Another day, another Utah Jazz downbeat. The Olympics, All-Star games, and what’s the most nerdy thing you are willing to admit to the internet?
The NBA Schedule should drop sometime today (or tomorrow), and we need to expect some level of general outrage as Utah Jazz fans. We will still see our guys hit in the gut for more back-to-back sets and three games in four nights sets than more “popular” teams, like the 17 win Los Angeles Lakers. But that’s normal, we should just accept it by now that until our team gets more popular (is a big winner, or has marketable players the NBA can convince themselves that they are worth promoting) it’s pretty clear that our guys aren’t going to start getting favorable schedules.
The other thing goes with Nationally (and internationally now) televised games. TV Games are a point of prestige. So much so that the Jazz (a team that won, and had perennial All-NBA players in their starting line-up) were on TV enough for me — someone who didn’t live in the United States — to watch a fair share of regular season Jazz games and follow the team during the 80s and 90s.
If not for the internet, I can’t imagine it would be easy to follow the Jazz as an international fan during the “no playoffs and no All-Stars” period of franchise history.
This is, I guess, where I out myself as the last Utah Jazz bandwagon fan ever. (Hopped on back in ‘87-88)
On the flip side, the team has gotten a lot of press this off-season and there’s lots of hype surrounding the team. Unlike the Sacramento Kings or Minnesota Timberwolves or Phoenix Suns, it seems like our Jazz are primed to make the NBA Playoffs in 2016-2017. The teams I mentioned above seem to be mired in different periods of the lottery.
- The Kings — anchored by DeMarcus Cousins (#5 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft) didn’t really get better. By comparison the Jazz have Derrick Favors (#3) and Gordon Hayward (#9) from the same draft and appear to have made enough moves to at least trick people into writing about them again.
- The Wolves are in their “we’re hyped about our guys on rookie contracts” phase with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and others while still having quality vets around like Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic (and this Kevin Garnett guy too). They aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, but their future is a lot brighter than the Kings.
- Lastly, we have the Suns, and I think they are in a different lotto development cycle. They have Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Skal Labissiere and other young guys in one group, but another section of their rotation do not really match-up well as part of a unified cycle. Tyson Chandler, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, and Eric Bledsoe were all born in the 1980s. Guys like Bender and Booker were born almost in a post-9/11 world. I guess this isn’t a bad problem, it’s similar to the Jazz’ problem — but worse. (The Jazz don’t have everyone in the same development cycle, but have no one born in 1996, and most everyone is within five years of one another.)
Getting out of the lottery (and bypassing the doldrums of being out of the good lottery spot but still not being good enough to challenge for the playoffs) is something few teams are able to do while still having enough escape velocity to become an actual contender.
We are high on our team, and are gunning for a 4-6 seed this year. But more than that, I think we’re just happy to be a winning team again — losing takes a toll.
Via Basketball John (and Mark Eaton):
Maaaaan, I miss having All-Stars on our squad. When you look back at the Jazz teams that have been you see some funny things:
- 1970s: Pistol Pete Maravich was great, but the team didn’t win. Adding Gail Goodrich was fine but he wasn’t at his best anymore and didn’t really overlap with Maravich at their peaks. Truck Robinson got his stats, but it’s easy to say that the team didn’t really come around in the Disco era.
- 1980s: The Jazz moved and had a Rookie of the Year in Darrell Griffith. Mark Eaton anchored the middle while a number of wings (like Adrian Dantley and Bernard King for one year) did their thing. Rickey Green was the man, but he was an All-Star only once, and only once at the same time as Adrian Dantley. The team became a playoff team, but didn’t become great until the keys were handed to John Stockton and Karl Malone. Those two, and Mark Eaton, were All-Stars TOGETHER in 1989.
- 1990s: For a whole decade it was John and Karl, and a lot of wins. They didn’t get a “third offensive player” until the trade deadline moving Jeff Malone (good, not great) for Jeff Hornacek (a former All-Star). The team made the NBA Finals twice and the Western Conference Finals five times in seven seasons. No team won more games in the decade than the Jazz did. It shows what you can do with two Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach, Jerry Sloan.
- 2000s: The downfall of John and Karl led to the rise of some really crazy Sloan lineups. Eventually they did get a star player to build around, Deron Williams (#3 in 2005) — and he was an All-Star. So too was Andrei Kirilenko. And with D-Will, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur were both All-Stars as well. Unfortunately, these guys were not All-Stars at the same time. Injuries and bad playoff draws didn’t help, but those Post Malone teams with DW/CB/MO/AK could have been really nice. They did make the West Finals once (2007), even if they all were not at their best at the same time.
- 2010s: Jerry Sloan retires, Phil Johnson retires, Deron Williams is traded, and yet Tyrone Corbin still thinks we are in “win now” mode. They did make the playoffs once, but failed to win a single game -- and there have been no All-Stars. The closest thing (that wasn’t a snub or a Dunk contest win) to it was probably Trey Burke winning Rookie of the Month three times. And he’s not even on the team anymore.
So here we are, decades after the Jazz had three All-Stars in the same game, a team that was peaking and a true contender. We have high hopes for Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and others. Will any of them be an All-Star? Will more than one be there at the same game?
In the Rio 2016 Olympics we saw Team USA having to come from behind to beat Australia — and they kind of ran away with it with a 98-88 victory. But it’s be honest here, the Boomers came to play, not to take pictures with their opponents before the game started (like what happened before every game in Barcelona 1992). Joe Ingles finished with 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 three, and used up all five of his fouls.
The game was a lot closer than the final margin, and I can only imagine the games may be even more competitive with Dante Exum and Ben Simmons playing for Australia in the coming years.
The games today are Pool B games:
- Brazil (1-1) vs. Croatia (1-1)
- Nigeria (0-2) vs. Spain (0-2)
- Lithuania (2-0) vs. Argentina (2-0)
That’s some crazy symmetry. The Top Four teams advance, and if Spain is going to make a move they need to make it now. They are talented enough I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish 3-2 in the Group stage. Brazil may get bumped out unless they pull out a second upset (either against Croatia or regional rivals Argentina). It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out there.
This is as good a time as any to admit that I own three pairs of L.A. Gear shoes. What’s your deep down embarrassing secret?