Jazz need a conductor to step to podium

Updated: January 5, 2005, 3:52 PM ET
By Brian James | ESPN Insider
Do you think it is easy to win games without your best player?

Try winning without All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko and with a revolving door at the point guard position, as coach Jerry Sloan's Jazz have. Five guards have missed a combined 44 games due to injury already this season. But even when healthy, none of the five has taken the reins. After watching their struggles through the first 32 games, I place retired Jazz guard John Stockton on an even higher pedestal.

Of course, one huge reason for the Jazz's struggles is the absence of Kirilenko. He's been out since Nov. 27 because of a sprained right knee. Kirilenko got this team off to an 8-6 start and – despite missing the next 18 games – still is leading the NBA in blocks per game with 4.43. Without the versatile Kirilenko, the Jazz are 3-15.

You can see how much credit Kirilenko should get for the overachieving Jazz. The things he brings to the floor – moving without the ball, playing help defense, diving for loose balls and knocking down clutch shots – are missed.

So the Jazz have tried to find other ways to win until Kirilenko's return, which reportedly might come next week.