I don't think we're going to get a starter for bamBoozler.
If we're lucky, we'll get a fire starter off the bench, like the yet-underused Ronaldo Price. If we follow our tradition, we'll get a Devin Brown-type of player: at best, serviceable; at worst, Devin Brown. At this point, the likelihood of getting a game-changer is slimmer than AK. Cue coach Norman Dale:
"This is your team. I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."
This is your team, for the most part:
The Contributors: Kyle Korver, CJ Miles, El Koofador (AKA Le Coif), Trade Remnants (I'm guessing it will be Haslem)
The Backups: Price, Maynor, Fesenko.
And Change: Harpring? Who else?
My friends, it's not exactly the '88 Dodgers. In fact, it looks an awful lot like the 2008-2009 Utah Jazz.
So what do we hope, and what do we expect? Absent some vintage KOC double-deal hustling, I expect a hard-fought Sloan-like season, a middling playoff berth and 2nd round exit. Deron might get his All-Star nod finally, and we will celebrate that. Meh. But here's what I hope:
I hope AK finds his way. Maybe it's a matter of giving him time at the 4. Maybe it's a matter of him just taking it all personally and exploding with a second career breakout year (has that ever happened in the league?). Maybe Sloan makes him a captain and gives him some responsibility to lead again. Whatever it takes, I hope he gets five 5-for-5's. I hope he averages 2.5 blocks. I hope he shoots jumpers unconsciously. And I hope every game involves him running down a fast break, pinning it on the board, making the outlet, running the floor and getting his (Masha-style).
I hope Memo and Deron become best friends. I hope they work the Pick and Roll to Jazz standards. I hope defenders feel helpless when they see it coming because they don't know if Memo will pop, slip or roll, or if Deron will drop, keep, split, shoot or swing. I want to see Memo and Deron talking on their way to every huddle and talking on their way out of every huddle. A reporter once asked Malone how he and Stock developed the 'unspoken' chemistry that enabled them to run the pick and roll so many many times without defenders knowing exactly which way they'd run it. Malone answered that they talked it out whenever there was a timeout. They would say, "I'll slip this time" or "keep it" or whatever. I think Memo has got to become Deron's main man in the half court. We saw them run it so well during injury season two years ago that Memo got an all-star invite.
I hope Millsap punches Ron Artest and stands over him until six people pull him away. He will get suspended for a couple of games, and then he'll get every rebound within 20 feet for the rest of the year. The story of the offseason is that Millsap is the one who got Boozer's "raise regardless"; now he needs to earn it. I think he's lived his life working hard (unlike, for example, my impression of CJ), so I don't think the money will change that. But he's got to look at it as earning next week's paycheck, not getting paid for last year's hard work. He's got to be mean, brutal, pissed, and fierce. I want him to lose his cool a time or two early on just to put the rest of the league on warning. He's tenured now, and he doesn't have to be nice.
I want Ronnie Brewer to learn to shoot lefty. I hope he can still go roughly unnoticed down on the baseline. If he gets hot for only one game this year, I hope it's against Kobe. I hope he can raise his free throw percentage by 10 points, so that slashing to the basket can have a variety of happy endings. I hope he improves as much this season as he did in the last.
I want Kover to become Manny Ramirez - just shoot and shoot and shoot. I think his percentage will go up if he is unconscious, which is hard to do with Sloan watching every shot. But Korver has to shoot like it's a pop-a-shot and time is running out. Just get it up in the air. I think this last year he wanted to earn his keep playing D for Sloan. It's true that we were all surprised by his handful of blocked shots, decent coverage on some nights, especially considering that in real life he's probably about as tough as his hairstylist. But I don't want him earning his PT on D. We hired him to hit 3's and frees. That's where his focus (or zen-like unfocus!) needs to be.
I want Miles to say, "Screw this Sloan crap - I'm a star!" and start putting the rock in his pocket and taking it to the rim. Get to the line. Draw the defense in. Get some respect. Represent. Make it hard for coach to play Korver at all. And I hope CJ gets high one night and has some great awakening about playing defense. He's an athletic sob with nice long arms and a decent pair of legs. He ought to be able to stay in front of anybody. He ought to be able to get some of those weak-side/blind-side blocks that AK used to do all the time. He ought to be able to take some honest charges by beating his man to the spot. He needs to earn his time with defense.
I want the scrubs to play solid, foul like crazy (more rest for the weary), and make us say, "nice, it's price" or "Maynor Maynor Chicken Dinner" (okay, we'll have to work on that one).
I hope Fesenko grows up and asks himself this question: "How is it possible for opponents to score when I'm on the floor?" and answers, "It isn't possible, because I am enormous and irritable." I really don't think it's more complicated than this.
I hope Harpring moves into my neighborhood and wants to play catch (baseball) until our wives call us in for dinner.
I hope the Koof goes easy on his opponents, just to make it interesting.
Finally, I hope Deron Wiliams dunks on Carlos Boozer. I hope he dunks on Brandon Roy, pulls the ball through the net and tosses it to him. I hope Deron Williams dunks on f@#$ing Garnett and then quietly gets back on D as if it's routine. I hope Deron puts Chris Paul on the ground with a Barry Sanders twitch of his shoulder. I hope he puts his crossover-jumpback on Steve Nash/J-Kidd/Billups and pauses before shooting his J to give them a dirty look as they stumble back. I want D-will to tell Sloan which play we're running out of the timeout. I want D-will to headbutt Derrick Rose. I want him to ignore the likes of Conley, Iverson, Jarrett Jack, and OJ Mayo. I want him to average 25/12. And then I want him to decline his invitation to the All-Star game.
I really thought we had all the pieces last year, and then the injuries started, and then the chemistry failed. So now we're us-minus-Carlos. Does that make us better? Can chemistry alone put us over the hump? It will have to, because whoever we get for Boozer isn't going to.
This is your team, pretty much.