The Utah Jazz season ended, early. Too early. In Sacramento, years ago, in the Spring of 2003. The Jazz were defeated 111-91 by the Sacramento Kings, and lost the series 4-1 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. And this was the last game ever for John Stockton and Karl Malone.
They had led the Jazz to two straight NBA Finals, but continued success for this club wasn’t going to happen with that core. The way down the mountain is a lot faster than the climb up. And for heart broken Jazz fans like me it seemed like John and Karl went down the mountain way too quickly.
It’s now been 15 seasons between 2003 in Sacramento to today facing off against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz have tried to Climb, but twice in 15 years have fallen way off the mountain and probably died in an avalanche of their own creation.
The Jazz first bottomed out but were rewarded with Deron Williams. He, along with Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, Ronnie Brewer, Paul Millsap and others had a quick ascent up the relevancy mountain. But they didn’t have as solid a footing as we’d want. And guys fell off the trail over time, and the squad ended up not climbing as high; nor holding on as long at that summit.
The Jazz bottomed out a second time under Tyrone Corbin. There was no more Jerry Sloan. No high lotto pick leading the team. And most of the old guard were gone. Utah’s reward? An even younger point guard Dante Exum. But this climb back up has been because of internal develoment and a head coach, Quin Snyder, who focused on defense.
Gordon Hayward has emerged as the leader on this ascent. But Rudy Gobert, an actual mountain, has definatelly helped with the really high slope over the last two years. Utah’s gone from 20 wins to 30 wins, from 30 wins to 40 wins, and now up to 50 wins in successive seasons.
How high can these guys climb? Time will tell. But man, 15 years since John and Karl? I’m so old.