It is now September, and we are only a month from training camp and pre-season. Personally I can't wait to find out which player is "in the best shape of his life." (P.S. It's going to be Trey). Nor can I wait to see certain Jazz radio guys act all buddy-buddy with the players and magically turn interviews with them about themselves.
I do, however, regret that we likely won't have any of the following re-enactments:
- Andrei Kirilenko showing up with a hairstyle that makes us all think: "Dude, like have you even looked in the mirror to see what that looks like?"
- Fes showing up with bleached hair while Jerry responds exactly like how my own grandma responded when my cousin showed up to our annual Easter dinner with a pink mohawk
- Donyell Marshall being asked about being able to take over the alpha dog role and lead the Jazz back to the promised land, even while KSL shows a clip of him being blocked by some random roster invite during a scrimmage. This is my favorite random training camp memory of all time.
Amar mentioned it in yesterday's DB, but I wanted to bring up again Nylon Calculus's article on Rudy Gobert by Andrew Johnson. As Jazz fans, we all get excited to hear things like "Rudy Gobert is unlikely to fail" and we get sad whenever we see things like No Jazzman is listed as a "Might be a First-time All-Star this year".
Right now, it's all we have to talk about because, of course, it's freaking September. But ultimately, it doesn't matter. Someone's going to underrate the Jazz in preseason rankings, but somebody else is going to overrate them. They will make the playoffs or not, completely independent of any preseason predictions. Whether or not a Jazzman is an All-Star this year depends on (a) somebody playing well enough to deserve it and (b) the team playing well enough to get lots of attention ... not September soothsayers.
It reminds me of Henry Fleming in Red Badge of Courage trying to "mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle." You can't mathematically prove the Jazz are good or bad or this player will or won't make an All-Star team before the season starts, and so it doesn't matter.
Personally, I'm simply excited. I'm excited because:
- The Jazz have a legitimate leader on the team in Rudy Gobert, a good coach who really gets players to develop their games, and a good GM who has been able to build a team according to a consistent vision.
- The Jazz have as good a shot as any team I've ever seen to jump from lottery to playoffs
- The Jazz have a fun mix of guys we feel like we can depend on (Hayward, Favors, Gobert ... even Jingles kinda fits here) with guys we still have a lot to discover (Burks, Hood, Neto).
- Trey Lyles vs. Tibor Pleiss is either going to be the best dance-off ever or worst. Probably the worst. But I'm holding out hope that they'll surprise us.
Hangtime blogs had a roundtable to name the all-time Soviet/Russian basketball team. Every dude named Andrei Kirilenko.
I suppose their next job will be to name the All-Time African basketball team and shock the world by naming Hakeem the center. Followed by the all-time Chinese team and blow our minds by mentioning Yao Ming.
September, of course, also means back to school for a great many people in the world. So I decided to prepare a few Core Objectives that I think the Jazz should try to achieve this year:
- Figure out the SG spot. Burks as starter, Hood off bench? Hood starting, Burks off bench? One doesn't fit and we should look elsewhere? Both don't fit? The Jazz have pretty much figured out the front court. Now it's time to look at this spot. More than anything else, I think this should be figured out this year.
- Bring on the defense. The Jazz were, of course, rather good defensively with Rudy as a starter. Like "top 10 in the history of the NBA" good. But it's a lot easier to do that over 30-ish games than it is over all 82. I think the second most important objective should be to play with that kind of defensive intensity for an entire year. As a side note, those top defensive teams were all the Spurs or in the 70's, averaged 55 wins and all made the playoffs. Basically, if the Jazz can keep up that kind of defensive performance for an entire year it will be almost impossible to not make the playoffs.
- Expand the offense past the "Gordon Hayward has to do everything" stage into one where several players can help create scoring opportunities for themselves and others. This means Favors hits those baby baseline hooks and turnaround J's more consistently, Rudy hits his either hand hooks, Burks uses his myriad skills to open space for others as much as he does to find himself a shot, etc., etc., etc. Last year the offense was Gordon makes stuff happen or bust, and that wore down our best offensive player.
- Give Quin Snyder opportunities to sacrifice animals to pagan gods. It seems like a brutal objective, and I'm sure PETA objects, but we gotta face reality: it's either this, or he's going to murder someone. I mean, this was Snyder's game plan last year, post-All-Star game:
A month ago I went on the Kanarraville Falls hike for the first time. I decided it would be a perfect metaphor for the ideal 2015-16 Jazz season. Here's how it goes:
- Start out climbing an old dirt road. It's kinda steep, there's not much to see, and it was hot. Not really an enjoyable start.
- Soon you go down hill, it's easier, and you get to splash in the creek a bit.
- You follow the creek, sometimes walking straight through, and the canyon narrows. The cold water feels good and the canyon is definitely getting better with each step.
- Soon the canyon narrows more, you see fantastic rock formations (my favorite is a boulder above that looks like it really, really wants to topple). The creek is wonderful and clear.
- The canyon narrows more, you start to get to scramble over boulders and such, but instead of being hard these just make the hike more fun. Everything is easy to get through.
- Finally you turn a corner, and you see the slot canyon you're going through. Everyone who sees it for the first time just kind of stops and goes "Whoa!"
- You go into the slot, and it's even cooler than it first looked.
- You turn a corner and there's a waterfall. With a ladder bolted into a log to climb up. You're like "This is officially awesome."
- You climb up, and there's more slot awesomeness above. Another small waterfall. And it just goes on and on as far as you feel like following it.
- After the hike, you think "that was a blast and easy to do again and again and again. I can take my 4-year-old."
That's what I hope the season's like. A harder beginning (lots of road games, etc.) but not really what you'd call difficult. Just more work than you may have expected and not really much amazing to see. But then it gets better and easier. And better. And better. And soon the harder games, instead of being difficult, simply make it more fun. And it gets better, and better, constantly becoming more impressive as the season ensues, without ever reaching a peak and yet, because the players are awesome and young, repeatable again and again ... one the kids can enjoy (for the highlights and fun) as much as the adults (who want the quality and sustainable, dependable winning).
Make it happen.