For several years, ever since Deron Williams was traded, we've known the Jazz needed a star or two. After all, the only starless team to win it all in the past 30 years is the '04 Detroit thing.
So the rhetoric goes.
Which is somewhat bogus, because the Pistons did have a star. A mega-star. A superstar. The casual fan just didn't realize it because he didn't score points like "superstars" are supposed to. But in terms of effectiveness and impact on the games, Ben Wallace — 4 time defensive player of the year — was genuinely a star.
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It's probably jumping the gun a bit to say that Rudy Gobert is going to be a star (Not the star we wanted, but the star we needed). But still ... what a fun little run we've seen with him in the starting lineup.
It's been a long time since I've seen a player impact the game as much as Rudy Gobert—probably not since AK in his prime. And I suppose it's a decent comparison, because AK's impact was not measured by his scoring either. And it's not just Rudy's blocks and rebounds and defensive plays. It's the way all nine other players seem to have their paths warped by his presence—some may want to call Rudy a Black Hole, but I think I prefer Dark Matter.
And Dark Matter tonight gave the Jazz 11 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. Unreal.
There's a lot of other things we could point out about this game:
- Derrick Favors, in early foul trouble, ended with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals
- Gordon Hayward with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and a block
- Trey Burke giving the team 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists
- Trevor Booker coming off the bench with 15 points, 8 rebounds, an assist, and a block
- Joe Ingles chipping in here and there for 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal
- Elijah Millsap playing hard and strong defense off the bench
But I can't stop thinking about Gobert. This Bulls team with Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler is a very good offensive team, unlike Bulls teams of the recent past. And they were smothered. Every shot was contested and hard—and folks, it's been a long time since we could write this about a Jazz game.
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My last thought: It struck me during the game ... as well as afterwards, looking at the box score ... that the kind of lineups and contributions we got tonight seemed pretty ideal:
- A starting lineup made up of three scorers, a high efficiency-low usage rim protector, and a garbage man.
- A bench made up of one major scorer and a bunch of guys doing a lot of little things
I have two hunches about this:
- The lineup we saw tonight will probably not fill these roles so effectively all the time. For the team to reach its best, there's probably still some discoveries to make.
- The role distribution we saw tonight may be the ideal way for DL to continue building the team.
This surprises me a bit. I thought one more major scorer in the starting lineup would work well. But ... I don't know. Tonight's performance was so good that it's hard say that what we saw isn't the Platonic Ideal Jazz team. I really liked the clarity with Hayward and Favors the clear go-to scorers. I liked the efficiency that came from Ingles and Gobert not trying to do everything, but rather to try to do their specific roles really well. I liked the major scorer off the bench that all their activity seemed to revolve around.
What a game. Jazz are 8-7 since the losing streak. I recapped almost all of those seven losses. But tonight I got to do a win. Thanks, Rudy.