It took me a long time to start writing this Downbeat last night. I just wasn't in the mood.
(Bear with me. I promise I'll make this relevant.)
See, right before I was going to start writing, news broke that Real Salt Lake's long-time -- well, if you count seven years as a long time -- head coach Jason Kreis would be leaving Utah to become the first coach of Major League Soccer expansion team New York City FC.
("FC" stands for "Football Club," which is a stupid thing American soccer teams do to sound European and cool, but is not as stupid as calling Salt Lake's team "Real," which is Spanish for "Royal," which makes sense if you play in Madrid and not so much if you play in Sandy, but I digress.)
(Relevant. I promise.)
This is a big deal because Jason Kreis epitomized Real Salt Lake. Actually, strike that and reverse it: during Kreis' tenure, RSL epitomized him. He remade the team in his image. His motto is in the headline up there. It's Latin; it means "Fortune favors the bold."
That's how he played -- he was RSL's first-ever signed player -- and that's how he coached. And for the last five years, Real Salt Lake has been one of the most successful teams in MLS.
I mention this (relevancy incoming!) because the Utah Jazz once had a coach who personified the team -- and whose team personified him -- the same way. We'll honor him for it in just a few weeks by hanging his name from the rafters. His contributions, his mindset, his basketball philosophy, defined the Utah Jazz name for decades.
That definition doesn't fit any more.
To be fair, it takes time for coaches to establish that kind of identity. It also takes exceptional players -- players who willingly take on the attributes and attitude of their leader. Jason Kreis had Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. Jerry Sloan had Karl Malone and John Stockton.
With this current Jazz team? I don't know.
I don't mean for this to be a Ty Corbin hit piece. Given the makeup of his yearly rosters, I don't know how much blame can be laid at his feet for the Jazz's mediocrity and/or outright misery during his tenure. Besides, It's probably unfair of me, and of Jazz fans, to compare him to coaches like Jerry Sloan or Jason Kreis. (Especially when one of those doesn't even coach the same sport. (Okay, so I'm the only one who's doing that. Never mind.))
But I think it's fair to say this: I know what it looks like when a coach gives a team an identity. And right now, the Utah Jazz don't have one.
Take that for what you will.
On the other hand, Jody Genessy brings us this late Tuesday-night report on how some of the current Jazz players perceive Corbin's performance:
[Richard] Jefferson, who's started for Utah since being traded from Golden State this offseason, simply disagrees with the critics.
"Now as far as lashing out and putting pressure on a coach, that's unfair. ... Everybody's an armchair quarterback," Jefferson said. "Everybody has their own fantasy football team. Everybody has their own idea of what should go down.
"But," he added, "I can tell you from being in this league and having multiple Hall of Fame coaches that Ty is doing a very good job. He's in a very difficult situation with a lot of young guys and a lot of injuries, and he's doing a very, very good job, and I say that with the utmost confidence."
The easy, flippant response to that is, "Of course Jefferson likes him; he's giving him 30 minutes a game." And no, Jefferson's not going to throw Corbin under the bus in public. (Then again, some other players haven't been afraid to show their displeasure, at least on Twitter, as My_Lo showed us yesterday.)
So take RJ's comments for what you will, too. I personally don't think he'd bother sucking up that much in front of the media. Though, again, he doesn't have much to complain about individually.
Basically, Jody's awesome.
(Now that's sucking up in public.)
Here's JuMu on how the upcoming 2014 draft class might stack up to past years:
It is downright exciting that there's an exceptional possibility of this draft being this successful, and our Jazz happen to be sitting on a likely top 5 pick (and another late first rounder unless we get even luckier and the Warriors plummet).
Out of the 1970, 1985, 1987, and 1999 drafts which ones does the 2014 draft have a chance of surpassing? I would say a draft class of Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Exum, and Smart along with all the other talent being discovered should be enough on its own to surpass the 1999 draft of a bunch of consistently solid but non-HOF level players. 1970 is probably out of reach just due to them having 6 Hall of Famers!
Those comparisons get my heart racing. Can it be June already?
Next, CJinBrooklyn has a unique, non-sportsy perspective on why Jabari Parker might not belong in Utah:
I grew up going to Jazz games as a kid. When I was 11, we moved to the EC and never looked back. I still can't shake the Jazz, but my Mormon experience outside of Utah was just what I needed. For me, its much more preferable, for reasons you can imagine. In fact, when kids from my Brooklyn ward go away to college at BYU, I worry for them.
Sure, Jabari is a Mormon, but he's also a kid from *SS Chicago*. I worry, not that he won't play well for the Jazz, but that he'll come to dislike the focus on his personal life. I worry that he won't be able to exist outside the predominant culture, like other players do. Does that make sense?
I try to keep things as purely secular hereabouts as possible, but since national commentators keep bringing up Jabari's Mormon faith as a factor in his draft prospects, I feel like it's fair game to discuss. (Respectfully, mind you. Don't make me get Uncle Amar.)
Finally, Bitoko has begun a running fan-fiction of sorts, based on his conception of what interactions between Ty Corbin and Dennis Lindsey are like. They are very sarcastic and also contain unicorns. Enjoy.
Alec Burks has been doing many Alec Burks things lately, and it's been a blast to watch. Salt City Hoops' Laura Thompson examines Burks' emergence:
This season has been quite a bumpy ride for Alec Burks. With Trey Burke injuring his finger in the third game of the preseason, Burks was thrust into playing the point guard position-something he was asked to do last year for chunks of time, as well. I think we saw pretty quickly and pretty clearly that that wasn't a position that was going to let Alec's strengths shine through. As athletic and skilled as he is, his unique skillset is much better suited for the shooting guard position, not setting up teammates, running the pick and roll, etc....
...His good play is very possibly correlated to Trey Burke being back, relieving him of point-guard duties. It's nice to have another bright spot of development, and it'll be fun to see if Burks can maintain this level of play.
I think Laura hits the nail right on the head: Trey's ball-handling skills have left Alec free to swag at will. And good things have come as a result.
Anyway. Click through for more stats and analysis. Laura does good work.
In case you missed it during Monday's broadcast, here's a video the Jazz put together to promote the Jerry Sloan jersey retirement event on Jan. 31: