Unless you've been under a rock, or in Cleveland, you know that tonight’s Jazz game is, as our Vice President would suggest, a "big . . . deal." Why? Well, I will always hate the cheating Chicago Bulls, but tonight is bigger than simple pettiness (for one night, at least). Tonight is the return of Carlos Boozer in Salt Lake City, for his first game against the Jazz. On paper, this shouldn’t be a big thing. He should have no reason to be upset with the Jazz organization, players, or fans. The Jazz gave him all the money he asked for as a RFA when he somehow got out of his rookie deal. His team mates passed him the ball, and the organization promoted him – and he became and All-Star and won Gold. The fans bought his jerseys even if we didn’t always buy his stories. (Remember while being interviewed during the last game of the season a few years ago he said "my hamstring is 100%", if that was the case, why didn’t you suit up, Booz? Were you trying to get out of Utah way back then and not trying to dissuade potential suitors from a trade back then?) Anyway, that’s just water under the bridge. Carlos has no good reason on paper to be seeking revenge (he got his raise, and is playing in a big market now). Yet, the concept of the revenge game exists here – fully – for some reason.
You want revenge when there’s bad blood. It’s revenge when the schedule makers have our first game of the season be against the team we knocked out of the playoffs the season before. When T-Mac went crazy in Game 1 of 82 against us a few seasons back it was a revenge game. When Charles Barkley ran up and over Philly as a member of the Phoenix Suns it was a ‘revenge’ type of game. (Or at least, a vindication type of game) When you are traded, treated unfairly, or move on from a team – sometimes revenge is necessary.
Defining what is a "Revenge Game"
Revenge games, logically, follow where revenge is necessary. This is pro basketball and not pro wrestling though; so a refined definition is needed. Essentially, a revenge game is a game a player has against his old team. Maybe that player didn’t feel like he was given his shot, or unhappy with the direction the team was heading in. Maybe it’s something else that motivates a player that night – but the essential part of an NBA Revenge game is a player going off on the team that he used to play for. Further refining this, for my data set, I limited this to games that took place within a year from the trade / transaction. It’s silly to cherry pick a revenge game for Dell Curry against the Jazz from any of the particular games where he may or may not have torched us, if the game was played in the middle of his long career. He played till he was 37 after all, and was a Jazz player only as a rookie. As a result, the ‘Revenge Game’ for Dell is far from his best game against the Jazz. Those are different things entirely.
In the case that the player didn’t play against the Jazz soon, the very next game possible was chosen. This is clearly the case with Jeff Malone – who was traded away in the 1993-1994 regular season and didn’t actually play the Jazz again (due to the schedule and his own injuries) until a handful of days before 1996. This way his 5 point "revenge game" outing makes more sense.
The Data Set
I looked at EVERY ROSTER from the 1980-1981 season till today. It took a long time as I charted out all of these 173 players, their tenures with the Jazz, their NBA careers after leaving the Jazz, and their (potential) revenge games. A vast majority of these players retired after their tenure with the Jazz. (This isn’t just career Jazzmen, but also the sheer number of times our front office would sign an old / broken down player who would never play in the league again – like James Donaldson (TWICE!) for example.) Another group of this data set is from a time back when I couldn’t actually see the box scores, so I don’t know if they did well or not. Sorry Danny Schayes, Ben Poquette, Allan Bristow, and Wayne Cooper – maybe you had great revenge games, but I’ll never know. My data set is from the remaining 90 (or so) revenge games from the 1980-1981 season till the present day (including this season).
Because the Jazz tend to fall in love with some players, some players appear in the data set twice. Some of the players who do are John Crotty, Howard Eisley, Stephen Howard, Blue Edwards, David Benoit, Thurl Bailey, Greg Ostertag, and current Jazz man Raja Bell. I’m only mentioning this because it added up to more work for me, and I’m complaining about it publically. Seriously, Jazz GMs, never ever do this again. One time you signed a dude in the off-season, then waived him, then he signed with another team, got waived, then signed a 10 day contract with the Jazz, and then that expired, and played somewhere else, only to play for the Jazz once more after that. That totally sucked for my spread sheet. Never again.
Last thing about the data, I did not want to limit this to just: Revenge Game = 1st game as road player vs. the Jazz within one year of leaving the team. Not a lot of guys fit that profile. Furthermore, some of these guys played against the Jazz only once within the time frame (as the home team!); while others played the Jazz a number of times. I had to bite the bullet and keep it to the experimental time of one year (or best possible), but did not discriminate between home and road games. For some it’s revenge to try hard in Utah against the Jazz; while for others their idea of a revenge game would probably be the "best" game they had against the Jazz within that 1 year time frame . The data is only from regular season games. Anyway, too much methodology, not enough revenge games . . .
