SALT LAKE CITY -- Pistons coach Lawrence Frank isn't the first guy to say it, but he's the latest to express strong sentiment about the physical way the Utah Jazz go about the business of playing basketball.
Following Utah's 90-87 victory Jan. 12 at Aubrun Hills, Mich., Frank said the Jazz have a culture of instigation.
"I thought we started to play some frustration basketball offensively," he said. "With Utah, if you're not the instigator, you're gonna have a hard time. That's their culture."
He's right, the Jazz have long been known as one of the more physical teams in the NBA. Part of it -- nay, all of it -- stems from former coach Jerry Sloan, who preached toughness and physicality.
The Jazz developed that reputation under Sloan and it continues today under head coach Tyrone Corbin, one of Sloan's former players. But this year's group really isn't as physically intimidating -- or even as defensively dominating -- as past teams.
The Jazz, who play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at EnergySolutions Arena, are averaging about the same number of points (98.4) as they're giving up (98.6). They rank No. 19 overall in fewest points allowed, No. 5 in blocked shots (6.4 per game) and No. 10 in steals (8.3).
When it comes to the number of personal fouls per game, Utah ranks No. 3 in the league (21.9).
So, yes, the Jazz like to play physically and aren't afraid to foul. But individually, they don't have a player in the top 10 in blocks, steals or fouls per game.
When told of Frank's comments, Jazz power forward Paul Millsap wasn't exactly unsure what it even meant.
"Was that a compliment from him," he asked.
Perhaps it was, in a backhanded sort of way. Regardless, Millsap said he accepted it as one.
"I would see it as a compliment," he said. "We are a physical team, we've been a physical team, this is a physical culture. We've been like that for years. From the ground up, we're a hard-working team. I guess if somebody says that, it's got to be a compliment to us."
Frank's use of the word "instigator" perhaps has a negative connotation but the Jazz say they simply try to establish themselves as the aggressors, which in turn forces their opponents to react to them rather than the other way around. Before playing the Jazz on Monday, Miami Heat center Chris Bosh said establishing physicality is essential in the NBA.
"Every night it's important for us come out and punch first," he said.
Bosh said he hadn't heard the Jazz called "instigators" but said he's been aware of their reputation for toughness since before he came into the league.
"The Jazz style has always been the same ever since I can remember, since I was watching as a little kid," he said. "They're very physical. They slow the game down and execute in halfcourt and punch it down in the post."
It's true, the Jazz have a reputation for playing some of the toughest, most physical basketball in the league -- and they don't mind a little contact -- but they're not as physical or as defensive-minded as they have been in the past.
The fact that they're allowing close to 100 points a game and opposing teams are shooting 46 percent from the field (tied with New Orleans for sixth worst in the NBA) is proof of that.