Hi, my name is Amar. I'm a guy in my 30s who lives in the midwest. And I'm a basketball fan. And I watch the Utah Jazz.
I don't watch the Jazz because of some regional obligation to do so. I don't watch the Jazz because they are hip. Or are marketed to me. I watch the Jazz, and have been watching them since the 1980s, because I'm a basketball fan. And for my entire life as an NBA fan (8 presidential terms) the Utah Jazz have played exciting basketball.
Of course, most of the NBA fanbase around the world would disagree. Naturally, I think they are wrong - and they are wrong, but not because they are bad people or have poor logic skills. The majority of them are wrong because of ignorance. I'm the manager, editor, and head writer for the best Jazz blog on the internet. So, I'm going to take this opportunity, nay, responsibility, to educate some people.
The Utah Jazz are must watch basketball, and in 2012-2013 -- doubly so.
Problem One: Access and Exposure --
Back in the 1980s we did not have the internet. The national audience had very little access to every game on the NBA schedule. Don't even get me started on being an international NBA fan in the 1980s . . .don't even get me started. Of the few nationally televised games we would get a week a majority of the games played on the west coast were even put on tape delay - during the playoffs! (Note: Tape delay is that thing NBC did with the Olympics this summer that everyone was upset about.) A middle of the pack team in a small media market without any Top 10 draft picks did not get on TV often. (Okay, so Darrell Griffith was the #2 pick, and Adrian Dantley the #6 pick, SHUT UP!) The great equalizer of the time was the print media, and naturally newspapers were on such crazy deadlines that in some cases the final score (let alone a box score or recap) of a late Western Conference game wasn't even put in the sports section TWO days after the game was played.
Such was the struggle back then.
The Jazz were one such team that did not have a lot of exposure. And fans all over did not have access to them (unless you lived in the Beehive state).
If you have no access to a team, and no exposure to them -- they fall into the "out of sight / out of mind" cognitive quicksand. If Mark Eaton blocks three shots on one play, or Karl Malone dunks on two guys -- and no one is there to see it -- does it even happen?
On the national scale: no.
Problem Two: "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence." --
This one is easy, and doesn't even need a trip down technology's memory lane. If you watch basketball, and you don't see any Jazz highlights that means that when the Jazz play they do not produce plays worthy of being highlighted. Today we live in the digital era where 24 hour networks are constantly pushing new narratives and constructing new idols. Marketing and money rule. And the teams and players who make the most money and need to be marketed the most are in the large media markets. I know. I've lived everywhere from Los Angeles to London, England. And today you'll get the same off-season story of the New York Yankees, an update of Tiger Woods, a high light of David Beckham, and watch the same clip of the Los Angeles Lakers TWICE before seeing the quick flash of the Jazz score on the screen. Even in a game where the Jazz WIN (over the Lakers) THIS YEAR, ESPN showed only Kobe Bryant jumpers, and barely even mentioned that the Lakers lost. This happened a few days ago.
They didn't show any Jazz highlights. Therefore. Duh. The Jazz didn't have any in the game.
Sadly, for the rest of the NBA Fans outside of Utah, you're missing out on a ton of great plays by the Jazz. The absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence. Especially not now.
Problem Three: Self-perpetuating Ignorance --
The ONE time where the Jazz forced themselves into the spotlight (ONE is hyperbole here, the Jazz went to the Western Conference Finals five times in a seven year stretch -- but historical revisionism seems to meld their entire franchise history into one brief shining moment where Michael Jordan hits a jumper over Bryon Russell) has colored the minds of the casual fan and expert alike. Back then the Jazz were old, did not take many risks, did not have many flashy players (their flashiest player was 36 years old then, and doing ads for Rogaine), and predominantly 'scrappy'. (Read as: white) In the NBA Finals both teams were older, veteran squads. Both teams were on the ends of their windows. Both were not going to take any chances. And the average Pace for those 12 games (6 in '97, 6 in '98) was 82.9 possessions per game. As a point of reference, the Miami Heat / Oklahoma City Thunder Finals from last season had an average pace of 88.6 possessions per game. The lowest paced, most grind it out game from last finals was a 84.2 possession game. By contrast, three of the Jazz/Bulls games were in the 70s.
The point is that the majority of NBA fans, and paid "experts" only really saw the Jazz under the microscope during that era. And a lot of them have perceived that the Jazz have remained static since that time and now.
