The Jazz are 7-7, which in this brutal November coming out .500 or better is a success. The problem as we all know, in a home to road game comparison is the Jazz ability to go Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Jazz are 5-0 at home and 2-7 on the road in which the two wins came against the winless Wizards and the 3-9 Raptors (In which 3 overtimes and an unlikely 3-pointer from Al were needed). How can the Jazz look like a top 4 seed at home and a bottom feeder on the road?
If you’ve watched a game on the road who stands out on the Jazz? Millsap, Hayward, Favors and Carroll always play hard and are focused. Mo, Foye and Marvin have had their ups and downs but they always look like they are trying. The thing that sticks out to me is the lack of energy/desire in Big Al. For example go back and watch the Toronto game where he had his best statistical game of the season. The first 48 minutes (well 47 minutes and 45 seconds) Big Al looked disinterested, out of touch and completely lost. Before the game tying 3 Big Al managed 13 points on 4 of 12 shooting with 2 turnovers.
At home Big Al is averaging 18 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2 spg while shooting 48% from the field and 85.7% from the line. Compare that to the road of 14.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, .5 spg while shooting his career worst 43.7% from the field and 71% from the line. His turnovers are up 40% on the road and his offensive rebounding is down 45%. On top of that Big Al is -34 while on the court on the road compared to +32 at home. (Compare that to Favors -8 on the road and +39 at home) All of these stats are indicators that he plays better at home than away from Energy Solutions Arena. He feeds off the home crowd and goes the extra mile at home, while on the road he lacks motivation and doesn’t put forth the effort you want from a guy getting 15 million dollars this year.
Superstars in this league love playing on the road more than in front of the home crowd. They love the hush of the crowd when they make a basket or a defensive stop. Until Al Jefferson gets aggression on the road he will never be more than a good offensive player and a defensive liability. If he put as much energy into his defensive mindset as he does when he wants the ball on offense he would be a power to be reckoned with, instead teams scoff at Big Al every time in a pick and roll situation or at the rim. Defense stems from pride in your ability to stop the opponent. What I see on the road is: not boxing out, not helping to cover and most importantly being walked all over time and time again by lesser competition.
Don’t get me wrong Big Al is a needed commodity for the Jazz but at 15 million his price might just be too steep for the Jazz to resign if he continues to slack on the road when the Jazz need him most. One might look at the statistics and say they aren’t that much different, but just think of the Philadelphia game or the New Orleans game where the Jazz had it down to the last seconds and needed a bucket or a defensive stop. Big Al shot 5 of 14 and 5 of 13 respectively with 2 blocks, 2 offensive rebounds and zero steals. If the Jazz had Favors in the last play instead of Al against New Orleans when Hayward fell down the Jazz would have won or Vazquez would have had to make a very difficult shot. Big Al was under the hoop and instead of switching over to help he hesitated. The point is it never should have gotten to that play.
Last night in Sacramento Big Al didn’t switch one time to help his teammates, not once! He had zero offensive rebounds and only 6 rebounds total. No big man should ever have 6 boards in a game that plays 30 minutes, especially when the other team brings down 14 offensive boards. He had one spurt where he offset his absence on the defensive end that lasted all of 2 minutes and 18 seconds. He had 6 points at the end of the second quarter but gave up 2 offensive rebounds to Jason Thompson by not helping Millsap on the switch that led to 4 points.
Anybody that thinks I’m wrong, go and watch any game on the road and just watch Al. He will drive you crazy at his lack of effort. His head isn’t in the game, and his defense is even worse than normal. If he’s going to be on the court like Corbin wants, then his offense has to offset his defensive struggles and that just isn’t happening on the road. It’s early in the season and a lot of road games still to be played, but this is something the Jazz should be keeping an eye on for the rest of the season if we are going to be a threat in the West.