According to the Google Analytics data chances are that you are visiting this site right now, and reading this post right now, because you're connecting to the internet from the Western United States. But from the data I also see that there are plenty of people who visit the site every day in Asia, Australia, on both sides of the former Iron Curtain in Europe, and of course, all of the amazing people who log on every day in South America. The people who are reading this right now do not comprise all of the world. But the people who do read this site represent the world of Utah Jazz fans.
And while the chances are that you're reading this in the Western United States . . . there are enough of us who are not. And while we represent a minority in the demographics of Utah Jazz fans, we are Utah Jazz fans. Location isn't the only way you could look at our fan base. Some of us are men, some are not. Some of us classify as racially white, some do not. Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us are young, some are not. Rich or poor. Educated or still on their grind. There are majorities and minorities in any group depending on which way you want to look at it. The last few seasons I think in Jazz fan-land we had to focus upon these partisan, divisive topics. Pro vets / Pro youth. Win now / development. Ty is good / Ty is not good. The local media tells the best story / the local media doesn't tell all of the story.
This off-season the front office made a lot of decisions for the team that should unify the fanbase a little more. Tyrone Corbin is our head coach, but his contract has a termination point at the end of this season as it was not extended. His performance this year will go towards his future with this team, or his future away from this team. The high priced vets who were starters have all moved on. Moves were made for lesser talented veterans who are worth a similar amount on the books, but they are all expiring. Based upon perceived talent alone, the youth should get long looks this year. The in game experience for fans is supposed to be better with $15 million in arena upgrades. The homepage at nba.com looks better and is more pleasing to the eye. There are some solid ticket deals. There appears to be a unified purpose within the franchise, and that unified purpose should help unified the majority of the fanbase.
And there I go again with that whole Majority / Minority thing. Why did I bring that up?
I brought it up because within the greater slice of the pie, there are over 6 billion people on this planet. Not everyone likes sports. If you like sports, not all of you who do are NBA fans. If your primary jam is the NBA then within the realm of sports you're already a minority -- and the NBA is the best marketed, most visible, and most hip league in the world. And if you are a Utah Jazz fan, even among the minority of people on this planet who currently exist, and like sports, and love the NBA the most you're a minority.
We here are all minorities.
It doesn't matter if you are a White, male, living in Utah, who is of the right age and marital status to make you a super majority in your day-to-day life -- within the world of the NBA, as a Utah Jazz fan you are such a small individual. And we can't afford to be individuals anymore. We're Utah Jazz fans. When we are loud, and focused on the same target, the opposing team trembles. Our voices in unison cannot be passed off as just some fringe minority voice. Together we are strong.
And this concept is not just to rally the fans together again alone, no. This is precisely the issue the team we root for is challenged with as well. Within their own elite peer group they are all individually minorities, players that exist but for whatever reason are not 'majorities'.
- Our main players this year appear to all be lottery picks that had their draft stock slip, despite solid collegiate careers. There are two exceptions to this, though, and they were both picked not for anything they did, but rather what they were not: Derrick Favors appears to have been picked #3 because he wasn't a basket case like DeMarcus Cousins; and Enes Kanter appears to have been picked because he was not a known product at all. Gordon Hayward was a Top 10 pick who was the star of the 2nd best team in the league, and wasn't even included in multimedia products in the preseason that specifically featured the Top 10 rookies of that year. Alec Burks almost didn't even stay in the lottery despite a lot of admiration before the predraft process. And Trey Burke was even passed up by the Pistons (his regional pro team), despite their need for a point guard, and him being the National Player of the Year
- As individuals all five have much to prove, but alone have very little chance to get it done. Kanter can score with the ball, but someone needs to get him to him. Burks can defend and slash, but can't handle the ball. Hayward excels in a leadership position, but needs people who will listen. Burke is a big game player, but needs a team who can play team defense and get the ball in his hands. And Favors? Well, Favors is a great defender -- but needs a great team offense to help him grow.
