This is it, the last home game of the season. Man, at the end of the season I always seem to get burned out. And yeah, I think a lot of people who are so 'around' the Utah Jazz are as well. From people you know and see, to the people who work in the back ground. This has been a tough season, and anyone who honestly presents this season in an ultra positive light is forgetting just how good the good times were. I guess this is me, the old man on the mountain, being crotchety. There's probably some truth to that assessment of who I am either. I started following the NBA in the early 1980s (like back when George Michael was still into the ladies), and followed the Jazz with every up and down since the 1987-88 season. That's a long time. I've been crazy about the Jazz for a very long time.
And it still kills me to see them finish the season without a title. The title is important for me. I think winning a title would have been great for the careers of players John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, and Karl Malone. It would have been nice for the coaching staff of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson. And it would have been the one missing thing from Larry H. Miller's list of personal accomplishments. John, Jerry, and Karl are in the Hall of Fame. I think LHM could get there in one of their non-player/non-coach/non-media categories down the line. He was a big part of ending that first lockout in '99. So I guess you can say that while a title would have been nice, it didn't mean everything for these great men.
So is a title important to the fans? Some don't care. Some do. I am in that category that thinks a title is important. And as a result, we need to look no farther than the Los Angeles Lakers to see how titles are won. They have almost no peers when it comes to this, and have not just won titles here or there (like the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, or Philadelphia 76ers have), they produce multiple dynasties. So love them or hate them, they do win the games that matter. And they do the things needed in order to set up these championship runs.
One thing that the Lakers are doing this season better than many others is that they are tanking. We're not going to see Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Xavier Henry, Kent Bazemore, and possibly Chris Kaman tonight. The first three guys are first ballot Hall of Famers (Gasol will get it on first ballot because of his international wins). But instead of trying to gut out meaningless wins in a throw away season, they are purposefully holding out their best players in order to make sure losses happen.
You can't say that the Jazz have a higher, more spotless, regard than the Lakers -- a franchise that is known for winning. If the Lakers aren't too good to tank, with all of their rings and championship history, then why do the Jazz feel like they are too good to do the same? It's this misplaced sense of honor that I worry about. Principles are great, but if you only fail every year with them then it may be time to reevaluate what your principles get you? Right? If you want to win, do what it takes to win. And we've figured out that teams with the best players, the most talented individuals, are the teams that win titles.
This is something the Lakers learned years ago. And this is why the Lakers are going to lose tonight.
And like most of our wins this season, it's not about what we do -- it's more about what the other team does. The majority of the wins this season have been to teams on long road trips who are missing 2-3 rotation players, sometimes missing three starters. Count out how many times the Jazz have beaten a team that's at full strength this season? Go ahead.
This game is going to be a celebration of how the Jazz organization values the fans. Mainly, the fans who do not demand a title, but love the Jazz no questions asked. These fans are wonderful, non-conditional fans. And the Miller family has done a lot to foster this type of love over the seasons. All the great Jazz teams from the 90s helped build that cache with fans.
LA doesn't care about that. They know fans will go to where the wins are. Even the evidence from our own Jazz fans and attendance proves this point, but we are blissfully ignoring it. At the end of this season we'd love to start in a good position with a young start to champion.
I know the Lakers will do just that this year, because they are committed to the tank. And yeah, it's going to hurt that a Lakers team that last won the title in 2010 will have bottomed out and be on the rise again with a higher profile star than any on our squad. And in that span, we capitalized by winning four total playoff games.
In a system where winning titles means more than winning regular season games in lotto bound seasons we find that the Jazz have a lot to learn from the Lakers.