The NBA preview season is almost done and the regular season is upon us. I'm used to the Jazz hating. It happens every year. I'm usually numb to it by now. But this set me off for whatever reason. So well done, Matt. Mission accomplished.
Before our opening preview, I wanted to say how much I respect Jerry Sloan and the Jazz organization. It's easy for a system that's been around for a million years to grow stagnant, to try and force the players to the system. Sloan has engineered a winning tradition with roots in both fundamentals and versatility that fits the personnel. That's hard to do, and to have done it with the class and respect that Sloan has for so long is simply incredible.
This is like saying, "I'm not a _______, but..." This means everything you hear after this statement will be totally opposite of the prelude.
Click through to read the rest of the lengthy rebuttal.
HP: "But they went to the Western Conference Finals two years ago!"
Stop. Stop right there. They beat the Rockets in seven games. Congratulations. Five other teams have bounced McGrady in the first round. We typically don't celebrate teams for making it out of the first round. Oh, but they beat the Warriors! Riddle me this. How many times has an eight seed beaten a number one seed? Off the top of my head, I think the answer is not too damn many times. Why is that, you think? Because the eigth seed isn't very good, that's why. The Warriors were a fun, feisty, near-psychotic team that was perfectly matched to beat a mentally-fragile Dallas team and got served that matchup. Anybody really think that that Mavs team, you know, the one that won 67 games, that team was going to lose to Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko? Anybody? No? Okay, then.
SLCDunk.com: I don't think you'll find many that will say that the Jazz didn't overachieve by reaching the WCF. And yes, they were handed a gift when the Warriors beat Dallas. The recurring theme of lame arguments is to take away someone's strengths and accomplishments and to then to argue against that. That is exactly what is done here and throughout the rest of the article.
The point of this paragraph seems to be that the Jazz got lucky, and that's it. You know, because winning a seven-game series on the road is easy, especially when it's the first playoff series for a lot of your players. The Warriors were the hottest team in basketball at that time. Not only had they beat the Mavs in the first round, but they had finished the season 9-1 to get into the playoffs. The Jazz ran with Golden State when most thought Utah was going to suffer the same fate as Dallas.
And the Jazz wouldn't have stood a chance against the Mavs, right? Weird thing is, the Jazz took 2 out of 3 games against Dallas that year. They beat them by 22 and 15 points respectively. The lone Mavs win was a three point blowout. I also like how he conveniently leaves out Deron Williams in that discussion as well. Do you see the theme?
Last year they beat a Rockets team without Yao Ming, without Rafer Alston for much of it, and with a banged up Tracy McGrady. And it still took them six games! Do you think the Spurs would have toyed around with the Rockets for six games? The Rockets? The Lakers? They won, congrats.
Here we discount the first round win again against the Rockets because they were seemingly undermanned. First, does it matter if McGrady was banged up? He averaged 27 points in those 6 games. This was also the same Rockets that won 22 straight and 12 of those without Yao. Not to mention that Boozer, yes Carlos Boozer, owned Yao in the playoff series the year before. And Rafer Freaking Alston? Are you kidding me? If you're throwing him in to strengthen your argument, maybe you should just start over.
It's funny, because all the people that talk about how the Jazz could win an NBA championship are the same people that needed about fourteen seconds to decide the Lakers would stomp the hell out of them. Which they pretty much did. Oh, what's that? It took six games? It took a five point and eight point overtime victory at home where the Jazz are "unbeatable" just to extend that series before the Lakers spit them out. Oh, yeah, at home.
I don't know what the point was here. Did anyone pick the Jazz to beat the Lakers last year? The Lakers were the worst possible matchup for the Jazz. LA ended Utah's 19-game home winning streak. And in case you didn't notice, the Lakers beat everyone else in the West last year as well. I don't see how this precludes the Jazz from being contenders any more than it does any other team in the West.
My problem is that people look at the success this team has had and think that they're in the upper cusp of the West. And they're not. It seems like, essentially because of a ripple effect from the Warriors upsetting the Mavs in a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm. But they haven't proven they belong in a Western title discussion. And that was before the Rockets, Hornets, and Blazers all improved. These guys look like shining examples of a new era. In reality, they're a cheap trick that had the good fortune of pounding a whelp that shocked a mentally unstable championship contender one year. Take away that win over the Warriors and what do you have? A one and done team that does nicely in the regular season, gets past an easy first round opponent, and then wilts when the real teams come to play. Congratulations, you're the Orlando Magic of the Western Conference. Don't forget to tip your waitresses.
More of the same argument. Let's take away the past two years of success and then compare. He makes it sound like they've had one series win against the North Salt Lake Jr. Jazz 12-year olds. Tell me exactly who were the upper cusp of the West last year? We had the closest race in league history, where losing two or three games meant the difference between a 1 seed and a 6 or 7 seed. Any one of the 1-7 teams last year could have won the West. Is that going to be any different this year? Not likely. If there was an upper cusp last year, it was only one team.
How about the actual makeup of this team? Deron Williams? Okay. Deron Williams is awesome. Trying to argue he sucks or is overrated is so insane it's not even worth talking about. The only thing more insane than trying to talk about Deron Williams not being that good is trying to talk about Deron Williams being better than Chris Paul.
Oh, I'm sorry, does that get your attention?
Sometimes I feel like Jazz fans are the angry mob, just wandering around trying to find something to get mad about. They're angry disciples of a religion that's led them astray, and they have to defend their prophets without question. They're incapable of relishing in the fact that Deron Williams is good, it's not enough. He has to be better than Chris Paul. Because he beats him heads up! Yeah, that's relevant when Williams has size on Paul and none of the matchups on the floor favor him! It's just sad. Blazers fans love Brandon Roy. They would marry Brandon Roy if given the opportunity. But they don't go around saying he's better than Kobe. Nuggets fans love Melo, but they're not saying LeBron sucks if the Nuggets beat the Cavs. You know why? Because they recognize that their player is great and that's all that matters. But Jazz fans live off the inferiority complex.
