Hawks vs. Jazz Game Preview and Q&A With David Locke

Thursday, December 19, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (14-12) host the Jazz (7-21) tonight at Philips Arena as they look to continue their great play at home this week after wins over the Lakers and Kings. The Jazz are a very young team that has struggled to start the season which has landed them in the 15th spot in the Western Conference.

The Jazz played on Wednesday night in Orlando and beat the Magic 86-82, led by rookie point guard Trey Burke‘s 30 point performance. Gordon Hayward is the Jazz’s best player, but has gotten off to a slow start, which has hurt the Jazz’s offense tremendously. Utah features a pair of young, skilled big men in Atlanta native Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but they lost Al Jefferson to the Bobcats and the Hawks’ own Paul Millsap from last season’s roster, which has decreased their offensive production. I sent some questions the David Locke, the Jazz radio play-by-play broadcaster, who offered a closer look at the Jazz.

The Jazz have struggled so far this season and are ranked last in the NBA in defensive rating. What has been their biggest problem on the defensive end that has led to that ranking?

The defensive struggles may have been tied to the offensive struggles. This team simply couldn’t score when Trey Burke was out of the line-up and it put a terrible stress on the defense.  In addition, the Jazz have played 18 of their 28 games against the top 11 offensive teams. The defensive numbers will likely improve as the competition level evens out.

Gordon Hawyard has not been nearly as efficient shooting the ball this year (40.5% FG%/26.3% 3P%) as he was last year (43.5% FG%/41.5% 3P%). Is there something that has changed in his game this season, or has it been that he’s getting more focus from defenses?

Gordon Hayward is the #1 option and it has been a tremendous change from being the #1 off the bench but the #3 to 5 when playing with the regulars.   He hit the shooting skids in the middle of November and had a hard time getting out of it but in December things have begun to come back around.  What he is experiencing is very similar to what Arron Afflalo did last year in Orlando and Joe Johnson’s EFG% dropped 5 points when he came to Atlanta.  Those are very similar stories.

The young frontcourt of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors seems to have a lot of potential, but they are still figuring out how to play together and play starters’ minutes. What are their strengths right now and what is the next step in their development?

Atlanta native Derrick Favors is getting better every night.  He is really coming along.  Defensively he is having major impacts on games the last few weeks.  His offense is improving as well.  He is shooting over 60% for the month of December averaging 15 pts and 8 rebs.   That is rare air for a big guy in the NBA.   Enes Kanter has played very little basketball and he has played even less team basketball.  At 21 he is still getting his bearings.  The combo of Kanter and Favors has had a tough time together this year and former Hawk Marvin Williams is getting the minutes at the power forward and has added a tremendous amount to the team.

Trey Burke made his debut 12 games into the season. How has he looked so far in his rookie campaign?

Trey has something special to him.   He scored 30 points, had 7 rebounds and 8 assists in the win at Orlando.  That just isn’t done by 21 year old rookies.  He has moxie or as one player said to me “he has dog in him.”  He plays very calmly.  He is in control.  He is not in a rush.  Reminds me of Damian Lillard last year.   He is not big at 6’1 but he has a long reach.  The defensive end is still an issue but he is also inside the first 20 games of his NBA career.  Right now I would guess he is the Rookie of the Year if he stays healthy.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

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