Come with me in Ye Olde Wayback Machine for a bit, to a magical land called “2011.” The iPhone was released on Verizon, the Packers won the Super Bowl, and Jerry Sloan was head coach of the Utah Jazz. Until he wasn’t. Deron Williams was the team’s superstar. Until he wasn’t. By almost all accounts, Deron was dissatisfied with the way things were going, blamed part of it on Sloan, and as a result Sloan decided to step down. Almost simultaneously, Deron was shipped out of town for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and the pick that would turn into Enes Kanter, amidst worries that he would leave once he was a free agent.
Many people, myself included, blamed Williams for the departure of Jerry. The fact of losing our coach, who was and is a living legend, and our star, was a pair bitter pills to swallow. When Deron returned to Salt Lake City, he was showered with boos. I won’t get into whether or not he deserved it at this time, but I’ve written and tweeted about it before. The point is that the backlash was fierce, and Jazz Nation buried him in salt.
Fast-forward to the 2016-2017 season. I attended one of the games in which Deron and his Dallas Mavericks visited Aunt Viv. Deron was still booed, but it felt like more of a formality. Maybe I live in a bubble, but my Jazz friends are pretty much united in not harboring any ill will towards him and even rooting for him to do well when they think about it.
Now consider that last phrase: when they think about it. In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, superstar architecture critic Ellsworth Toohey makes it his life’s work to control the lives and work of New York City architects. For the most part, he succeeds, even bringing the talented, yet sycophantic Peter Keating under his thumb. However, there is one exception to his success: Howard Roark, an architect who will not be controlled, but would rather work in a rock quarry than compromise his artistic principles by bending to the whims of men such as Toohey. From one scene in which Toohey questions Roark stems one of the greatest one-liners in all of literature:
"Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us."
"But I don't think of you."
No matter how mad you were at Deron Williams in 2011, how often do you think of him now? I can’t speak for anyone else, but he doesn’t cross my mind much unless he’s on TV. (Or unless I’m forced to cast my mind back to things such as “what days in Jazz Nation were worse than yesterday?”)
Let’s not kid ourselves, though: those Tyrone Corbin years were terrible. But do you know what? It did get better. Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey put the team in a position to compete. At this point, even if the team doesn’t win a whole lot of games—even if they’re in the Western Conference basement—(which probably won’t happen) we’re not going back to the Corbin years, because Corbin is long, long gone. Essentially, it’s 2003-04 again with better pieces. Gobert is now our Andrei Kirilenko figure, we have a brilliant coach in Quin Snyder at the helm, and the Millers are keeping this team—our team—in Utah for the foreseeable future.
It could be worse. We could be the Knicks. We could be the #Kangz. Heck, we could be the Seattle Supersonics, as David Locke mentioned on his podcast today. But we’re (thankfully) not any of those teams. I know it’s a difficult day to be a Jazz fan now, and I’m right there with you—just ask my dozens of twitter followers—but it will get better, and someday Gordon Hayward will be just another Ellsworth Toohey (or, more fittingly, Peter Keating) while the Howard Roarks of the world build great things in Salt Lake City.