Deron Williams’ game-winning floater [video]

Watch Williams hit a beautiful little floater to beat the Bobcats on the road.

The Jazz are riding a five-game winning streak that includes road wins against four Eastern Conference playoff teams from last season: Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Atlanta. Williams is playing at an All-NBA level (21.3 points, 10.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds) and the Jazz are getting great play from Paul Millsap (21.9 points, 9.3 rebounds) and Al Jefferson (16.7 points, 9.0 rebounds). With Jerry Sloan leading the way, the Jazz are going to out-execute their opponent just about every night which will usually put them in position to win. Maybe this will be the year that Sloan finally wins Coach of the Year.

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Paul Millsap scores 11 points in 28 seconds [video]

As part of his career-high 46 points in an OT win against the Heat, Paul Millsap hit three straight shots from long range. Prior to this game, Millsap was just 2-of-20 from 3PT in his career.

Talk about finding your range at the right time…geesh.

2010 NBA Preview: #6 to #10

This year, I’m going to preview the NBA season by starting with the lowest of the low and working my way up to my Finals picks. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff also-ran, I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason.

#10: Denver Nuggets
It’s tough to handicap Denver’s chances this season given the uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s future with the franchise. There’s very little doubt in my mind that if the Nuggets hold onto Melo for the entire season, he’s going to sign elsewhere next summer. Will they risk losing him for no compensation after watching Chris Bosh bolt Toronto last summer? It seems doubtful, though it’s going to be very difficult to justify trading Anthony away in the middle of the season if the team is playing well and looks to be amongst the West’s elite. The truth is that the Raptors did get something out of Bosh’s departure. People forget, but Toronto and Cleveland actually worked out sign-and-trades with the Heat and each garnered a couple of first round picks (and a trade exception) out of their respective deals. The Nuggets could wait and (probably) do the same thing, but they’ll get better value if they trade Anthony before the deadline. With one foot out the door, the Nuggets are going to be answering questions all season about the status of their superstar and it’s going to be a distraction. There’s no way around it. With a pretty good roster, the Nuggets will be good, but they’re not good enough to overcome all the drama. If Denver moves Anthony and eventually trades Chauncey Billups as well, they’ll be in great shape financially, building around Ty Lawson and whatever young players (Derrick Favors?) they can acquire for their two stars. But make no mistake — this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

#9: Utah Jazz
For the first time in six seasons, the Jazz head into the season without the potent duo of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Williams is basically the franchise cornerstone and is still there, but Boozer is long gone. So the Jazz are going to take a step back, right? Not necessarily. They have one of the best backup power forwards in the league (Paul Millsap) ready to take Boozer’s place and they stole Al Jefferson from the T-Wolves, so the front line will be fine assuming Mehmet Okur’s recovery from an injury to his Achilles. Of greater concern is the wing, where the losses of Kyle Korver and Wes Matthews will hurt if C.J. Miles, Raja Bell and Gordon Hayward are not up to the task. Head coach Jerry Sloan will have his team competing and it’s rare that the Jazz are ever out-executed on any given night. Another 50+ win season looks likely.

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Al Jefferson, the anti-Boozer?

Feb. 05, 2010: Minnesota Timberwolves center Al Jefferson finished with 15 points during an NBA game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Minnesota defeated Dallas 117-108.

Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune thinks so. Here, he compares Jefferson to Carlos Boozer:

Nobody wants to beat down the guy who was here before, while propping up the newcomer, but the former cared much more about his personal investment in himself than his personal investment in his team. Jefferson is a whole other thing.

Here’s why that matters: Teammates pick up on that stuff. They know about concerns regarding financial security, about taking care of No. 1, and that certainly has an important place. But, at some point, a pillar of a team has to have strong, authentic feelings — convictions, really — about winning and sacrificing and paying the competitive price for the guys who are on the court and in the locker room with him.

Jefferson is that.

Assuming his knees are okay, Jefferson should be a nice addition to the Jazz and an overall ‘better deal’ than Boozer. Deron Williams is said to be very happy with the acquisition, and that’s important for the franchise.

Jefferson has played for losing teams for much of his career, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in Utah’s winning environment.

NBA free agency, in haiku!

You know you’re burned out on NBA news and rumors when you decide to write 10 haiku to summarize the NBA Summer of 2010. Off we go (in the English 5-7-5 syllable format)…

Atlanta spends big
to keep twenty-eight year-old
Here comes the remorse

Wade, Bosh, then LeBron
Super Friends in Miami
Much to Dan’s chagrin

No doubt cathartic
Dan Gilbert’s manifesto
only hurts the Cavs

Pat Riley, the pimp
But they have to play the games
There’s still work to do

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