Tonight the Utah Jazz will host the Portland Trail Blazers. My integral Jazz fandom is partly linked to the Blazers and a hate for their Clyde Drexler / Terry Porter teams. So, this game means more in general. As for reality these two Northwest division teams are far apart. Last year Portland, under Terry Stotts, won 54 games on their way to the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, where they bowed out in five against the eventual NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Even if that was the case the momentum is with this young squad, especially after beating the always over-hyped Houston Rockets in the first round. On the other side of the coin the Utah Jazz struggled all season long and was too close to mediocre to end up scoring a once in a generation talent -- no Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker for Utah. They did get Dante Exum, so that's not all bad.
Tonight both of their seasons 'start', with a 7 pm MT game in the EnergySolutions Arena.
Portland will be bringing back Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dorrell Wright, Thomas Robinson, and others -- though the fear is that the bench will continue to be an issue this year. Steve Blake, Diante Garrett, C.J. McCollum (drafted last year), and Chris Kaman look to help them get over that 2nd round hump this year.
Our Jazz team is filled with hope and promise, if not actual on-court success or even the respect from the refs yet.
It's going to be a fun game. Particularly the interplay between their talented back-court and ours will determine much of the game. It's the pre-season after all. If those Ian Clark or Carrick Felix types can make their open jumpers it make change how the game goes. OF course, I don't really expect Ian Clark or Carrick Felix to play as Carrick is out for at least a month with spain of his AC joint. Clark has a sprained left ankle and patella tendinitis. The other only injury of note is that Rodney Hood is day-to-day with a strained right hip flexor. So, your guess is as good as mine when it comes down to our rotation tonight. I do know that Trey Burke and Dante Exum will have their hands full with Damian Lillard -- but so does every team in the league. Or universe.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Kaman, Thomas Robinson, and Robin Lopez will make life hard for Derrick Favors -- but he has backup this year in a more effective Enes Kanter, bruiser Trevor Booker, and "he was always ready to play" Rudy Gobert.
Overall I think our bench is better than theirs. But their starters are All-Stars, All-NBA guys, and National team players. So. Yeah. Fun.
I hope to see this transition defense we've heard so much about, but moreso, it's never too early to start figuring out how our coach wants the team to play pick and rolls. I'm not worried about our offense, it'll come when our players are ready to master it. The defense is the more immediate worry to me.
It's going to be a fun game and a fun season.
And if you are going to the game, take pictures and share them with us online!