The Downbeat #1331 -- The "Thank you all so much" Edition

Ezra Shaw

Thank you all so very much for so much.

Wow. Another season is in the books for the Utah Jazz, and by relation, all of us here at SLC Dunk. That doesn't mean the fun stops. No, we're still going to try to cover all the off-season with the same thoroughness you've come to expect from us. But first, I wanted to say thank you.

It's been a year of bad basketball, and poor behavior by different groups of fans at different times. We re-hashed the same issues up all season long as none of them were fixed (save for the last 4 games of the year). The team didn't win. The team also lost at home more than ever before in Utah history. The team wasn't fun to watch. And we fought a lot.

But you stuck with us, just as we're sticking with the Jazz. It means a lot to me because I've been putting in some work here or there at the site. So thank you for visiting and giving SLC Dunk the highest traffic in all our years as a blog. And it came in the worst season in Utah Jazz history. That tells me a lot about a) the true heart of Jazz fans, and b) what we're doing right at this site.

Thank you to all of the lurkers, commenters, fanposters, and regulars. You are my family online, and you are all loved -- even the ones I disagree with.

Thank you to the Utah Jazz for being something, even in smaller and smaller doses, that we can love. The franchise is close to all of our hearts and will always remain so. I look forward to the time when we can once again cheer for every win. The world will make sense again then.

Thank you to SB Nation for having our backs, giving us a physical place to play and host all of our ramblings. Thank you to all the other people who write or produce content about this team -- from other bloggers (Andy Larsen, to name one), YouTube video makers, people who make GIFS, and the great people who write about this team game to game, city to city -- Jody and Aaron. You guys rock.

Thanks to the Utah Jazz support staff, Billy is such a Wizard and always approachable. I can't wait to see the new changes at the .com coming up.

And most of all, thank you to the other regular writers here. Each downbeat I read is a chance for me to be a fan again. Each breakdown of trades or free agency helps me learn more. Each podcast I hear makes me happy and laugh again. Each gif from Moni or Basketball John makes me shake my head at how talented some other people are. And each rant I read raises my passion for this franchise once again to fanatic levels.

I love the Utah Jazz. I love the people of SLC Dunk. And I love writing for you all.

Thank you for making this community a home for us miserable people.

#BurgersareReady

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I don't know where to put this, so I'll just add it here. Andrei Kirilenko is opening up the first Hooters Restaurant franchise in Russia, and plans on opening up several more when all is said and done.

Think AK-47 is worried that his restaurant will fail, seeing that Russia is trying to drive McDonald's out of the country after its restaurants in Crimea were forced to close due to "supply problems?"

"What do politics have to do with a sports bar?" Kirilenko, 33, said by phone from New York. The Nets will begin the NBA playoffs this weekend.

"Russians and Americans are more alike than different - huge sports fans who are looking for great food and good times," Kirilenko said. "When you've got waitresses that look like ours, it's a slam dunk.'

Boobs, beer and overpriced chicken wings as a means to world peace? That might just be crazy enough to work.

- Jeff Greenwell, BlackSportsOnline.com, 2014

It can't possibly go as bad for him as that boutique shop Masha opened up at the Gateway. (Fleur de Lis)

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The NBA has named the Utah Jazz ' "Junior Jazz" as the league's top youth program!

The NBA has named the youth basketball program of the Utah Jazz as the league’s best at a recent group sales/ticketing meeting in Orlando, recognizing the largest and longest running youth program in the NBA. Having completed its 31st season in 2014, Junior Jazz annually engages more than 50,000 youth and 13,000 volunteers in a seven-state region.

"This award is shared with all the recreational centers, clubs and community centers that partner with the Jazz to provide a tremendous youth experience that teaches fundamental basketball skills and connects to the game at the professional level," said Randy Rigby, president of the Utah Jazz. "Junior Jazz has touched many lives through the years with an emphasis on being active, having fun and displaying good sportsmanship."

Participants of the Junior Jazz program receive a jersey, photo of current Jazz team, Junior Jazz identification card, certificate of participation and an opportunity to attend a Utah Jazz regular season game. Jazz players also hosted 14 clinics in January and February for thousands of Junior Jazz participants at area schools and facilities.

At the end of the season, the franchise hosted the Junior Jazz Sportsmanship Party for nearly 1,000 boys and girls at EnergySolutions Arena. The event honored and rewarded teams that best exemplified sportsmanlike conduct throughout the season with Jazz players Rudy Gobert, Malcolm Thomas and Marvin Williams in attendance to offer congratulations, pass out certificates and shoot hoops with the winning youth. The Junior Jazz Sportsmanship Program was launched in 2005 in an effort to highlight the importance of fair play and respect on the court.

Another highlight is the Fun Shot program, an individual shooting competition where Junior Jazz participants competed in local and regional contests with the chance to advance to the finals on the court at EnergySolutions Arena.

Each summer select Jazz players participate in a regional barnstorming tour, conducting basketball clinics, signing autographs and interacting with youth. Last year’s three-week, 4,000-mile road trip in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho featured 42 clinics for 2,000 youth.

- NBA.com, 2014

If you were part of Jr. Jazz, holler in the comments section. Also, who do you think will be joining "new rookie 2014" on the trip? I think we'll see a mix of faces old and news, and at differing lengths of commitment. I can only imagine that Gobert would be a huge hit at this because of all the awkward Giraffe moments.

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So the Jazz have a shot at the #1 draft spot this year. There are plenty of reasons why a team would want this spot, especially this year with all the presumed talent leading this draft class. Two important things need to be discussed here -- no matter what happens with the draft lotto the actual on court product was bad this year.