The Top 20 Best "Revenge Games" against the Jazz (1980-1981 till 2010-2011)
It turns out that the crazy Wesley Matthews game against us this season . . . yeah, that was the best "Revenge Game" against our franchise in three decades. That said, he didn’t do much except score in that one. They got what was important though, the win. As for Wes, maybe this was "Revenge" for not putting the team in financial ruin in order to retain him. The biggest surprises are that Blue Edwards (two revenge games), and Calbert Cheaney were the next most satisfied (from all the revenge) former Jazz players. While it’s not hard to imagine that we’d get hurt most by shooting guards – but by THESE SHOOTING GUARDS? Rounding out the Top 5 is our very own Mailman. If Al Jefferson had a night like that against the T-Wolves we’d be so happy. But this was Karl doing it at the age of 40. We continue to under-appreciate his greatness. The next 15 aren’t so great though . . . and it clearly says two things when there are only 4 guys who have even dropped 20 on us in the last 30 years of Revenge Games.
- We’re probably letting go of guys who don’t have the talent to hurt us (though, we are also then guilty of bringing in crappy players). . .
- . . . and, that not much actual revenge is being had.
Revenge Game Scoreboard:
If we’re keeping score (and we are) I think it’s fair to award Wesley Matthews, Blue Edwards, Karl Malone, and maybe Kelly Tripucka the recognize they deserve from having good "Revenge Games". A number of other guys have gone off on us (relatively), and may have off-the-court reasons to be interested/motivated in this game, but not really looking for revenge. Derek Fisher has no reason to be upset with the Jazz management, and players. They all accommodated him during his time in need, and the owner of the team had to beg the NBA players association to be allowed to break the rules in order to make him a free agent. A number of guys were free agents and just chose to get out of Dodge. Guys like Donyell, Shandon, or Raja have no legitimacy on needing revenge. Mo Williams, possibly, because the Jazz picked Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez over him. Felton Spencer? Heck no, dude got every chance in the world to show his stuff – yet didn’t.
The more important scoreboard is the fact that the Utah Jazz are 63-26 in revenge games, that’s a winning percentage of 70.8%. That’s something the Jazz hope to keep up tonight against the Chicago Bulls.
Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver
Do these three guys have what it takes to hurt the Jazz in this revenge game? Of course they do, though only Ronnie Brewer has a real motivation for revenge. (No, sorry Carlos, "Wanting to not be made fun of by NBA fans for looking like a douche" isn’t a valid motivation) Brewer was traded midseason in one of the craziest situations possible. He then got crazy injured on his new team, the Memphis Grizzlies. Now a Bull, he has a usage % of 13.5%, which is lower than his Rookie season as a Jazz man. He’s scoring only 6 points per game while playing half a game. He gets his steals but where he really could have hurt us from is from deep – but he’s not a three point shooter. He’s only made 3 all season long and his eFG% is 47.8% -- which is pretty crappy for a guy who makes his living slashing. If he can have a David Benoit Revenge Game and get hot from deep he could surprise us, but it’s not likely.
Getting hot from deep (Diana tweet) is just what Kyle Korver is capable of. He’s been hitting double digits in four of his last 7 games and has made 24 three pointers in his last 10 games. The Jazz have been giving it up easy from three these last two months. This is a match made in heaven for all the kids (and kinda creepy 30+ year old dudes) wearing those "Misses Korver" T-Shirts that Masha Kirilenko made a killing off of.
Of course, unintended segues aside, Carlos Boozer is looking to make a big statement in this game. He knows how to score in our gym, and has success against us before. (Anyone else trying to block out memories of that 32 point 18 rebound effort he had against our team in 2004?) He also is going to be super motivated. Thankfully, the Jazz haven’t really been beasted inside so far this season. Our interior defense is stronger than our three point defense. That said, we’ll be hard pressed to stop Derrick Rose – Boozer will find ways to get solid looks from Midrange inwards. His footwork will be hard to match up against if he’s in his ‘Bouncy Boozer’ mode. The Jazz are also pretty bad on keeping other teams off the offensive glass. So, yeah, this should be a great day for Boozer fans. You know . . . unless you recognize that Boozer has to play defense in this game. All the Jazz need to do is get Boozer in foul trouble (easier said than done, hard to get a guy who doesn’t play defense to get called for a foul – unless you’re the Lakers), and then the Jazz have a chance of preventing a "Revenge Game".
Revenge Game Honourable Mentions:
Spreadsheet at work kinda got crazy, so all the individual links to each of the games I used to make the data set was lost. the '*' near a name means a player who is currently still active. The (2nd) means a player's second stint of being recently off the Jazz. I'm not going to reproduce the big huge list, but if you have a player you care about, ask me and I'll post their Revenge Game line in the comments below. Depending on how dated your carbon is, the names on the Honourable mentions list may mean a little or a lot to you.