Back when the Western Conference was just two divisions large the NBA was a much different product. Back then you had the silky smooth showtime Los Angeles Lakers led Pacific division that featured a lot of fast breaks and three point shots (I'm looking at you Phoenix Suns), and the 'other' division that soon enough became known as the "Wild West" division. Among the top rivalries the Jazz have had against teams in their own conference the vast majority of them have been against teams from their original Midwest conference. Team expansion, franchise movement, and divisional realignment have changed things somewhat; however, if I was to list the top Rivals for the Jazz franchise (in no order) they would be the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Lakers. Sorry, San Antonio -- you guys were nothing before you tanked for Tim Duncan, and Malone used to punk Misses Robinson in the playoffs by himself. Also sorry to Sacramento -- your Chris Webber / Mike Bibby days were great, but it's not like you were a problem for us until our core was old and on the precipice of retiring.
The Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Thunder, Rockets, and Lakers are our biggest historical rivals. Today we take a look at the very franchise we face off against tonight: the Houston Rockets.
I Hate the Houston Rockets
Let's start things off with me saying "I hate the Houston Rockets." I detest them, not because they were a good team, and not because they won two rings in the two years Michael Jordan was busy making errors in Double A baseball leagues. I don't like them because, among other things, they ushered in the stand and watch offense that so many teams adopted and used in the next few season. You know the dump it into Hakeem, and surround him with 4 three point shooters . . . and just wait. But hey, why mess with what works right -- how else would you make NBA careers for guys like Matt Bullard and Chase Budinger? (You know, the guy picked to dunk over Jeremy Evans) Their offense sucked, and was super dependent upon one guy using superior skills and athleticism to make his own shot in an isolation format. Yes, they ran the same offense that all those other teams do, like the Hawks with Joe Johnson, that's boring and not at all efficient. Iso for your best guy, and hope something happens.
That's not team basketball. Even Tex Winter's triangle gets three guys a chance to do something with the ball. The Flex offense needs everyone to work. I guess the Flex is what you run when you're not trying to play favorites, and sharing the ball. These iso heavy offenses are what you do when you build your team around one dude and four specialists. Maybe it's sour grapes because they have two rings with their cheap system; and we have zero with our "everyone gets to pass and shoot" kiddie offense.
But then again, it's not like the Rockets killed us except for that horrible two year stretch when we started Felton Spencer at center.
The Playoff Series:
Yeah, we're 5 and 2 in playoff series' vs their "stand and watch" offense. And we're even stephen in Western Conference Finals series'. The perception is that Houston is a better team, but if we won that first WCF series who here thinks that we couldn't have also beaten those New York Knicks? Or the Orlando Magic the next season. If you look at the Jazz' record against those two teams in the mid-90s you know that Utah would have taken either of those teams too. So I guess this is all Felton Spencer's fault . . .
Moving beyond Felton Spencer, the Jazz are currently on a 4 series winning streak against the Rockettes. When they reloaded by added Charles Barkley to their crew of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (whom we already hate for his affiliation with the Portland Trail Blazers) we still beat them. We beat them so bad Ostertag had like a 16/14 game on Hakeem. That's a clinical punking. Ostertag didn't even have 16 points in the NBA finals -- but he put up 16 on Hakeem in one game, a series deciding game.
We dispatched them with even less fanfare the next season, in the first round.
A few seasons later we had to contest with all the media love (particularly from ESPN and TNT) the Rockets got for their Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady team -- and how T-Mac said it was all on him. And then he cried during the post game interview (why doesn't people call T-Mac a crier like they do with Andrei?). That was a great series, Mehmet Okur held Yao Ming down in single coverage, to -3 ppg from his regular season averages against the Jazz. That's critical because a) look at how close the games were, and b) holding their center down in single coverage negates their three point shooters. (See, they were running the same crappy offense since the 90s with Hakeem -- but this time we didn't have Felton Spencer in the paint, we had Memo who didn't back down from the challenge)
T-Mac couldn't do anything, even Gordan Giricek was giving him fits on defense. And Deron Williams was finding Andrei Kirilenko open for threes to turn the tide of the close out game, a road game 7, back for the good guys.
Ha ha ha, still love that video. Even years after . . . does that make me a bad person? Nope, bad people are the crazy, racist, homophobic, bigots that you see in Houston Rockets message boards. I'm not linking to any of them, but reading their comments about other groups / religions after Rockets losses are just appalling. Utah gets a bad rap because of a few bad apples, but I guess Houston doesn't get one for bad orchards. But hey, at least they sold a lot of jerseys in China the last few seasons.
They have Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and a bunch of guys that our general manager would love to have on the depth chart ahead of Alec Burks. But their future doesn't look quite as bright as ours does. But that's not the future I was talking about. I was talking about the future, moving forward, for us Jazz fans. The last few days we've seen Jazz fans behave poorly towards one another. It's one thing to disagree, it's entirely another thing to be mean about it. If you want to look bad, and be mean, then be mean to another team's fan base -- maybe a rival group -- than to each other. See how dumb, mean, and ignorant this post made me look? That's how dumb, mean, and ignorant Jazz fans look when they argue with one another, and do so to the delight of fans of other teams.
Let's unite as Jazz fans -- we all want our team to do the best and play hard every night. And let's unite against those external threats, instead of constructing our own internal animosities.
I hate the rockets.
Luis Scola looks like he has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Houston has a pollution problem.
Kevin Martin has funky shot mechanics.
Your logo is silly and your uniforms are ugly.
See, isn't this better than fighting over the dire specifics of how quickly or slowly to get playing time for your younger players?