- As individuals they are all works in progress. As individuals they may all be out of the league in short order. They can't be individuals
- Of course, our team is more than just five players. The front office brought in four players either in trades or free agency who no one else wanted. They were not big enough to stick with the teams they played for. Effectively they all lost out in the vote to stay in. Basically, they were minorities as well. One man had no confidence, in a league built around bravado. Another crippled by injury, and the wing position that was the strongest position on his squad. The eldest had the most experience, but his experience was no longer wanted. And the last had been around the game his entire life, practically raised in the NBA but was struggling to stay in it. Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, and John Lucas III were all overlooked this off-season and their open market value makes them appear even more invisible than normal.
- The tenth misfit minority has to be Marvin Williams, as a small forward coming off yet another injury, another year in the league, another year on the wrong side of his athletic peak . . . he's no longer in the majority when looking at the slew of increasingly younger, more athletic wings coming into the league. Perhaps he has a chance to reforge his game and rebrand his career not as a minority wing player, but in this new era of face up power forwards? Until he can do that, though, he's another castaway.
- We have our own slim towers in Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert -- two individuals whose physical properties would traditionally keep them off the floor despite evidence to support stellar on court production. No one wants a skinny bigman, and they have always been predated upon like how a Lion devours a Giraffe.
- Last, but not least, is Ian Clark. Very few solid shooting guards go undrafted. If he even makes the NBA he'll be a super minority, but he could even end up starting on this team.
- Beyond the men on contract, there are other passed over, overlooked, and unwanted players on the current roster who hope to make it passed all the cuts in training camp like Scott Machado, Justin Holiday, Dominic McGuire, and Brian Cook.
- By themselves these men would make no noise on the court as lone wolves. Take a look at the Top 10 plays of the night, and the Jazz were already under-represented. (The Spooky science of math tells us that if there is a 30 team league, then how many times in 82 games worth of Top 10s should feature the Jazz in a positive light -- assuming no weight placed for market size?) This can and should change if the Jazz work together though.
The only way minorities are heard is if they work together. The most focused, well directed, and organized minority groups are able to be more influential than their numbers suggest. The majority is the majority for a reason, but that doesn't mean you can sleep on certain minorities. (Who knew that the "Pronounce it as Cat-sup" lobby group was so powerful?)
The majority opinion this season is that the Jazz are going to be bad. While that may be likely to happen; just like it was likely that you were loading this page up from the Western part of the United States -- there are situations that do not fit that mold. The Jazz are likely to have a challenging season. But that's not a guarantee.
Similarly, the majority of the games played this year could be losses -- but that isn't mutually inclusive with the concept that we're a bad team or comprised of a bad core, or even have a bad coach. You could have good players, a good coach, and just lose a lot of close games.
And I think that's the team we're going to be this year. Last season we had some of the worst starters in the league and some of the best bench players. This season appears to be the inverse. We hung into games we shouldn't have last year because of our bench. This year we look to not put ourselves into deep holes to start games anymore. We may not have the bench to dig us out of games anymore, but we shouldn't be at such a disadvantage anymore at tip-off.
Or at least, and this is the large takeaway for me, not in a few seasons.
I guess for me the Utah Jazz minority group that I probably most categorize myself with are "timers". Our younger players need playing time in order to gain the experience necessary to build confidence upon the court. With confidence when things aren't going their way, they have enough experience to know their fates can turn soon, and play through adversity. If you don't get into a lot of games, and get pulled whenever things go bad -- you never learn enough to a) build that confidence, or b) experience turning it around in real time during a game.
The Kobe Bryant of today wouldn't be the Kobe Bryant of today if a) the team didn't clear the deck and move All-Star wing Eddie Jones to make more time available, or if b) the coaches benched him for taking shots and missing them. Today, love him or hate him (and I hate him), Kobe is one of the best players in the league. But that took a lot of time. It took a lot of time in the regular season (huge spikes after Jones was removed), but it took a lot of seasons.
