By Jonah Kuehne of HoopsWorld.com
With the game clock winding down and one final shot left, you always want your most clutch player to have the ball leave their fingertips. The L.A. Lakers feed the ball to Kobe Bryant, the Miami HEAT get the ball to Dwyane Wade, and so on. The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, use a different approach on who should take the last shot.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Andrei Kirilenko told HoopsWorld. “I think we have a pretty expanded team. Anybody on this team has the possibility of making the shot. I think our best chance is when we stick together and play as a team; we’ve already proved it many, many times that when we stay together in one way or another, we play the best game.”
“We have a lot of guys on this team who are pretty good in clutch situations,” added Ronnie Brewer. “D-Will, in some games, has taken the last shot, Mehmet and Booze have taken the last shot. Sometimes Paul [Millsap] is in there; when we need a big shot, we’ll put Paul in so he can take the ball to the basket and even Kyle Korver. So we have a lot of guys on this team that can make the big plays in big times. I think anybody on this team is capable of doing it so I’m confident in all of these guys to take the last shot.”
Obviously, the Jazz are pretty confident in their teammates, but they all can’t have their hand on the ball, so who is the leader of the pack of multiple options?
“Deron [Williams] is obviously our first option,” said Korver. “But we have other guys that can get it done and if not, we have guys spotting each other on the side of the rim.”
That seems to be the common trend around the Jazz locker room. Even though Deron is meant to be the set-up guy, the Jazz would rather see the ball fly out of his hands.
“D-Will,” Carlos Boozer said quickly. “I think D-Will has proven to hit big shots throughout the course of the season. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He has the ball in his hands the entire game actually, so I’d say D-Will.”
Deron plays for a franchise that has seen point guard great John Stockton set up shots time after time, but with a big-bodied guy like Deron, it’s not always pass first and shoot later anymore. Matt Harpring, a long-time veteran gives his perspective on the differences of Deron and his former teammates, Stockton and Tim Hardaway.
“Deron is definitely emerging as a great player in this league,” said Harpring. “And he’ll continue to grow. The more experience he gets, the better he’ll get at the game-ending shots, so he’s definitely coming into his own.
“He’s kind of unique in that he has kind of a big body for a point guard,” continued Harpring. “I’ve played with smaller guys. I’ve played with guys like Tim Hardaway who is tall and lanky. He’s [Williams] a little bit different than Stockton was. Stockton was lighter and smaller and Deron has a bigger body. He makes himself a tough match-up.”
Head Coach Jerry Sloan, who has seen quite a bit more point guards in his time, takes some pressure off of Deron as ‘the guy’ and goes back to the ‘whoever’s open’ attitude.
“Point guards don’t always have to take the big shot,” said Sloan. “They pass it to the guy that’s open. John Stockton was here for 19 years and the idea was to run the offense, get the ball to the guy that’s open, if no one’s open you take the shot. That’s what execution is about, not just trying to break one individual down all the time. I think that’s what always gave us a chance to win a lot of games. I don’t care who takes the shot, just as long as they make it. I look pretty smart then.(smiling)”
Seems simple enough, but who does Deron think can shoot the clutch shot?
“All of my teammates. I think all of them can make the clutch shot to win the basketball game.”
If the opposing defense is to ever put pressure on Deron at the end of the game, an entire team of options to make the last shot is nice to have.