I feel like Tevye.
You know, the main character in Fiddler On The Roof. Tevye faces a swiftly changing world, where his daughters abandon the family's Jewish customs to follow their hearts' desires while he can do nothing but raise his hands and yell "TRADITION!!!"
The Utah Jazz are a team of tradition. But it's time to decide whether that tradition is helping or hindering the team.
The Jazz cling to traditions: of loyalty, of longevity, of stability. We have the longest tenured coach in professional sports. We have two Hall of Famers who spent nearly twenty years apiece wearing the same uniform. We have an owner who, for better or for worse (and presently, in sickness or in health), keeps his own team traditions, whether in scheduling, roster decisions, or even logo design (one major change in thirty years). And considering we've seen a lot more success than most teams, those traditions seem to be working for us.
On the other hand, we can't escape the changes around us. The two conference champions only got there on the strength of major roster moves in the last year. Players and coaches change teams like they change their socks. Free agency and the luxury tax have shaken the landscape. It seems like, to succeed in today's NBA, you have to be willing to change. And maybe, like Wayne's buddy Garth, we fear change.
It seems like, without a roster shakeup of some kind, the Jazz are doomed to a second-tier existence. At least, that's what so many would have you believe. But I think there are some pretty compelling reasons not to pull the plug on this particular unit of Jazzmen just yet.
You know how we made two NBA finals, and were a power in the West for a decade? You know how we did it? Stability. We kept our teams together. We might add a piece here, subtract one there, but the core of the mid-'90s Jazz teams -- Malone, Stockton, Hornacek, Antoine Carr, Adam Keefe, Bryon Russell, even Greg Ostertag, all coached by Jerry Sloan -- played together for several years BEFORE making the two Finals appearances. You could argue that some of those pieces weren't really that good. You'd be right. But the team's cohesiveness made them better. That's what knowing your teammates, playing together with them for a long time, will do. And if not for one Michael Jeffrey Jordan, that stability would have paid off with two championship rings.
We have a chance at the same sort of stability with this unit. Yes, pieces will have to be moved around, and salaries will need to be juggled. We can't pay everyone. But to throw away a shot at that sort of synchronicity, just because we feel frustrated and powerless at this moment, would be foolish.
You can't get sucked in by this year's Lakers and Celtics teams, because both were pretty rare circumstances. In the Celtics' case, you had a top-5 player in KG whose situation in Minny had deteriorated beyond repair due to the utter ineptitude of the team's front office. The Celtics were the perfect storm of trades, draft picks and role players all coming together in a remarkable way. It was the greatest single-season turnaround in league history. We've never really seen it happen that way before, and I doubt it will happen again. And the Lakers... well, Chris Wallace is a bonehead, that's all. Besides, that was a midseason trade forced by Bynum's injury and not an offseason move.
Point to another season where a single move, offseason or otherwise, led directly to a mediocre team vaulting into the NBA Finals in a single season. It happened this year with both the Lakers and Celtics. When was the last time before that? Rasheed with the Pistons in '04, I'd say. Before that? Probably the Lakers picking up Shaq. Before that? You might have to go back to before the Bulls dynasty. The point is, single-move cure-alls are very rare, and for every one that works, there are several that don't (Shaq to Phoenix, J-Kidd to Dallas, etc).
And for that matter, who's to say we can even find the right player who could be that cure-all? And if we found him, and could make a deal for him, would he want to come? We're not that far removed from the days of Rony Seikaly and Derek Harper, who have been mentioned in other recent posts here. How much of a tax does Kevin O'Connor have to pay on every deal he proposes, just to get people to consider a move to Utah? All questions that we, as fans, are unable to answer. All we see is the stasis and the treading water and it makes us want to scream in frustration as we see player after player sign with competitors.
I'm right there with you. I am. I'm not saying the Jazz should do absolutely nothing. But we have to remember how young this Jazz team is, and how little time they've spent with each other. We have to remember that we've been a 50-win team for only two straight years. We have to remember that pretty much every player on this roster wants to be here. If we're going to throw that away on the hope of making a deal, it had darn well better be the right deal.
Because if the right deal isn't out there, a change just for the sake of change will be even worse.