Last season (seriously, 14 years since the finals) former players who are now studio analysts on NBA TV loudly proclaimed that the Jazz are dangerous because they pick and roll you to death. Last season the Jazz ran 553 plays that ended with the ball handler on a pick and roll, and 287 plays where the play ended with the guy setting the screen on a pick and roll. That's a total of 840 offensive plays last year, over the entire season (66 regular season games and 4 playoff games). Let me do the math for you:
- Last season the Jazz, according to a dude whose f---ing JOB it is to know the NBA, pick and rolled you to death
- They ran 840 pick and rolls
- They played 70 games
- They had 7741 total offensive possessions
- They ran 12.0 pick and rolls per game
- That is 3.0 pick and rolls per quarter
- And pick and rolls were 10.8% of their entire offense
- 10.8% is "to death"
If the experts are this ignorant about our team, it's no surprise how ignorant they sound when they actually have their arms twisted behind their backs and are told to TALK about our team. Another expert, upon talking over some Jazz highlights -- including a Gordon Hayward block, explained "that's probably the only one he'll have in his career."
If the experts talk about this like it is fact then what hope do fans have of ever learning the truth about the Utah Jazz?
For the record, the 2012 Utah Jazz are not the 1998 Utah Jazz. And 6'8 Gordon Hayward is not 6'1 John Stockton. In fact, according to DraftExpress.com, Gordon basically had the same predraft combine results as Evan Turner. So. Yeah. And Hayward almost averages one block a game. Both the random national NBA expert and New York Knicks fan do not know that.
Problem Four: Actual Baseline Level of Basketball Knowledge --
Right now in the 2000-teens we have a group of basketball fans who, if they hear you say "Showtime", will correct you and say "it's actually pronounced 'Lake Show'...".
Really. People now were selected, primed, and groomed by the sexual predator like media to believe that running ugly isolation plays = good basketball, and normal. These are kids who believe, with all their hearts, that a Gilbert Arenas / Joe Johnson / Russell Westbrook isolation is the best Xs and Os can produce. And that anything that doesn't conform to that narrow perception must be wrong, and boring.
That's probably why they all wanna be like Mike (or actually Kobe, who waives off his team mates setting screens), and find team play where the 4th pass in an offensive set is just as important as the first one, to be alien, abhorrent, and inconceivable.
"The Jazz are boring because they lull the defense (and me, with my non-attention span) to sleep and get the statistically highest percentage shot available. They don't even take contested jumpers from 20 feet with 11 seconds on the shot clock."
If you've never seen Magic Johnson or Larry Bird get excited to be the guy who passes the ball to the guy who passes the ball to the guy who gets the assist then you'll never understand where I'm coming from. I grew up watching basketball teams play one another. And I root for a basketball team that plays basketball, which is a team game.
If you watch basketball to watch 4 second clips of singular events then you are missing the forest for the trees. But it's not just the disinterested ignorance of the vapid youth or incompetent media that's at blame. It's also the other smart NBA fans out there.
Problem Five: We now champion bad basketball --
The side show is on center stage now. With all the access and exposure we never had in the 80s what we watch has moved beyond the game of basketball. We want to watch what happens to the Washington Wizards this year, because it's a train wreck. We want to watch the Minnesota Timberwolves because Ricky Rubio is a pretty little deer, and Brandon Roy may have something left in the tank. We want to watch the Denver Nuggets, a talented team, because they have Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried, and JaVale McGee -- and not because they could be a Top 4 team in the league, but because we don't want to miss those 4 second clips of distinct basketball moments, and not 48 minute displays of basketball teamwork.
You may not know Andrew Unterberger, who occasionally contributes to The Basketball Jones (TBJ). He's an awesome NBA Fan, and close to my age and from the East coast. He's a Philly dude who actually watched a home game at all 30 NBA arenas two seasons ago. He knows what's up, lived through basketball in the 80s and 90s, and has seen every team play. He put out his list of team in terms of League Pass ranking. The Jazz are ranked 19 (down three spots from the year before). I don't think the Jazz are the top team to watch. We saw them stumble and fumble and bumble their way during the NBA playoffs against a team precisely built to exploit all of our faults in the San Antonio Spurs.
But really, 19?? The Charlotte Bobcats and Houston Rockets are both ahead of us in his rankings, but I don't know if Jeremy Lin or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist + no actual offensive gameplan = the type of basketball we smart fan-bloggers of the digital era should be trying to get the next generation of NBA fans to watch. If I was teaching people to understand and love the game I love I wouldn't do it by exposing them to a seemingly endless onslaught of one on one play and step back 20 footers. That's like teaching a women's study course by watching videos of angry mobs in Afghanistan and Pakistan shoot girls at point blank range for wanting to go to school. Instead of taking things back to the stone age I would make them watch teams that shared the ball, passed up good shots for better shots, and presented the viewer with and understanding of what this game can and should be about.
I would, essentially, watch the 2012-2013 Utah Jazz.
