The Downbeat #974 -- The "Bizarro Utah Jazz" Edition

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The "Bizarro" concept is something I think we all understand today. It's something that comes from an earlier time though, from Superman comics; but the concept of having something so identical to you -- but be so different in the core goes beyond comic books. A lot of really smart people have written about Evil Twins, Doppelgangers, and the mere addition of a goatee to someone who does not usually wear one. The idea of having this mirror image who acts differently may be some subconscious concept that is nothing but a cognitive explanation of our two brain hemispheres fighting. Anyway, I was thinking about how the Bizarro concept relates to sports. Not every team is pure good or pure evil though, so for sports I think it's better to try to apply the Bizarro world onto either performance or behavior. If you look at the performance axis, the "Bizarro" Los Angeles Lakers would be a team built up of stars that don't win the big games . . . so I guess the Los Angeles Lakers of the last two or three seasons. And of course, the common idea would be that the behavior axis would mean that the "Bizarro" Lakers are a team that wins titles -- but was built up in a completely different way. Starless -- but we know that no championship team in the modern era exists bereft of the starts that took them there.

After the trade deadline passed a lot of Jazz fans were less than happy. Some WERE happy, but they would have been happy with whatever the Jazz did -- if the Jazz traded someone they'd go online to hype that up as the right move just as easily as they've gone out in droves to celebrate standing pat. Those fans exist to be happy, period. I guess we here at SLC Dunk are Bizarro Jazz fans because we exist to counter the message of the official channels. (Sadly, we're becoming more and more the majority but I'll leave that for another post) I think some of the main points for being less than happy with the team at the deadline factored around the slim hope that our front office would trade away a veteran (be it Raja Bell, Earl Watson, or someone with a much higher PER like Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap) because we'd be trading a free agent, and also allowing for one of our younger players to play more minutes.

We like our younger players because a) they are good players, and b) they have paid their dues, and c) produce when on the court, and d) are still under contract for a few years. The fans cheer louder when they're in the game. The fans buy their merch. The fans tweet at them online. These are the people who the next generation of die hard fans love.

But the front office is very hesitant to really advance the Jazz youth in any way beyond using them to market the team.

So does that make the Oklahoma City Thunder the Bizarro Jazz? They moved their vets in order to uninhibit the growth of their youth. They trusted their youth and did not pull them if they made mistakes. And they made sure that the youth knew that the team believed in them. And they won games, got popular, and even their young guys became super rich, their market value was so high they couldn't afford to keep everyone so James Harden had to be traded. Would OKC be the Bizarro Jazz? I guess in a dual axis way where both behavior and performance were changed: yes. But that would be outside the Bizarro idea the way I've constructed it -- it would be someone who doesn't look like you who has the opposite morals. OKC doesn't act like us, and they don't get the same results as us.

The Bizarro Jazz would be a team that relies on middle range vets and mercenaries, no all-stars, low popularity, who is a contender (same behavior, different production) . . . or a team that plays the younger players, gets all the hype, but doesn't win (different behavior, same production). Do these teams exist?

The Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets all are medium popularity teams that are ahead of us in the standings in their respective conferences. They aren't headlined by the biggest names (Paul George, David West, George Hill; Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley; Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala) -- but some of those guys HAVE actually been All-Stars before, or you know, played in the Olympics and stuff. Of course, all of those guys are locked up for money and years. The Jazz aren't popular, don't have ANY big names (zero all-stars, zero Olympians), and are being led by guys all in "contract years" (that unifying motivator to performance). I think that you could argue about it, but ultimately be wrong. We're NOT the bizarro version of these teams upon the on court performance axis.