But again, as far as his game goes, he's untouchable.
I can't believe I still argue this point. Most Jazz fans don't think that Deron Williams is greater than Chris Paul. What irritates fans is that most people somehow believe that Williams couldn't carry Paul's jockstrap.
Let's see, Paul shot 48.8%, 37% from three and averaged 21.1 points, 11.6 assists, and 2.7 steals. Deron's line was 50.7%, 39.5% from three and averaged 18.8 ponits, 10.5 assists, and 1.1 steals. So that's not even in the neighborhood? Nevermind that the Jazz have more scorers than the Hornets. The top three Utah scorers had 4,300 points compared to the Hornets' top three with 4,511. And that pesky assist stat. The Jazz as a team had 2,165 assists to New Orleans' 1,785. Williams accounted for 40% of the team's assists while Paul was responsible for a whopping 52%. Sorry, I just had to discount Paul a bit. See how that works?
And while we're at it, let's play down Deron's size advantage over Paul. It's not fair to say that Williams has owned #3 throughout his whole career. From college, to the All-Star skills challenge, to head-to-head matchups. Those shouldn't count for Pete's sake. Paul can beat up on the rest of the league's inept point guards, but when he goes up against the best, he has difficulty. But once again, we'll throw out Williams' strengths and then make comparisons. Does Duncan have to switch off of KG? Did Jordan switch off of anyone because he couldn't guard him? If you can't guard a worthy counterpart, then that lowers your value in my book.
The other player comparisons above? Give me a break. Williams and Paul were taken 3-4 in the draft. Both are PGs. Does anyone else in the league compare Roy to Kobe? Or LeBron to Melo? Only when you're trying to discount the Williams/Paul matchup.
The rest of the crew? Weeeelll...
Get a quarter. Go on, I'll wait. Get a quarter.
Okay, now flip it. There, Andrei Kirilenko just scored 17 points, had 12 boards and six assists. Your team won. Collect $200 dollars.
Now flip the quarter again. There, Andrei Kirilenko just went 2 of 14 from the floor for 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, and 6 fouls. Do not collect $200, do not pass Go, go directly to FAIL.
I'd say that someone needs to get into AK's head to straighten him out but you'd end up going through an endless series of doors that go nowhere. Much like the Jazz's playoff hopes.
A small forward, probably playing out of position, that shoots 50%, 38% from downtown, and 4 assists a game. Not to mention he's your only defensive-minded big on the team. Yeah, that sucks.
But let's not leave out Memo! How could we? You know, in a conference that features Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, Al Jefferson, Erick Dampier, and Tyson Chandler, you know what I want? I want a center that hates playing down low and only rebounds when his coach chains him to the goal like a chompers thing from Mario Brothers. That guy drifts outside like there's an endless supply of Nutter Butters out there. And everytime it leads to a bad offensive position for the Jazz, you see Sloan yelling at him and Okur looking back like "What? What was I supposed to do?"
Memo is a seven-foot big that can spread the offense for Williams and Boozer. He can stroke the three and also take the ball to the hoop. And despite playing with rebounding machines Boozer and Millsap, he still average 7.7 a game and 10.7 after the All-Star break. Yeah, let's get rid of him.
Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap are nice. Can you tell me when they'll be back from their permanent vacation in 2007?
I don't get this one. Brewer's 12 points, 2 steals and 56% shooting is a vacation? Millsap's 50% shooting and 14 & 10 per 36 isn't enough for you?
But of course where would we be without Betrayal Skull Dude? I'm not even going to bother telling you about why you should hate the guy over screwing over the Cavs. Because in about, oh, seven months you'll have a whole new owner he'll have dicked over to hate him for. No, I'm going to talk about Boozer's penchant for challenging players much, much bigger and better than him. Last season I paid particular interest in the Utah versus San Antonio matchup on April 16th. Seeing how teams deal with the perennial title contenders late in the season can be an insight to the team's makeup. Utah had spanked the Spurs during a slump 90-64 the last time they met. So with the playoffs approaching, this one should be tough, eh? The Spurs walked in the door, dragged the Jazz out through the saloon doors by their hair, threw them in the street and executed them. Then walked inside and took their poker money. It was brutal. But what caught me was three times, Boozer attempted to challenge Tim Duncan inside. I found myself pausing it, and replaying it over and over again. The look of determination on Boozer's face. The half-yawn as Duncan swatted him away. The anguished look from Boozer as if to say "How could this possibly happen?!" I desperately want Yahoo! to start tracking and publishing the Blocks Allowed stat for the season, not just for the nightly box score. I have a feeling Boozer is the All-Star that leads in "number of times has had sh*t rocked."
Above, he discounts Williams' head-to-head matchups with Paul but then uses Duncan's head-to-head against Boozer as a point? You can't have it both ways. Again, most PFs fail against Duncan. That's why he's freaking Tim Duncan. So by this logic, Chris Paul sucks! By the way, the entire Spurs team has owned the Jazz. But we have to discount that 20 & 10 every night some way. Oh, and we were a decent series from Carlos Boozer away from knocking off the Lakers.
You want the summation of why to hate this Jazz team? Because in May, pundits are going to be telling you to watch out! The Jazz are coming! Run and hide! This team is on a mission! And then it's going to run into the same problems it always has when it's not the regular season. They're easily solvable. That happens when you don't defend well. Don't buy the hype. Hate the Jazz.
You damn well better watch out.