The Artist to be Known as C.J. Miles

There were times when I would come into the game, and on my first possession the ball would come to me with three seconds on the shot clock and then I would have to put up a 3-pointer. I would miss, and then everyone would be mad at me.

– C.J. Miles

Of course C.J. Miles said that. I might not have even needed to attribute the quote to him for devoted Jazz fans, especially those who follow C.J. on twitter, to have recognized its source. Only C.J. comes off the bench and immediately jacks up a three, and only C.J. would justify that shot by saying there were three seconds on the shot clock. You know, because the ONLY thing you can do with the basketball and three seconds on the shot clock is shoot a three. That said, he is absolutely right. Every Jazz fan has stored a file somewhere in the back of his or her mind labeled “C.J. is a Gunner” that contains the memories of roughly 150 off-balance threes that C.J. has bricked off various parts his of the basket. We’ve all seen it, and it happens just like C.J. himself said. He comes in off the bench. He gets the ball with a low shot clock. He throws up an ill-advised shot. It clangs off the side of the rim. The crowd groans, and as C.J. so aptly put it, we’re all mad at him.

But this isn’t the only C.J. Miles. Somewhere in my mind, and occasionally on the court, there exists a C.J. Miles Basketball Player. Not just C.J. the Gunner, but C.J. the gamer. The C.J. Miles of my basketball dreams. The Ideal C.J. This C.J. Miles, who I will henceforth call Ideal C.J., only shoots threes when he’s spotting-up. Ideal C.J. attacks the basket whenever he sees an opening. Ideal C.J. only settles for jump shots if he’s wide open, and never shoots them if he’s not squared-up. Ideal C.J. is active on defense. He reads the passing lanes, makes breaks on the ball, and forces turnovers. Ideal C.J. uses the length and lateral speed that C.J. the Gunner wastes to become a lockdown perimeter defender. Most of all, Ideal C.J. knows his role and executes it. He doesn’t force, he feels. He acts within the flow of the offense to deliver the back-breaking three from the top of the key, or to drive hard and throw down a momentum-swinging dunk. He picks his spots and he nails them. This is Ideal C.J.

The best part about this clip is the very thing that drives Jazz fans to insanity. It’s the way C.J. makes an impressive play with a fairly high degree of difficulty seem almost effortless. He reads Andrew Bynum’s eyes and breaks on the ball by throwing his long arm in the passing lane, and it’s all in one swift, smooth, beautiful motion. This is Ideal C.J. and this is exactly what maddens us. Why can’t he always play like this? He makes it look so easy, so why isn’t it? Why am I not currently writing about All-Star C.J. instead of a only-occasionally-present C.J.? Every time C.J. releases with that sweet lefty-shooting form of his, I expect the ball to go in. So why doesn’t it? Why does it miss more than 62% of the time?

C.J.’s issues all center around the intangible, mental aspect of the game. He has all of the physical tools to be a game-changing player in this league, but too often he settles for 7th best on a Jazz team that is largely considered to be rebuilding. Everyday C.J., the one we usually get, is a likable guy. Admittedly, I’m attached because C.J. has been a Jazzman his whole career, but I want to believe in this guy. Perhaps more than any other player in the last three years, I have wanted C.J. to succeed–to become Ideal C.J., day in and day out. Maybe C.J.’s destiny is to light up the points column for a 20-win Charlotte Bobcats. Or maybe, one day, we’ll all remember this period of C.J.’s career as the time when we thought of C.J. in terms of potential. As C.J. the Gunner versus Ideal C.J. Maybe on that day, we won’t have to call him anything but C.J. Miles. That’s the day for which I hope and long. The day Ideal C.J. and C.J. Miles become one.

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    • Steven
    • January 29th, 2012

    I’ve only been living in Utah for 3 years so I can’t judge CJ from before that time but I feel the reason behind Inconsistent CJ is this.

    Up until this year The Jazz bench has been poor when compared to other teams in the league and there has been a lot expected from players of the calibre of CJ or Kyle Korver type. As a consequence of this if CJ Has a good game and his shots drop the Jazz are expected to win, if they fail the loss will often be blamed on him. CJ might be a 6 year nba veteran but he’s still young and has been living with, and learning his trade, with that pressure hanging over him and it affects his decision making.

    This year with a stronger bench, with non scoring players such as Fes moved on and players such as Favors and Howard to back him up I was expecting more from him, but then I realized that it takes time for anyone to adjust the way they work when situations change. We also have to remember that he is one of the few players who came from High School.

    • Bryan
    • January 30th, 2012

    “Gunner” gives him a bit of a positive edge. Even more to the point is the word used to describe George Costanza:

    I doubt CJ would ever demonstrate the kind of introspection George does, though.

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