What then about the bizarro team on the behavior axis? A team that goes to the youth, is hyped, gets all the star power, but doesn't produce? Is this the Cleveland Cavaliers? Or Detroit Pistons? Or Sacramento Kings? New Orleans Hornets? Well, The Cavs are playing (due to injuries) Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Tyler Zeller all between 27.5 to 35.2 mpg right now. They're losing. So they're not a contender. And guys like Irving, Thompson, and Waiters all project to be both better players faster than our younger guys, and also more popular. Detroit is more of a mix of old and young, their players aren't blowing up, but guys like Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummond all look and play like guys who can be rotation players on a solid team in the future (in Detroit or elsewhere). They are losing right now too -- but that could be due to who else is on their team right now, and not a negative consequence of playing those guys about 20 mpg or more each. The Kings play DeMarcus Cousins 31.5 mpg, Isaiah Thomas 25.1 mpg, and Jimmer Fredette 14.2 mpg. So clearly they're losing because of their young guys, right? Or maybe they're just a poorly run franchise? They're in the middle of being sold, moved to a new city, and hurting a lot of people. I think there's more evidence there to suggest that they're a bad franchise up and down the levels of power, including not knowing how to draft, or coach. They're losing because they are, sadly, right now losers. The youth has nothing to do with it. Really, we make fun of him but honestly look at the year DeMarcus is having (age 23, 3rd season) vs. the year Big Al is having (age 28, 9th). They'd be just as bad with our best player. The Hornets / Pelicans are losing too - but they've played the majority of the season without Eric Gordon (their best player). Anthony Davis plays minutes, but no other young guys does. (Though it should be noted that Austin Rivers is like the bizarro Gordon Hayward, G-Time's dad is like some PhD dude, Rivers' dad is a former NBA player -- and one of them is killing it, but it's not Austin)

I guess you could say the Bizaro Jazz are the Cavs. They're letting the young guys run right now, and they're not winning a lot of games. However, their players 'get shine' are well liked and respected, and in all honesty -- I don't expect the Cavs to continue losing for long. We're going to the playoffs, they're going to the lotto. So in a way they are where we could have been last year if we gave the keys to the young guys: losing but reloading with more young draft picks and playing them. Cleveland (and OKC) got a way quicker return on the investment of drafting a lottery pick, which is good because small market teams seem to have a hard time retaining their high profile draft picks beyond their rookie deals. The Jazz strategy seems to be "don't play them, so they never become high profile enough that we can't keep them". So in the end we'll see if the Jazz or the bizarro Jazz (teams like the Cavs) are the ultimately better team.

For the sake of being sane, I hope it's us. I just don't know if it will be.

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Longest downbeat point ever? Let's switch it up to look at the NOC's take of every fan in the East and West:

Super fun stuff. And if you care, that guy at the NOC, Brendan, is also an up and coming stand up comedian. You can watch his stuff here.

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So, some front office exec of the Charlotte Bobcats had his 50th birthday a while ago. He played in the NBA as well, and the Sportspickle.com guys and gals made up a fake birthday card for him. Check it out here . . . or just scroll down below.

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via 2.media.sportspickle.cvcdn.com

I thought the John and Karl part was awesome.

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Okay, so the Jazz didn't make any trades, but it's not the end of the world because we'll probably do a lot of sign and trades this free agency period, right? Oh wait, the new CBA makes those a thing of the past? Ok, we'll just kill it in free agency and cut our losses. Oh, we'll panic? Yes, we'll just resign Al Jefferson for $18 million per for 5 seasons. And Randy Foye will get $8 million for three. And Mo Williams will get $10 for 2. (The same contract that was too much to pay for Andrei Kirilenko, who is healthier) Part of the reason why it's hard to 'get over' our lack of action at the trade deadline was because the prospects for our team moving forward aren't so hot. (List of 2013 Free Agents)

Are we going to bring Kyle Korver back? Throw money at restricted free agents Rodrigue Beaubois or Darren Collison? Or make J.J. Redick an offer he simply can't refuse? We're not getting a star. Dwight Howard / Chris Paul types may be in our price range, but they don't want to come here. And our front office wont bother trying either. So we're collectively a little down because nothing happened because we already know nothing big is going to happen in the off-season either.

