The Downbeat #1185: The In The Air Tonight Edition

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

In which we discuss Opening Night, Jeff Hornacek says nice things, an EnergySolutions Arena usher answers our questions, I make fun of another annoying commercial, and more.

It's time.

Just imagine Hayward as Crockett and Favors as Tubbs. (And, I dunno, Paul Millsap as Crockett's ex, I guess.)

The 2013-14 Utah Jazz season begins tonight, with the Jazz hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder. The home team won't be expected to win, even given Russell Westbrook's absence via injury. On the other hand, Jazz teams of recent years have had a penchant for playing up to (and down to) the level of their opponents. So while I'm anticipating a loss, I wouldn't be surprised if they pull the upset.

But that's not really the point of tonight, or the season that begins tonight. The point is that we will finally get to see what happens when Gordon Crockett and Derrick Tubbs get the keys to the Ferrari. Preseason has only given us a small taste of this, because Coach Corbin's rotations had to accommodate training-camp fodder and injuries and the like. And even now, without Brandon Rush, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans and Trey Burke healthy, we won't find out exactly what this team is capable of. But that's okay.

Tonight is the Jazz's pilot episode. And every week is sweeps week. I can't wait to tune in.

Former Jazz player and coach Jeff Hornacek is in a similar position with his new/old team, the Phoenix Suns. They're just a couple of years behind the Jazz in their development cycle, as this Arizona Republic article explains:

He has seen this before. The Suns have 19-year-old and 20-year-old rookies Goodwin and Alex Len, their first-round picks. In Hornacek’s previous coaching stop on Utah’s bench, the Jazz had that scenario twice. Derrick Favors was 19 and Gordon Hayward was 20 when they were Utah rookies for the 2010-11 season. Enes Kanter was 19 and Alec Burks was 20 when they were Utah rookies in the 2011-12 season.

Now, they are integral parts of the Jazz’s future, particularly the Favors-Hayward class that is expected to lead Utah’s next era. That could be the case for Goodwin and Len some day, along with the youth of players such as 23-year-old Eric Bledsoe, who would be in his rookie season had he played all four years at Kentucky.

"Those guys (Favors and Hayward) came out every day and practiced hard," Hornacek said. "They were teamed up together a lot in Utah. They were growing as time went on, just playing with each other and being familiar with what each guy liked to do. That’s the biggest thing when you put a bunch of new guys together. They’ve got to feel familiar with where a guy’s going to go, where he likes the ball, if he’s going to back up. All that stuff we learned in Utah. Those guys grew up together in terms of learning the game and learning about each other and hopefully we can do that with our guys."

If there's one thing that gets me excited for this season more than anything, it's this sense of familiarity that Hornacek alludes to. As with any professional situation, I think being with people you like has a great effect on your performance. The bond between Hayward, Favors, Kanter, Burks, Evans and the rest of this Jazz team might make up for some of this roster's deficiencies in talent.

One of my favorite things about sports is when a team becomes more than the sum of its parts. That's the challenge, and the opportunity, that lies before this Jazz squad.

This week in Your SLC Dunk FanPosts...

Pacoelcid is back with more preseason statistical analysis (and fantastic charts!):

The first table I'm showing details the number of games each player played, the number of minutes they played, the minutes per game, and the percentage of the total minutes (384 by my calculation) they played. In addition, I'm giving you the overall plus/minus of each player, their points per game, shots per game, and their points per shot (PPS).

Some Interesting facts:

- Hayward, Favors, Burks, and Kanter were the players with the most overall minutes

- JLIII was the only player who played more than 100 minutes and had a positive plus/minus.

- RJeff had a PPS of 1.40 (highest of those who played more than 100 minutes)

>Be sure to click through to see those charts. They're pretty rad.

Next, UtonganKidInCali has a really cool story involving the Jazz's recent ticket giveaway:

During the wait I bought my oldest daughter a hayward jersey and spoke briefly with David Locke, entertained by the Jazz Bear it was a nice way to pass time. I don't know if any of you know this, but I'm disabled, I was hit by a car, so I use a wheelchair. The way it was set up is we were to go downstairs at 1 to get our tickets. Management noticed me and assured that they would take care of me and we would be escorted down the elevator. At the appointed time they did so and when we got to the ticket counter, we were presented with 6 tickets all lowerbowl in the ADA section. Worth about $100 per ticket. Fyi, the tickets they were giving were worth $5 per. Amazing just a small gesture but very significant. Love my Jazz!

Love hearing about stuff like this. Thanks for sharing, man.

This last FanPost is super interesting: TheUsher, a current usher at EnergySolutions Arena, answers some questions from SLC Dunk community members:

There was one moment last year. The Bear had hit these two gentlemen with some silly string early in the game, and they retaliated. This continued to escalate with Bear showering them with more items throughout the game until this finale at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Obviously, they were in on some aspect of the gag. However, as this started to escalate, another Golden State fan came from about five sections over, and kept telling these guys that he was a lawyer and would help them sue the Bear. The lawyer was very upset over this whole thing -- probably the only one in the whole arena. He also didn't like it when the ushers told him he had to stay in his own seating area.

If you've got a question for TheUsher, go add it as a comment on that post. Thanks, Usher!

It's time for another installment of Commercials You'll Learn To Hate, where I break down an ad that frequently airs during Jazz games and tell you why it's awful so everyone shares my pain. In this edition: St. George's "A to Zion" campaign.

Premise: So, I actually don't have much of a problem with that first ad. It's a pretty simple setup: Manly Middle-Aged Business Dude flies to St. George for a meeting (although, really, who flies from SLC to St. George and comes back in the same day? But I digress), realizes that southern Utah is actually awesome, blows off his meeting, and tells his flight attendant he should've planned to stay longer. Effective enough.

Then we get this twist:

So Manly Business Dude is now Manly Secret Agent In A Tux In A St. George Bar -- seriously, why do so many bad commercials involve "secret agents" who clearly are neither secret nor agents? -- and gets bought a drink by The World's Least Dangerous Femme Fatale. They exchange low-grade Bond-esque double entendres, interspersed with shots of outdoor activities. One of these activities is apparently RUNNING AWAY FROM FIREBALLS. The on-screen text at the end helpfully explains that fireballs are not included in the otherwise all-inclusive A to Zion category.

A modest proposal: If you have to explain that fireballs are not actually involved, maybe don't put them in in the first place? Just throwing it out there.

Acting: DON'T LOOK HER IN THE EYES.

Actually, neither of them is that bad. Manly Not-Secret Agent has a certain rugged charm, a wry wit that surely indicates the gentle soul that hides wiWAIT WHAT AM I SAYING IT'S THOSE EYES I'M TELLING YOU.

Script: You had a good idea, writers. And then you added fireballs. You done goofed.

Music: It's aiming for James Bond and comes in at a solid Kim Possible.

Rating: Four fireballs out of ten. Fireballs not included.

Vegas oddsmakers have set the Jazz's over/under for wins at 25.5 (down from 27.5 on Oct. 1). Which way are you betting?

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