While the Utah Jazz have seen plenty of change in the past few months, it seems to have all been for the better.
For years, the Jazz were the poster organization for stability in professional sports. Same owner, same coach, same stars, same building with the same name, same success year after year. Since John Stockton and Karl Malone retired, though, it's been a different story. Injuries to Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer, mood swings from Deron Williams, exasperation from Jerry Sloan and frustration from Ty Corbin have made for a difficult, tumultuous decade.
But now, with a new head coach and still-pretty-new general manager in place, the Jazz could be setting up a new era of stability. Of course, that all depends on how well the leadership pieces fit together. But the potential is there.
To wit: As part of ESPN's ongoing Summer Forecast predictions, they listed the top 5 teams "in turmoil" to start next season. The Jazz were not among them. In fact, the Jazz weren't even one of the 23 teams receiving votes.
Now, on one hand, that might just speak to the Jazz's relative irrelevance in the NBA landscape going into next season. After all, the team isn't expected to be competitive, and so it's hard to have "turmoil" when those expectations are low.
Still, it's nice to think that there might be light at the end of the long tunnel of rebuilding the Jazz have traveled through over the past 10 years or so. There's a real sense of optimism for the first time in quite a while. And that feels good.
We're still not sure about Gordon Hayward's Team USA status. He didn't get off the bench in an exhibition game on Saturday, but he's got two more chances -- today against the Dominican Republic and Friday against Puerto Rico -- to make an impression. As we've discussed here, the injury to Paul George opened a swingman spot on the roster, but Hayward is by no means the only candidate to fill it.
Here's ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton on Hayward's odds:
Hayward and Parsons have had similar summers in basketball terms, teaming up for USA Basketball after both signing new contracts as restricted free agents paying them nearly $15 million next season. (Since Hayward got married over the summer while Parsons has been linked to reality stars, the comparisons end there.)
Given relatively similar games, they're likely fighting for one spot on the roster for a player capable of handling both forward positions. Rudy Gay, who also fits that description, is more certain of a spot. Parsons' superior strength and history of playing as a small-ball 4 in the NBA tilt the needle his direction.
So, not good, then.
While it would undoubtedly be a cool experience for Gordon to make the final roster -- and might help validate his massive new contract -- I'm not sure it matters that much in the long run. I'd just as soon have Hayward rested and ready for training camp than getting tired and possibly injured (see also: George, Paul) by playing in a relatively unimportant tournament. This isn't the Olympics, and players like Kevin Durant have already bowed out for flimsy reasons. I wouldn't mind at all if Hayward got a bit more of a break.
I mean, those mid lanes ain't gonna carry themselves.
(That is an arcane reference to a computer game even I don't understand. Let's just move on.)
FanPost time! Got just a pair for you this week. First, JuMu has actually gone through the whole Jazz schedule and predicted the result of each game, complete with a couple lines of commentary. Be sure to click through and check them out...and bookmark the post to see how close he got throughout the season. Daring work, sir. I salute your willingness to possibly be completely wrong.
Our other featured FanPost comes from Erich G, who put together a spreadsheet showing every team's highest single-season win total since 1979-80, in an effort to predict which teams will set new records:
At the bottom of the list you have the Wizards at 45 wins, Raptors at 48, Nets at 52 and Hornets at 54. All of these teams made the playoffs last year, and the Wiz, Raps and Hornets all improved during the off season. The Raptors and Wizards have the best chance in my mind to increase their win total, needing only one and two more wins respectively, to do so. The Hornets would have to improve by 13 games (!) to break their record, not an easy task.
Thanks for your contributions, folks!
It's the end of an era: Longtime NBA referee and sometime Jazz nemesis Dick Bavetta has officially retired. The Trib's Aaron Falk puts this in context:
Among Bavetta's career achievements:
• A league record for consecutive games officiated.
• Refereeing 270 playoff games.
• And officiating in 27 Finals games.
It's the last one for which he'll likely be remembered around Utah.
Bavetta was one of the officials for Game 6 of the 1998 Finals. And his call- later shown in replays to be incorrect - disallowing a Howard Eisley 3-pointer in the second quarter cost the Jazz a crucial bucket in what ended as a 87-86 win for the Chicago Bulls.
Our own Moni, because she is The Best Human, transcribed a Karl Malone radio interview in 2012 where he says Bavetta apologized during the following preseason for screwing up the Eisley call. Which, you know, doesn't give the Jazz the championship they might have deserved, but whatever.
The other indelible memory of Dick Bavetta is, of course, the time Charles Barkley "kissed Dick in the mouth."
You probably already saw this image circulate through the NBA blogosphere on Tuesday, but in case you missed it: Dante Exum still sleeps with a giant teddy bear, apparently?
That pic is from the Instagram account of Joe Engles, Dante's Aussie teammate. No idea if it's part of a publicity stunt or what -- and given Exum's media savvy and endorsement/PR hustle, it wouldn't surprise me -- but it's pretty darn adorable either way.