day with Devin, Harris talks about his new role as the focal point of the Nets offense, the Vince Carter trade, and the much-anticipated 2010 off-season in which New Jersey figures to be major players.