The date is June 28, 2008. The event is the NBA Draft. The team is the Utah Jazz. Seeking to avoid further embarrassment on the interior defensively, the Jazz worked out such big men as Georgetown's Roy Hibbert, Florida's Marreese Speights, and Rider's Jason Thompson. Yet when it came time to choose, all these men had been selected by other teams. And thus it came to pass that the Jazz selected an entity from the land of the Buckeyes, a being of such unimaginable power that only capital letters are able to harness the force of his utterances, a creation so mighty that his respectful demeanor and grinning countenance only served as ironic counterpoint to his staggering capacity for destruction. This omnipotent creature, this force of nature, this demigod-in-rookie-form, would come to be known only as THE KOOF.
Oh... and it could DANCE.
Okay, so the whole "THE KOOF" thing started here, when I started making comments in game threads as if he were saying them himself in the third person. (To combat the intermittent periods of utter misery that punctuate the lives of Jazz fans, I invent little jokes and memes about the team and its players, some of which are funnier than others. I stick with the unfunny ones anyway.) Koufos was just finishing up a very promising month, where he averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds in only 16 minutes a game. And those averages are dragged down by games where he only played a minute or two and didn't score -- when he got adequate playing time, he hit double digit scoring five times that month.
Somehow in that January game against the Cavs, I got the image of Kosta as a Terminator, an implacable, emotionless, stone-cold killer of a big man. The combination of that image with Kosta's well-established polite attitude, work ethic, and goofy grin, seemed inherently humorous. So I bequeathed Kosta his definite article, started writing stuff about him in all caps, and it stuck. (To the point that, at every instance in these two paragraphs, where I have written "Kosta" or "Koufos," I had to make a conscious effort not to type "The Koof" instead. It is possible that I may or may not have a tendency to take my jokes too far. But I digress.)
When the Jazz drafted Koufos, there were fears that he would end up another Curtis Borchardt -- a talented big man whose lack of mobility and previous injuries caused his stock to fall in the draft. Kosta did little to assuage those fears in the Rocky Mountain Revue -- Ty Corbin said he had a long way to go. But it didn't take long for The Koof to get a chance to shine, earning a handful of starts during Mehmet Okur's November absence attending to his father. Even Jerry Sloan was practically effusive in his praise of the rookie: "He was fine." For those of us accustomed to Jerry, that's tantamount to calling the kid an All-Star.
All in all, here's the stat line on The Koof's rookie year:
Not great, but not bad, given his limited time. However, check the difference in his numbers as a starter:
|As A Starter||7||7||24.4||.542||.000||.800||2.4||3.7||6.1||1.0||0.7||1.9||10.3|
Hmmmm. 10 and 6, with 2 blocks and well over 50% shooting? YES PLEASE. The blocked shots are especially tantalizing. The Jazz's best shot-blockers, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap, average almost the same number of blocks per game COMBINED. (Carlos Boozer, meanwhile averages .19 blocks per game. Yup. Thanks for that, Carlos.)
Now, that's only 7 games as a starter for The Koof, which is a very small and perhaps statistically insignificant sample size. But given the Jazz's defensive woes, especially in the paint... surely it's worth the venture, giving the Koof some burn, right?
See, The Koof's last appearance in a Jazz uniform this year was on February 17th. After a month of languishing on the bench, Koufos was swapped for Kyrylo Fesenko, taking his place on the Utah Flash of the D-League while Big Fes took a seat on the Jazz bench.
And that's where things get interesting again:
Wow. Just... wow.
Again, a small sample size, and definitely against inferior, D-League level talent. But... holy crap. Check the points. The BLOCKS. Even the steals. What in the name of Mark Eaton was going on down there? Those numbers, by the way, all add up to an efficiency rating of +21.00. Only 20 players in the ENTIRE NBA can boast a better rating.
If nothing else, Kosta Koufos' rookie season can be summed up in one word: potential. If The Koof shows even an inkling of this year's promise, he can and should be a rotation player next season. If he can improve this offseason and during the Rocky Mountain Revue (and given his work ethic, there's ample reason to believe he will), then he should be more than just a rotation player, and we may not need to worry quite so much about our uncertain roster.
The one thing that can hold back the unstoppable fury that is The Koof? Minutes. He needs them. There's got to be a conscious decision by Jerry Sloan and the front office to develop his talent, on the court, during game time. We didn't see it down the stretch this year. We didn't see it in the playoffs -- we saw the unstoppable fury of Jarron Collins instead, which, as unstoppable furies go, is a lot more stoppable. I honestly don't know if we'll see it next year.
But as someone else well acquainted with Terminators once said: "The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
Let's make our own future. PLAY THE KOOF IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.