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Game 76 Recap: Jazz 96 vs. Nuggets 113

Sorry, this didn't turn out to be much of a recap. At least not of the game. But a recap of two teams that went in very different directions two years ago. Tonight's game was just another result of this divergence.

Hayward's possibly better. Gallo's been given the leadership role. Oh, and the Nuggets are so much better than the Jazz it's just silly.
Hayward's possibly better. Gallo's been given the leadership role. Oh, and the Nuggets are so much better than the Jazz it's just silly.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

—Robert Frost

February 21, 2011:

February 22-23, 2011:

  • Denver traded Carmelo Anthony for Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Ray Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mosgov, a 2014 1st round pick, and two 2nd round picks
  • Utah traded Deron Williams for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and two first round picks.

Since that trade:

  • The Utah Jazz have gone 81-84. They completely fell apart after Deron left and missed the playoffs in 2011, made the 8th seed in 2012 and got their butts infamously kicked by the Spurs, and are now struggling to get another 8th seed and similar butt-kicking in the first round of the playoffs.
  • The Jazz turned one first round pick into Enes Kanter, traded Devin Harris for Marvin Williams, and are still waiting on the final pick in the deal.
  • The Denver Nuggets have gone 107-59. They won 50 games and made it to the playoffs in 2011, made the playoffs again in 2012, and are now probably the fourth best team in the NBA.
  • The Denver Nuggets traded Felton for Andre Miller and turned the first round pick into Andre Iguodala. They still have the two second round picks.

And last night:

The Nuggets destroyed the Jazz 113-96 at The Solution. The Nuggets were happy, because it helps them on their quest to prove they are one of the four best teams in the NBA. The Jazz were sad, because it hinders their quest to prove they are barely mediocre enough to make the playoffs.

* * *

Way to go, Kevin O'Connor. Way to go, Tyrone Corbin. Way to go, Utah Jazz. What an incredible 3-year run this has been.

* * *

And yes: I am so freaking ready to move on from the current era. I cannot fathom what our front office has been thinking all this time. You don't MAKE that Deron trade in the first place if you are obsessed with winning as much as possible now. You don't MAKE the kind of ongoing roster moves that have been going on all this time if you care about winning as much as possible now. Seriously: Marvin Williams, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Josh Howard, Jamaal Tinsley ... these are the moves to help the team win now?

Come on ... look at Denver: Two high quality PG's (Ty Lawson and Andre Miller), four good wings (Gallo, Iggy, Chandler, Brewer), three high qualtiy bigs (Faried, McGee, Koufos). That's a roster that freaking makes sense. That's a roster built on a coherent vision (speed, high percentage shots, and enough defense to be good ... you know, the Deron/AK/Boozer/Memo team vision).

Instead we have a team of four high quality bigs, one high quality wing, no decent PG's, and one guy who may be good but the coach can't be bothered to play him enough to figure it out.

Sure, it'd be nice to have a PG worth something, but it's too scary to find one.

* * *

Trapped by conservatism, paralyzed by cowardice, coached via incompetence ... that's our team.

Our coach can't even figure who the team's best players are. He doesn't know how to draw up a play, and he doesn't have a plan on defense. He ignores the strengths of 90% of his roster to focus on a skill of one guy ... even though he's not actually that great at post ups.

Our front office hasn't figured out that having four good big guys and no good PG's is ridiculous.

For Pete's sake: the entire philosophy about drafting the best player available is based on the assumption that if you end up with a redundancy issue in a position, you can make a trade to eliminate the redundancy and gain a high-quality player in a spot you were once weak.

But no: our team doesn't work that way. Our team's vision is to seek after players who suck so badly that nobody else wants them ... and hope that, miraculously, they transform like Cinderella. Oh, and play these guys instead of all those high draft picks that you traded away a franchise player for.

* * *

We saw something tonight. We saw two teams, once in the exact same spot, that made drastically different decisions in the two years since. And we saw the results.

There's no going back, at this point. The trades were made, the two teams set forth on different paths. One team chose the return it wanted; the other took the leftovers. One team immediately went about putting together a coherent roster that makes sense; the other postponed. One team has shown tangible, ongoing improvement over three years; the other has had year-over-year regression. One team went about rebuilding and restructuring the roster, jumping at each step as soon as it was available; the other has postponed change. One team handed the keys to the team to the new guys; the other keeps telling us "they're not ready."

* * *

You blew it, Jazz.

You screwed up. The records, the quality of these two teams right now, they speak for themselves. And note what kind of team Denver is: A young team with both a promising future and among the better teams today, filled with players who are still improving, led by a high-quality coach, balanced by experienced vets who have tangible skills that help teams win, and built on depth and teamwork rather than one high-profile superstar.

The Denver Nuggets are exactly the kind of team the Jazz have tried, and failed, to construct.

And if you want something better, then you have to change what you have been doing. You have to change how you fill out a roster. You have to change how you decide what players to find. You have to change how you decide which players deserve playing time. You have to change how you fill out the roles. You have to change how you maximize players' strengths. You have to change what you consider good coaching.

* * *

I hope we make the playoffs this year. I still think it's the most likely outcome, though it becomes more and more of a 50/50 chance every day.

But more than that, I hope the front office finally, this off-season, gets the courage to move on. I hope we can finally see change.