Does it matter?
* * *
There's a phrase we hear it all the time. We recite it, we think it:
It's just ... well, fill in the blank.
It's just Summer League, we said in July. It's just a scrimmage, we said on Saturday. It's just against 2nd stringers, we heard over and over the past two years. We shrug things off. We find ways to excuse disappointment. We seek out ways to be pessimistic.
Well, sometimes it's more fun to just let go and shout: That was so damn fun!
There is so much to think about and re-live. There was Jeremy Evans playing like he deserved to be there. There was the entire team doing a thing called defense. There was Gordon Hayward ripping the ball out of Klay Thompson's hands, AK-style. There was the bench, the terrible bench as we've all been told, playing pretty well. There was Favors playing like the Captain of the Defense. There was a starting lineup that figured out how to get out of a funk all by itself. There was Trey Burke looking like The Trey Burke, NCAA Player of the Year. There was Kanter. There was Burks. There was Richard Jefferson. There wasJohn Lucas, III. There was Gobert. There was Biedrins.
I feel kinda bad now for making fun of the RJeff start. He played decently, and that block was Boss. And Beans ... what a move for the score.
But to me, one thing stands out above all else. It was late 2nd quarter or early 3rd, the Jazz missed a shot and were getting back on defense. There was Favors, shouting out to Kanter where he needed to go. And Kanter wasn't moving. I don't know if he didn't hear, or didn't understand, or what. But he wasn't moving.
And so Favors put both hands on Kanter's back and shoved him to the spot he needed to be.
* * *
Folks ... this changes everything.
We're used to seeing a Captain of the Offense. It's called a Point Guard, and we've had some really terrific ones. Now we have a Captain of the Defense, and he's a Power Forward/Center.
More than anything else, it was obvious to me how much the team really has been working to defend well. It's not just lip service. It's not just the catch phrase of the training camp. They were doing it like they cared, like there was a plan, and like they were working together.
Sure, it'll take more than one pre-season game to know whether the plan will consistently work, to know whether the players will consistently dedicate themselves to it, to know how much more work and tweaks it will need. And there was likely some fatigue factor for Golden State.
But for the first time I can remember ... and possibly the first time since Frank Layden sat in the coach's chair ... the entire team seems to have made a commitment to defend like it matters.
* * *
Random Stats that made me happy:
- Favors and Jeremy combining for 27 rebounds.
- Hayward and Burks combining for 12 assists.
- Jeremy Evans shooting 6-11 and hitting dunks, layups, and jumpers.
- Kanter and Favors getting only 2 fouls apiece
- 8 blocked shots by the team; 3 by Favors.
- 7 rebounds by Hayward
* * *
It's a long way from winning the first pre-season game to conquering the universe. But whatever. For a night, it felt like the universe was there to be had.
Did it matter?
Of course it did. Had they lost, had they played poorly, we would have had to mutter: "I'm not worried" over and over. And you know what, maybe we'll be in that spot on Friday.
But what fun to just enjoy and celebrate. NBA basketball is back. The Jazz feel reborn. And our guys win a game by dominating defensively.
I'm bringing back the Jazz Quintet to my post game recaps. For those of you who are newer, these are five guys who I feel best represented what was good about the team. It was a great idea until one day I was irritated with some players and deliberately included only three. Amar got mad, because it totally messed up his spreadsheet of Quintet mentions.
Well, here's my Quintet for Pre-Season Game 1:
- Derrick ... for Captaining the Defense
- Jeremy ... for showing that you belong on the court
- Ty ... for making defense more than just word-of-the-week
- Alec ... for willingly leading the bench
- Andris ... for that awesome score