It's not just us "bad fans" at SLC Dunk who think this. The rest of the better-respected-than-us media (online and on TV) also think this.

I could look for more and more links to post, but it's the same story told over and over again. It's not all bad, but the only people really going out there calling the non-moves we did "winning moves" are the people who didn't do anything -- our front office. Furthermore, if you are constructing the frame of reference of "doing something bad" vs. "not doing anything" you are only fooling some of the people. It should be about giving yourself a pat on the back for "doing something good" vs. "not doing anything", and not celebrating inaction. I don't win awards for the number of people I don't kill, but if I save lives people think I'm doing something good. No one says "That Amar, he didn't save anyone's life today -- but he didn't kill anyone either. Sometimes the best life you affect isn't the one that kills that life." Or something like that. Probably the better analogy revolves around #JazzWaffles.

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It's no secret that I wouldn't have built the Jazz like the way our team is building them. But I've always had a grim satisfaction for this team after we did nothing during the NBA Draft and finished free agency in one week. I really did not want the Jazz to make any trades, and I am so very happy that we did not. Sure, if I was the GM our team today would not look like the team we have today. But I'm not the GM. I'm a Utah Jazz fan. And as a Utah Jazz fan I'm super happy that we're going for the playoffs. I'm also super happy that we didn't make any trades.

Why?

Because we've put all our eggs in the playoff basket, and if we don't improve, then there should be a mountain of evidence to prove our front office is wrong. They failed. People should lose their jobs. This is a multimillion dollar enterprise -- if your car dealership sucked and lost money you'd fire people. Sure, the top guy at this one dealership is a really nice guy, but if he doesn't get the job done, he loses his job. If we're going to be so mercenary in our approach, the people who get paid are the people who win. And if you don't win, you don't get paid. So no trades = the Jazz HAVE to win now. If they don't, then there ABSOLUTELY has to be a number of changes.

And if there are not any, then it only confirms the desire of our team to embrace, court, marry, and have boring, missionary style sex four or five times a year with mediocrity.

The Jazz org can only disguise their intentions for so long. Soon enough the fans will see just what our team is all about. So many have already. Go ask Kevin Durant about our home court 'advantage'.

I'm happy that we didn't trade anyone. Because this means if we fail this year (miss the playoffs, win less than 2 playoff games) then we have a lot of data to support the theory that we need to make changes. (Of course, will our team look at the data? That's another thing entirely . . . )

Getting back to the bizaro Jazz -- perhaps the best case was the University of Michigan "Fab Five." Juwan Howard was the big, fundamentally sound extrovert who had a very close and strong family life / upbringing. Chris Webber was the ultra talented one with the most physical gifts. Jalen Rose had the mental toughness and drive to succeed on the court against all challengers and do everything on that court. Jimmy King and Ray Jackson would have been the top dogs of their own teams if they didn't go to Michigan -- and sacrificed for the good of the team. They all eventually would start as freshmen. (And not everyone was cool with that back then check out this video below)

The key parts that relate to what I'm getting at . . . watch the 21:00ish to 30:00ish parts.

And they thrived. They also made a lot of money for their team. They filled out arenas. They played an exciting brand of ball. They were good, but together, they did some really amazing things. And they were fun to watch and easy to root for. Furthermore, I guess, they brought about a new era and a great change in both the organization they represented -- but also the league they played in (NCAA).

Our young group, Enes Kanter (Juwon), Derrick Favors (Chris), Gordon Hayward (Jalen), Alec Burks (Jimmy), and "To-Be-Determined" (Ray) aren't as good, talented, or as cohesive as the people I link them with. But when they are on the court the fans care. And they do amazing, exciting things. They hit threes, they play defense, they score in transition, they dunk and score on crazy layups. They are unselfish and pass to one another. They play as a team.

They play Jazz basketball. And Jazz fans will always cheer, root, and support Jazz basketball.

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