For weeks now, ever since the Deron Trade, I have struggled with what to write about this team. As ForTheLove once pointed out, I weave fairy tales. And I've struggled to see any fairy tales to weave.
At least any fairy tales that ring true.
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The latest opportunity, of course, has been Big Al's emergence from a guy who ought NOT be the primary post scorer into the guy who should be the primary scorer, period.
It was truly thrilling to see him carry the team on his back, Moni style, and pull out a win that the team seemed on the verge of losing. At least it seems thrilling until I think back and remember ...
Malone single-handedly pulling off a game 5 win in Chicago, sending the NBA Finals back to Utah and giving the team one more shot to pull off a championship. Stockton in a game 4 timeout, telling his team the simply has to be a way to win, and then hitting a three, making a steal, hitting a free throw, getting the rebound, and throwing a 95-foot assist to Malone for the win. Deron in a game 2, the team running out of healthy players fast, putting the team on his shoulders and willing a road win that turned a certain series loss into a series blowout win against Denver.
And there are more: Stockton: game 6 in Houston. AK: game 7 in Houston, Stockton 2nd round vs. Lakers in 1988. And on, and on, and on.
Or we could look at the losses, the meltdowns, the failures: Malone and Stockton in crunch time, 1998. The Benoit for 3 game in the first round of 1995. Terry Porter outplaying Stockton. Brian Grant outplaying Malone. Three straight ousts by Kobe and the Lakers.
Suddenly a 36-point performance to eke out a win over the fifth worst team in the league doesn't seem so magnificent. And to give the story epic grandeur, when the majesty is truly so small, only heightens its insignificance. Can you imagine a documentary on the game, with the Rated-R-Movie-Trailer-Voice rumbling the voice-over:
In a world of lottery teams going mano-mano, the Jazz tettered on the edge of defeat. But Big Al would not give up. Carrying his team like Samwise Gamgee carried Frodo up the the god-forsaken face of Mount Doom, Big Al overcame all the odds and pushed the Jazz into a season-defining win.
That's called comedy. Or satire. Or parody. Or a lot of other things. Sadly, not genuinely moving nor inspiring.
It's weaving Spaceballs when we desperately wanted Glory.
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So what other fairy tales are there? The potential of Derrick Favors. Ty Corbin finally getting the chance to become a head coach. The team's improved body language and apparent effort. The fans' belief in the team again.
Sadly, these fairy tales require fantasy beyond what even I can conjure.
But how many top-10 stars were once rookies barely scraping out 6 points per game? How many lasting coaches start out with a .288 winning percentage? How many teams go 4-10, make a big trade, then go 3-8 and call it improved?
The fairy tales are hard to find indeed.
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The Sports Nation Fan Confidence Poll cracks me up. Particularly regarding the Jazz. It's so small that it's hard to read it accurately, but it appears that we are collectively more confident about the Jazz than we were mid-January. Mid-January, of course, was when the Jazz just beat the Knicks and Cavs in two stunningly fun games. I was at the Knicks game. ESA was rocking, and everything seemed to be heading the right way.
And the poll says that fans believe in our team now more than we did right then.
Crazy stuff. Illogical stuff. The stuff of fairy tales, I suppose.
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I had a dream the night after Deron was traded. A literal dream. I was asleep, and my subconscious concocted this scenario:
Back in 2008 the Jazz made a crazy trade to the Clippers: Carlos Boozer for Chris Kaman and the 2008 and 2009 Clippers first round draft picks. It was, of course, panned by the media. Then the Jazz traded Kaman for Andrew Bogut. They went with a Bogut, Memo, AK, Eric Gordon (Clips 2008 pick), Deron lineup for a lot of 2008-09. They did fairly well. When the Clips 2009 pick came out as number one, and Blake Griffin was on board, they traded Memo to the Hawks for Al Horford and MIllsap to the Nets for the 2010 pick. Of course the Jazz still brought on Wesley Matthews in 2009. Of course the Nets ended up with the number 1 pick in 2010. And the Knicks pick went number 2. Knowing their team's needs and assets, they traded both picks to Philly for the number 3 pick and Andre Iguodala.
So in the end of this absurd, concocted scenario the Jazz ended up with Bogut, Blake Griffin, AK, Wesley, and Deron for their starting lineup, with Al Horford, Eric Gordon, Favors, and Iguodala as their bench.
Stupid stuff. I literally woke up and cried.
Again, the stuff of fairy tales.
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But I suppose fans relationships with their teams are the stuff of fairy tales. I've concocted ways that Deron rejoins the team in 2012. It will never happen, I know, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming.
Because fans never stop dreaming. We never stop believing. We never stop hoping. We learn to forget the bad times and remember the good. We build statues for players who never won a championship because they did something even more rare—they connected with us in a way that was truly sublime.
And we never stop hoping that we'll have that connection again.
Derrick Favors may become a star. The potential is there, the talent is there, the raw athletic material is there. The three lottery picks in the next two years may give the team the next stars for us to love. The draft may be considered a weaker one, but plenty of stars turned out unexpectedly. The most important to us, of course, were the players memorialized by those statues out front of ESA.
Al Jefferson may become an elite player. His play lately, in fact, convinces us it's more than just a hopeful possibility. There's some evidence that it's happening right now. Too late for him to be Deron's right-hand man, sadly. But who knows what will happen even a year from now.
Because there are a countless other great things that may happen. We can play around with the other names on our team: AK, Millsap, CJ, Devin. We can convince ourselves that they'll become what we need, what we want. Or we can concoct trades and options that get us what we need.
That's sports. And that's being a fan of a sports team.
Despite all the disappointments, all the letdowns, all the times things don't go as well as planned—there are just enough moments that exceed what was expected that we never stop believing and hoping.
And I suppose that's the fairy tale worth weaving right now. A fairy tale of the fans, of hope, of the future—of the uncertain, hazy events of tomorrow that just may turn out right if the gods look kindly our way.