Why you should watch:
If you view basketball as a contest between two teams playing as teams, you should watch the Jazz -- because the Jazz have always played like a team. (I'm overlooking 70 or so games of Al the Conqueror ball here). It's as simple as that. If you need something more, more you'll get though:
If you are infatuated with those 4 section blips of the game in a 48 minute game, then you would be a fool to pass up on the Jazz. The four most impressive events today are three pointers, blocks, dunks, and buzzer beaters. If you combine any of the two within the same 4 second time frame, they become near timeless. Put any of them in the playoffs (and btw kids, HOU and CHA aren't making the playoffs this year), and they are beamed out to space for eternity like that Baron Davis offensive foul on Andrei Kirilenko during that gentleman's sweep a few seasons ago.
The Jazz did not shoot a lot of threes in the finals years, but did for a while have Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, and Mehmet Okur on the same squad and did rain death from above. Last season, though, the Jazz did not. So if you blinked you missed it. And if you didn't even bother to pay attention you would have also missed it -- and you would have thought the Jazz never changed. Well, this off-season the Jazz reloaded the catapult with a bunch of long distance threats in Mo Williams, Randy Foye, and Marvin Williams. They also had internal improvement from Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks -- who both have shown improved range in the preseason. Nearly 18% of all the shots the Jazz have taken in the 7 preseason games have been attempts from down town, and the Jazz are making 43.0% of those hoists. The Jazz are hitting threes.
Blocks? The Jazz were #4 in blocked shots last season. And they were #3 the season before. Quietly the Jazz have relocated to Swat Lake City, but no one really noticed because no one puts the Jazz on ESPN. The Jazz will be Top 5 in blocks this year too. And the blocks the Jazz are getting are insane blocks. Gordon Hayward had two in one play in transition in Boston last year. Derrick Favors emasculated Gortat here, Tiago here, and countless others last season. And we all saw Jeremy Evans take Turiaf's soul TWICE in four seconds here.
Man, forget the links. I'm embedding these.
Wow. If this was still the 1980s, me --as an international Jazz fan in the Eastern Standard Time Zone-- would have never seen or HEARD of any of these blocks. Or be a disinterested NBA fan who thinks the Jazz are boring.
What about dunks? Well, the Jazz weren't low on the dunks before (unless you are working for 2K Sports, this video is factual and a product of our shared basketball viewing history). The Jazz aren't just a one man dunking team either. We weren't before (Darrell Griffith / Blue Edwards / David Benoit, etc), but that's not what average NBA history admits. Right now the Utah Jazz are filled with better athletes than ever before.
This is not hyperbole either. Jeremy Evans can touch 12'5" ... Derrick Favors is a beast .. Enes Kanter can bulldoze people .. Hayward can get up, and sometimes I wonder if Burks will ever return to the ground. Last season Kanter and Favors had a rebound dunk on the same missed shot. Yeah, they both rebounded the miss, and both dunked it. Betcha didn't know that happened. Maybe if you watched more Jazz games you wouldn't miss those 4 second sequences that we champion over team play.
There are way too many Jazz dunks from last season alone to embed here though, even our least played guy is the NBA Dunk Champion.
Oh, by the way, this team still has Paul Millsap on it -- the most underrated clutch guy in the game today. He's had both buzzer beating threes and buzzer beating rebound dunks in his career, and even both of those just last season (clutch buzzer beating threes vs. Toronto, rebound dunk buzzer beater vs. Dallas). He's also that guy from that Miracle in Miami game as well.
Even our most boring dude, Al Jefferson, has had a game winning putback buzzer beating dunk/contact layup/tip in -- from two seasons ago. No one talked about it though because no one nationally saw it, so it didn't happen.
If you care about these highlights then you can't sleep on the Jazz. If you care about team play, running in transition, making the extra pass, then you'd be an idiot to sleep on the Jazz. And if you have all the access in the world, and still overlook them, then you are perpetuating ignorance.
People today, other NBA Bloggers, still crack jokes about the Jazz being white (both Ball Don't Lie and SB Nation, I have a list of names...), while last season the Jazz only had two non-black guys . . . and one of them was a Muslim dude. Way to break the narrative Jazz. Why you gotta be so damn interesting now?
Or maybe the Utah Jazz were always interesting -- but no one outside of the Utah bubble cared as much as we do here at SLC Dunk? Well, being the defacto boss here, and erstwhile champion fan of the Jazz, I had to write this post.
And really, I understand why you may not watch the Jazz or think they are boring. I really do. I just think that if you do think that you need to watch them more, because the Jazz, over my lifetime as an NBA fan (which is longer than my lifetime as a Jazz fan), they never have been. I've just been honest and objective enough to watch them for decades.
Yes we are. Because we watch the Utah Jazz.