Maybe it's because Enes Kanter was in town last night, but I have wrestling on my mind. I promise I'll make this relevant. (Or you can just skip to item 2.) Also: Derrick Favors dunks, Rodney Hood has upside, and the Jazz are in the top half of the Most Interesting Power Rankings In The World. It's your Tuesday Downbeat at the good ship Dunk, and Shums has the conn. Take us in, helmsman.
On Sunday night, a wrestler named Roman Reigns (not his real name) won the WWE championship for about five minutes.
WWE has a certain match, held once a year, called Money In The Bank. The winner gets a no-questions-asked title match whenever he wants. Usually, he chooses to cash in the opportunity when a new or current champ has just suffered through an exhausting match, giving the challenger an advantage and often an instant win to steal the belt away.
(Obviously, wrestling is fake and the storylines are written in advance. That's not the point.)
Anyway, on Sunday night, Roman Reigns finally won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which he got to enjoy for about five minutes, until a very big, very Irish dude named Sheamus -- no, WWE isn't very creative with names sometimes -- cashed in his Money In The Bank opportunity, kicked an unsuspecting Reigns in the face, and pinned him for the belt.
That's kinda how last night's Jazz game felt. We know the Jazz have had flaws this season, but this year was supposed to be the first step in Utah's rise to the top. And other teams in the West have had their issues, too, so the metaphorical belt has been there for the taking. (I'm choosing to ignore the superhuman Warriors in this analogy.)
Then Kevin Durant came back and kicked us in the face.
Remember when the Jazz lost to the Thunder in the preseason, prompting an S-tier rant from Quin Snyder about the Jazz's readiness? Apparently that lesson didn't take yet. On the other hand, moments like these are opportunities for the Jazz to show perseverance, as Jody Genessy reports:
One thing the Jazz have shown in the month since that 113-102 lesson of a loss is resiliency.
Utah has bounced back from adverse situations and results time and time again early in the season. That happened again Friday when the Jazz made a competitive game in Dallas after a horrid second quarter led to them falling behind by 20 points.
"I think we're really resilient. We know it's 82 games. We could win three games in a row and know that the next game could be one of our worst games if we allow it to be," Burke said. "We could lose three games in a row and the next game could be our best game.
Of course, that comment came before Monday night's loss. On the other hand, that means now is the perfect time to show that resiliency.
If you follow wrestling for long enough, you start to get a sense of the athletes the WWE likes and doesn't like, and who they want to write into high-profile storylines. Roman Reigns has been earmarked for superstardom for a couple years now, but early efforts to push him into the spotlight were met with resistance from the WWE audience. Reigns just wasn't ready yet.
The Jazz aren't, either. They're not the Thunder. Not yet. But I do believe they're earmarked for greatness. It might take a few more boots to the face to get there. But that belt's coming.
No, not that one. The real one.
Okay, no more wrestling talk.
Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie blog is doing a new feature this year called Most Interesting Power Rankings, which rate not only a team's success but also their interest to the general NBA audience. The Jazz come in at 10th in the latest edition:
Every time I watch the Jazz, they're playing their tails off, grinding out possessions knowing that they're often at a disadvantage in terms of offensive firepower (especially with Gordon Hayward making just 41 percent of his shots and 30 percent of his 3s). Rudy Gobert's a monster who will protect the rim even if it nearly kills him. Derrick Favors is one of the NBA's best and toughest two-way bigs. Alec Burks is a freaking weapon.
Trey Burke's hot shooting might tail off soon, but Rodney Hood's should pick up. Joe Ingles and Raul Neto are crafty with the ball. Quin Snyder's staff keeps Utah well-drilled. There's a funkiness to this roster — one that might ultimately be at its best playing two bigs, three wings and no point guards — that remains stylistically appealing to me, even if their games tend to be low-scoring slugfests.
Utah will always be a small-market team, and average NBA watchers probably won't care much about the Jazz, but it's nice to know that national folks think the team's worth following.
One FanPost for you this week, as hansenjames examines a most Machiavellian plan from Quin Snyder:
Much was said about Quin Snyder's visit to Seattle and meeting with Pete Carroll and learning from his style of coaching and gain some insight.
First off, this is what makes me love Quin. He's literally spent decades going to all parts of the world to learn from all types of coaches. Including coaches from differing sports. He wants to learn because he wants to win. And, like the mad scientist he is, Quin will try to find whatever ingredient he can to set his team over the top. And I think I just realized that Quin discovered one of these ingredients from the Seahawks.
He wants the Jazz to get fouls. He WANTS Derrick to get two fouls in the second quarter.
Ooooohhh his plan is so devious. I love it so much.
Fansided's DJoumbarey A. Moreau takes a look at Rodney Hood's development:
Hood originally was brought into the starting lineup because of his ability to facilitate the offense. Nevertheless, one of the biggest weaknesses of the team right now is their lack of playmakers. Hood himself is a playmaker and has the skills necessary to set his teammates up for easy shots.
This season Hood is almost doubling up his career average of 1.7 assists per game and is averaging 3.1 assists a night. Hood has also totaled at least four assists or more on five different occasions in the early beginning of the season. Having someone who can help rookie point guard Raul Neto get teammates easier shots is a vital skill that will be necessary when the season gets into the thick of things.
The other week, when I had the extremely good fortune to take in a Jazz game from courtside, I mentioned how intelligent Rodney Hood was, but that it didn't always show up in his play, because his brain moved faster than his body. That was evident in Monday's game, too.
Hood could just run a side P&R, but instead he passes to Gobert for a hand-off for no reason, turnover, then takes a clear path foul. Bad.— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) November 24, 2015
Andy Larsen got this quote from Quin after the game on the Jazz's collective dumbness:
Quin Snyder: "We are making dumb plays on defense that I know we know not to make. It's just a lack of concentration collectively."— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) November 24, 2015
We don't really think of the Jazz as a super-young team any more, because Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors seem like they've been around forever. But it's good to remember that key role players like Hood are still so young. I have no doubt that Rodney's body will catch up with his brain soon.
Speaking of "getting it," Derrick Favors got the proverbial yam: