What if I told you there was a team whose coach in the NBA that led his team to 51 wins even though injuries cost him 9 wins?
What if I told you there was team that had a player who was in the Top 3 in Offensive Efficiency and Defensive Efficiency and wasn’t in the MVP discussion?
What if I told you there was a team that when healthy had a .851 win percentage?
What if I told you there’s a team with a sixth man that’s averaging 15 ppg and shooting 60% from 3 heading into the playoffs?
What if I told you there’s a team with a guy from Australia who looks like the reincarnation of Manu Ginobili?
What if I told you there’s a team with a point guard in the NBA having his best season in his career at age 30?
What if I told you there’s a team with a player more known for missing a shot against Duke than for shouldering the offensive burden of a 51-win team?
What if I told you Goliath was born Israel instead of Gath?
Welcome to the juxtaposition that is the Utah Jazz. The team that has as many SportsCenter’s Top 10 highlights in the past year as your local high school. The team that despite having a guy in the top 5 in 3 point shooting %, a Defensive Player Of the Year candidate, a point guard with a win shares/48 of .182 , and a top 5 wing player is somehow an underdog to a Los Angeles Clipper team living on the brink of dysfunction.
Despite many reports written about how the Clippers experiment will most likely come to an end this summer, the Utah Jazz, who are—FINALLY—healthy at just the right time, are underdogs. They shouldn’t be. They’re as much of an underdog as Chance the Rapper is an upcoming artist. Those plugged into the league are well aware of the Utah Jazz’s rise and well earned title of this year’s NBA Dark Horse. But to those not plugged into the league, the Utah Jazz are still synonymous with white basketball players, short shorts, under the basket basketball, and boring highlight-less basketball. A quick twitter search of the words “Utah Jazz” will quickly validate that.
Meanwhile, the LA Clippers get the limelight. The glory. The fame. The cool nickname: Lob City. They got 3 stars. THREE! The Jazz don’t have any stars, apparently. Somehow without a single “star” they found themselves with 51 wins as if they’re Charlie Bucket that lucked their way to the playoffs with a golden ticket. As a Jazz fan, it’s infuriating. Somehow in the day and age of social media and the 24 hour news cycle the Jazz are still flying under the radar. The Clippers? They’re favorites. Some feel it’s their destiny to be the team that challenges the Warriors’ birthright to the Finals even though they rolled out of bed to class hungover and underprepared.
I hate to break it to you, Clippers fans. This story doesn’t end well for you. Don’t look shocked. Why? Because screw you. That’s why. We’ve been here before. We’ve been the assigned underdog before. Not because we were undermanned or outgunned, but under reported. Shut out from the National TV games. The Utah Jazz are the Soundcloud rappers of the NBA. They might not have the record deal, but they can spit rhymes just as well as your idol who went platinum. The truth is people rarely give a **** about us. Even when they should. Your team will be the next team to crash and burn on the mistaken stepping stone of the Utah Jazz. Don’t believe me? Ask Tracy McGrady.
The guy promised he’d get the Houston Rockets out of the first round. Twice. Guess what happened? Some upstart young team with no playoff experience ousted him from the 1st round two years in a row. They didn’t give a damn about precedent or playoff tenure. They couldn’t care less about homecourt when they won game 7 on the road in Houston. Yao Ming didn’t shake ‘em. T-Mac and his bravado didn’t move ‘em. You honestly think you can oust a team founded on the Church of Sloan? Jerry Sloan DGAF about the Clippers and neither do we. Why? **** em. That’s why.
While the Utah Jazz have been the staple of a well run franchise since the Layden days we’ve watched the past few years as the Clippers organization has been championed as being well run. But it’s not. Donald Sterling just set the bar so incredibly low with his bigotry and ineptitude that any billionaire could drag their Benjamin-filled pockets over it. This is a franchise that turned free agency into a banana boat induced emoji tweet fest. This is a franchise that despite being in the top 5 in the NBA Draft countless times couldn’t build through the draft. This is a team that was gifted the best point guard in the league AND still failed to build a team around him. This is a team that despite being 3rd in Free Throws Attempted per game whines and looks more surprised than Tim Duncan when they’re called for a foul. This is a team that has the biggest bad boy bravado despite Blake Griffin getting rocked by JJ Barea. This is a team who when faced with the opportunity to rebrand took CLIPPERS as literally as human possible and made it look like CLIP-art. That’s not a competent front office, that’s the minimum required.
The LA Clippers’ received praise and adoration is as hollow as the standing ovation you gave for your son’s shitty high school play of Our Town. No, it wasn’t good. Your son was terrible. It’s Our Town. The school trotted out that script because they couldn’t afford a set or costumes. They didn’t put it on because your son needed a show that could finally test his dramatic range. Get over yourself, and get over your son. The play sucked. Just because your standards were low and your son barely knew his lines does not make him capable, just like the Clippers’ front office.
All the while the Utah Jazz get a modest golf clap. The Utah Jazz have rebuilt their entire team almost entirely through the draft and through undrafted free agents. Gordon Hayward? 7th pick. Rudy Gobert? 27th. Joe Ingles? Undrafted. Rodney Hood? 23rd. Dante Exum? 5th. George Hill? A draft day trade. Raul Neto? 2nd rounder.
And as far as free agents go, the Utah Jazz treated Joe Johnson’s free agent signing as if Kevin Durant had gone to the Beehive state. The Utah Jazz don’t have the liberty of trading for stars like Chris Paul. The Utah Jazz have a rich history of players refusing to report to Utah after a trade is made. They were turned down by Rony Seikaly. RONY SEIKALY. After he retired he became a real estate developer and an EDM DJ. The only thing that would be whiter than that Post-NBA career choice would be if he was the inventor of City Bikes and part owner of Trader Joe’s. AND EVEN HE REFUSED TO REPORT TO GO TO A UTAH TEAM WHO WOULD END UP GOING TO THE NBA FINALS.
Then there’s the bull**** of Lob City. There’s a misnomer that Utah is not exciting to watch.
“If only they were more like the Clippers who have more highlights.”
“They put on a show.”
“They fly through the air.”
IT’S LOB CITY. LOB CITY. BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Never mind the fact that the Utah Jazz had 339 dunks this season ranking 4th in the NBA despite having the league’s SLOWEST pace. The Clippers were 6th in the NBA in dunks but were a full 53 dunks behind the Utah Jazz with a total of 286.
The LA Clippers and Utah Jazz are similar teams much in the way the movies Ex Machina and Transcendence are similar. Both are about the future convergence of man and machine. One was an unknown indie film that ended up being a work of art, and the other was a bloated bastardization of the genre that was seared into your brain as smart and intelligent through an in your face marketing campaign. One flew under the radar, one was obnoxiously stuffed into your memory. One had lesser known names who played their parts with a nuance close to perfection, the other had stars sleepwalking through the script while a large budget, flashy special effects, and an ad firm airbrushed a plot around them.
In the end, the Utah Jazz are seen as an underdog because this Goliath was born in Israel instead of Gath. This Goliath doesn’t have the publicity or the hype men. Put this same Utah team in LA, New York, Dallas, or Chicago and this team is the trendy pick for a Dark Horse Finals run. The Utah Goliath was born in the mountains. He arrives to the fight without groupies, a playoff record, and the hype. Utah is not here to play the part of the paschal lamb brought to slaughter for the sins of the Clippers’ playoff ineptitude. Not this Jazz team. A Goliath has risen out of Utah and this time there’s no underdog in LA to put him to rest.