First of all, I wanted to apologize to everyone on planet earth (extending also to our moon, which we simply call "the moon" as we only have one, I'm lookin' at you Jupiter!) for how late this is. My work day starts at 4 am, and I had no idea that things were not on schedule until a little while ago. Prodigal Punk has this Wednesday gig, but today he is swamped with real life / school stuff. Not being in school -- it's only appropriate that I step in here. I intended to do a really poor job so that NEXT Wednesday when he returns you are all really relieved.
"Thank God it's Prodigal Punk, and not that Amar jerk . . . yeesh . . . why is it always math class when he's around?" - Everyone
So, on behalf of everyone at SLC Dunk, sorry for how late this is. And sorry for how dumb the next four points are going to be.
Playoffs, huh? Well, there is a pretty fair chance we make it this year. Which by my trajectory for this team would be one year ahead of schedule -- but at the same time, my trajectory for the development of our youth rounds down to being one year behind of schedule. It's really a no lose situation here though. Getting to the playoffs this year benefits Head Coach Tyrone Corbin, the Jazz financial bottom line, the 'glory' of our franchise, and of course, the players who led us to the playoffs (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris, and Gordon Hayward).
No doubt, being in the playoffs is special -- and the sooner you make it to the playoffs the sooner you can be storing playoff experience which eventually fills up like an XP bar in an RPG game, which you can use towards making playoff wins. Very few teams go all the way on their first trip to the playoffs. And the sooner you make the playoffs the sooner your guys can get a feel for it, and adapt to it -- and the sooner you can start getting your XP bar filled. This is nothing but a nerdy way of explaining that Clint (@Clintonite33 ) has been talking about all season long. The Shaq / Kobe Lakers lost to the Jazz first, before becoming champs. The Thunder lost in the first round on their way towards being a more reasonable playoff force. The Grizz came in last season as the #8 seed, and nearly made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals in their first go at it. They look to at least equal the feat of 7 playoff wins this season.
The blueprint is to get to the playoffs asap, so you can start learning from your playoff experiences (wins and losses). And it's a pretty good blueprint.
Of course, the other side of the coin is how you get to the playoffs. Al Jefferson has been huge for this team this season on offense. He has a career 136 playoff minutes to fall back on, and he needs as many as possible right now. He has much to gain from making it. By direct comparison Paul Millsap has 951 career playoff minutes, and Devin Harris has 801. In terms of the urgency of NEEDING playoffs right now, only one of those three main veterans is lacking in playoff experience. By the same token, none of our young guys have any playoff experience either. So one could posit that the playoffs are great because Big Al, and our younger guys will all be soaking up playoff experience together. Of course, we know that only Gordon Hayward is going to get to play a lot in the playoffs if we make it. Also, the argument could be made that because the iron isn't hot right now (for playoff window), missing it this season doesn't hurt the players. If you have to face a number of first round exits before being a contender, it's only logical that you have to face missing the playoffs for a year or two before even making it. It's a natural and logical progression.
I would have instead focused this year on making fluid rotations (why did it take till the middle of March to finally put youth and vets together? was it only because of injuries?), and developing all of our players. My nerdy way of explaining Clint's playoff theory is with an XP bar that levels your players up. That said, you only WIN in the playoffs if have good players and a complete team. I would have rather spent the majority of this season filling in the XP bars of our players before getting to the playoffs. The more time on the court for a young player, the quicker they get experience, the quicker they get confidence. Which turns into quicker returns for the team. Look at how confidence Gordon Hayward is. He makes big plays down the stretch on offense and defense. He is all the proof you need that playing younger players sooner, while taboo, also is proven to work. You could argue that while we may have lost more games in January because of that doctrine, we most likely would have won more games in February and March because of greater depth once all the injuries started to pile on. Ultimately, we'd be here -- in the playoff chase -- but we'd be doing it with a stronger over-all team, and probably less injuries to our older guys.
And Enes Kanter may have even played enough to be able to make that Charles Oakley / Kurt Thomas mid-range jumper with confidence and reliability. He was partly drafted and scouted on that shot. More confidence would bring that shot out and make us a more dangerous team.
Four games left and this regular season is over. Can you believe it? It still feels like yesterday when I'd be up all night waiting for lockout news to break. And now, now the season is almost over? Crazy. On a personal level this has been an up and down year for me. It's only fair that it mimics the Jazz this season. Work, life, health . . . it's been a roller coaster. I appreciate being able to write about the team I love. The Utah Jazz mean a lot to me, and they've been a huge part of my life for decades.
I started to get really into the Jazz in junior high. All the other kids were either fans of the Lakers, or Knicks, or Bulls. I was always the only Jazz fan I knew. (Utahns think about that.) I used to do my homework in high school to CNN headline news because they had a sports ticker on the bottom of the screen -- and back when I was in high school I was living in Canada before they even cared about anything not called hockey. During the playoffs I'd coordinate my strict HS uniform (I went to a private school) with if the Jazz were playing at home or the road.
In college I used to go on message boards and write really long posts that people used to eat their breakfast while reading. I did start to meet other Jazz fans. It was very fun for me.
Fast forward to 2012 -- I'm now lucky enough to talk / email / tweet with Jazz fans every single day. It is something I've never had in my life. It's awesome. I get to write about the team I love, and I get to give encouragement to other writers who love the team as much as I do. Personally, where I am now in my real life, is a product of a lot of ups and down. But the one constant has been the Jazz. I'm really lucky. I love all my Jazz tweeps, and everyone who visits this site. I'm sorry if I get too grouchy at times. I'm sorry if I say the wrong thing online.
The Jazz are a great team. I wouldn't want to devote so many years of my life to any other. This season has been filled with ups and downs. Even this site has gone through some changes, some good some bad. But let's try to focus on the Jazz. I know I will.
Like I said, I went through so many years of being the only Jazz fan I knew. Now I am surrounded by 'family', other Jazz fans. It's an awesome experience for me. And I want to always make this the best place for Jazz fans as I can. Always feel free to get at me online via email or tweets, or posts here or whatever. I don't know how long this run is going to last with me here at SLC Dunk. But the moments we share as Jazz fans will remain with me forever.
Thank you. I mean it. You guys are the best.
Great Amar. So first of all the DB is late. And it's not Prodigal Punk. And it's now a lifetime movie about some terminal nut case. Is it too soon to say "shut up" yet?
(Regularly schedule programming to resume RIGHT AFTER THIS POST)