We, and if this is me making my religion known here, can't be so short sighted in scope of vision with this Jazz club. We need to remain patient and understand that with time great things can happen. And this is both in-season time and season-to-season time. After a possibly misleading scrimmage where Enes Kanter battered a broken man down early we feel as though he could be one of our best players this year. That's not what he looked like during the scrimmage in his rookie season. Favors and Hayward are one year more experienced and look to be guys who can fight their way onto the NBA All-Star snubed list, something that took Al Jefferson a decade to get on. These players all got much better because of their season-to-season time. So if a guy like Burke, or Clark, or Gobert look out of sorts this season -- that's not like a guillotine for their careers. Some players make huge jumps after mediocre rookie seasons. Just look at Hall of Fame forward Scottie Pippen who played more than 20 mpg as a rookie, but averaged less than 8 points and less than 4 rebounds a game.
Some times things just take time. And this season, divorced from the entirely moronic idea of "win now" over development, the only thing we'll really have IS time. (Seriously, I will write a rap dis track about you if you think trading away an All-NBA player and getting back draft picks and Devin Harris = win now mode)
I beseech you all to have the patience necessary to see this choppy season through, these waters are unfriendly, but there can be smooth sailing ahead.
I've always had faith in our scouting department (read my former blog posts if you forgot), now it is time to have faith in the players they find. They have to play, and for better or for worse, chances are this season could be rough in the W/L record. But hey, it was for a lot of teams at the start of their rebuilds. It is important that when you rebuild that you embrace it.
If you love the scientific method and empiricism this year should be a great experiment with which we can help understand who we are, and what we need to do in order to get better. And we're going to get better. Our guys are going to continue making this swat lake city -- and our team defense should improve. The question remains on if our perimeter guys can help out a little more on the glass (defensive play doesn't end until your team gets the ball back). If they can then our team isn't just better, but will also have the numbers to back it up.
Starting with a defensive mind the team is then poised to counter attack if the opportunity is there. Our offense was too predictable last season, and it was only that much easier to defend because the other team most always had just scored and could get back on defense because we were still trying to inbound the ball. Better defense gives us the option to strike back at an advantage. And it all starts with defense. We hope to really be a better team on defense this season, and the disparity from last season to this one should be the biggest example of why starting three one way players is a bad thing (Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, and Mo Williams).
I predict the team will have the potential to play better, while losing more games. The W/L record will not be an indication of what's to come in the following seasons. Similarly, the performance of our guys in their first "at bat" at being the main men of their team should not used as direct evidence of how they "suck" or how the "vets from last year were better". The big picture of season-to-season time is in play here.
Planning for the long haul is what Dennis Lindsey is doing, where as KOC planned things by season. Similarly, the approach of Tyrone Corbin should change from trying to win every game, and planning things game by game, to looking at what his overlying idea is. Does he have one? I hope he does, and for his sake I hope it's similar to the plans his BOSS has (Lindsey).
Still, the little changes we hope to see do not drown out the majority opinion that our team is going to be one of the worst teams in the league this year. Maybe they will be, maybe they will not be. What we do know is that if they work together they can have a positive affect upon one another in the way that us Jazz fans can.
If we fans work together we know we can move mountains. So let's work together. Let's work together at games. Let's work together over social media. And let's work together here at this blog. I want to apologize to everyone for "slacking" the last few weeks (years?) -- it may be hard to believe but right now the Jazz take up a minority portion of my every day. This is honestly the case for everyone who has a real job and family. And while that's the case right now, I think that if we all work together all of our minority portions can help make this a very strong voice for Jazz fans.
Together we have a voice. By ourselves we are just so easy to overlook.
This is the case for the Jazz players. This is the case for Jazz fans. And this is definitely the case for us here at SLC Dunk.
While we have an idea of who we are as people, have an idea of what our team is, and have an idea of how well they will do . . . let's not forget that fate hasn't been written just yet. And we can secure a glorious destiny if we cooperate and work together. Chances are you're willing to take that chance.
One team. One direction.
Many voices. Multiple season outlook.
It's the only way we're going to get what we want, a championship. So let's get back to work, guys and gals!