Ed Kupher posted this graph on twitter:


And yeah, not so hot. The Jazz were in the quadrant that was both "Boring" and "Bad". (Inefficient offense, and slow pace) Which is the opposite quadrant that Derrick Favors would want to be. Utah was the only Western conference team to be there. The pace is a huge deal, but I'm not going to bring it up again -- beyond stating that starting a SF at PF and then playing slow is like putting a condom on to go to Church.

Matt Moore (of everywhere, and every network) dropped a bomb a few days ago, suggesting that "Bad basketball is about bad choices, not tanking." Read it, it's a vicious deconstruction of tanking, or a deconstruction of the idea of tanking, while exposing what we should be really mad about.

Why in the hell are we so worked up about tanking?

This is the NBA's chic issue in the media this year. There's little indication from the casual fans I've spoken to that they understand what it is, let alone why it's an issue. But I've heard it discussed as everything from the end of competitive spirit to the reason TV ratings are down, despite none of the tanking teams having regular national TV appearances.

This isn't some defense of Adam Silver's hilariously blase "I don't think there's any tanking going on" motto from earlier this year. Of course teams are tanking. I actually love that the Sixers have been so brazen about it. It makes the healing process go faster. You don't drag the Bynum-shaped arrow out of the wound an inch at a time, you rip the sucker out so you can get to mending.

The Sixers tanked, they set their team up for failure. The Magic tanked, they didn't (foolishly) aggressively pursue improvements, letting their young core percolate this season.The Magic are brewing a strong batch, and they're not going to rush the drip.

And.... that's it. We're out of tanking teams, folks.

"But the Jazz!" you scream. Look, if the Jazz were tanking? They'd have dished off Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, not signed one to a massive extension. The Jazz were fine with a bad record, because they didn't have any choice. They didn't aim for this kind of failure, they just didn't step out of the way of the train coming at them. Or tank, if you prefer. Plus, let's be honest. If the Jazz played in the Eastern Conference they might have been fighting for a playoff spot by year's end.

"But the Celtics!" you cry. Well, first off, if everyone's favorite competitor-to-the-end, Danny Ainge, insists they're not tanking, I'm going to take him at his word and simply acknowledge that he built a crappy team. After all, Jeff Green was supposed to make the leap (didn't happen), Rajon Rondo was supposed to come back early (didn't happen) and Kelly Olynyk was supposed to be a Rookie of the Year candidate (even with a terrible field, that didn't happen). The Celtics would have been fine with success. It just didnt' happen for them.

Meanwhile, six of the top ten lottery teams had serious intentions of making the playoffs this season. The Bucks are the obvious pick. We're yelling and hollering about the downfall of basketball with tanking, while the Bucks spent significant money in horrible ways last summer! They were supposed to be mediocre, not terrible, but stuff happens. When they gave Zaza Pachulia (a good player who I wish upon wish was able to help a playoff team right now) a multi-year deal, that should have been a warning sign.

And while everyone's, pardon the term, hating on the Sixers, who feature a young, raw, athletic lineup that pushes the ball and loses because of their mistakes, the Los Angeles Lakers were on national television 25 times this season with a roster that featured Nick Young, Chris Kaman, and Robert Sacre as free agent signings. You can point to Kobe's injury, and sure, that was the biggest part of it as were Nash and Pau Gasol's injuries, but still. This roster is horrid. And they tried to be good. They are the "Dance, Dance, Revolution" of NBA teams.

- Matt Moore, CBS, April 16, 2014

Yeah. It's a longer read, and ranty, but worth it.

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The NBA Playoffs start today. There are some interesting match-ups if you are following along:

Western Conf Eastern Conf
1 Spurs (62-20) 1 Pacers (56-26)
8 Mavericks (49-33) 8 Hawks (38-44)
Series: 4-0 SAS Series: 2-2 TIE
4 Rockets (54-28) 4 Bulls (48-34)
5 Trail Blazers (54-28) 5 Wizards (44-38)
Series: 3-1 HOU Series: 2-1 WAS
3 Clippers (57-25) 3 Raptors (48-34)
6 Warriors (51-31) 6 Nets (44-38)
Series: 2-2 TIE Series: 2-2 TIE
2 Thunder (59-23) 2 Heat (54-28)
7 Grizzlies (50-32) 7 Bobcats (43-39)
Series: 3-1 OKC Series: 4-0 MIA

I'm not really worried about San Antonio or Indiana. And I think that Miami should destroy Charlotte. But the rest are somewhat all interesting to me for a variety of reasons. In the East the CHI/WAS and TOR/BKN match-ups could be amazing. Bulls have a great defense, but are on shaky ground against point guards with skill. John Wall has to be at his best for them to give the Bulls trouble. This could be a 'name' series that NBA TV shows years from now, like when Isiah Thomas scored 25 points in a quarter on a sprained ankle. As for the Raps / Nets. These teams have played each other in the playoffs before, don't like each other, and have beef. It's a team of young guys vs a team of old guys. Lots of story lines there when you also incorporate all the trades that have happened between these two teams from the same division.

Out West, well, it's the Wild Wild West. Houston and Portland have the same record and this is going to be a very well matched 4/5 seed. LaMarcus Aldridge against Dwight Howard. Damian Lillard against James Harden. Nic Batum against Chandler Parsons. And so forth. Fun stuff. The Clippers should destroy the Warriors without Andrew Bogut, which is satisfying to watch. And the Thunder against the Grizzlies -- a tough match-up in deeper rounds -- is now a first round slugfest. Kevin Durant is playing better than he ever has before, and the grit and grind Grizz will managed 50 wins this year with all their injuries.

It appears that no team will get to the final four unbloodied save for, perhaps, the Spurs.

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