A lot of good has happened to our Utah Jazz in the past year. Likewise, there has been what might seem like an unfair share of bad things that have come our way. Considering the “5 stages of grief”, I’m hoping we can get past the denial, anger, bargaining and depression stages, and reach the phase of acceptance and moving on. Remembering and paying respects to the bad can help us to be better prepared for the future, and better appreciate the things that we do have. So allow me to take the role of “negative Nancy” for an article, and sum up some of the worst events for the Utah Jazz in 2017. (Note: These are by not ordered by level of severity.)
5. A playoff sweep
I’ll start with probably the least surprising one, which was being swept by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs. This was expected by many people to happen, but it was painful nonetheless. However, it was a good barometer of how far we need to go to become title favorites. Sometimes pain is useful. Coming to acceptance with the fact that we aren’t particularly close to where the Warriors were last year is humbling, but we can find in this a glimmer of hope. The Warriors won a championship simply by instating a system of good drafting and solid player development, and even if they hadn’t signed Kevin Durant they would still be contenders by these very same principles. Principles, I might add, that the Utah Jazz are putting into place themselves.
4. The loss of an icon
One of our dear “Pink Grandmas” Keiko Mori passed away during the offseason. Her presence in the stands was always felt on the court. It’s fans like her that make the Vivint Arena something more than just a place to watch sports. It’s fans like her that make the Vivint Arena feel like a community gathering place. This was somebody who showed us how a single fan can influence many, even without being particularly garish or attention-seeking. I can imagine her requesting a set of pink angel robes at the pearly gates. Our Pink Grandma will be missed, but let her example show us how we in turn might be better ‘super fans’ ourselves.
3. Our Jazz friend JP Gibson
Our favorite young Jazz man J.P. Gibson fell into another battle with that dragon named Cancer. On the bright side, there has been an outflow of love and support from the Jazz, coming from the organization as well as individuals. Many of you also helped out via the SLCDunk #MuscleWatch competition, as well as through other generous means. This is not something you want to see an 8-year-old go through. While the fight is not yet over, hopefully some good will come of it in the end. I would also hope that some way, somehow, the story of the mighty J.P. Gibson might give each of us greater courage and capacity to face our own struggles. J.P. is a symbol that basketball is bigger than just a game. Likewise, it would be wise to remember that our jobs can be made bigger than just work, and seemingly small things that we do can have lasting impacts on the lives of others.
Injuries injuries injuries. Why so many injuries. Did we not have enough injuries in the 2015-16 season to last us for the next decade? Apparently not.
Dante Exum’s shoulder. Rudy Gobert’s knee. Raul Neto’s head. The list seems to be a revolving door, one player becomes healthy, another gets injured. Alec Burks becomes healthy, and then Joe Johnson goes down. Joe Johnson becomes healthy and then Raul Neto goes down. Having a team with so many question marks, it is very frustrating for all involved that this is such a problem. From management, to the coaches, to the players, to the fans, this is a problem that none of us like to stomach. However, these injuries may also be a blessing in disguise, if it gives us a better draft pick in the 2018 NBA draft. These injuries are also forcing players like Donovan Mitchell to learn how to play in positions they might not be playing in otherwise. Hopefully, luck turns in our favor when we need it the most. As for now, this might not be the worst year to be having troubles with injuries.
1. Gordon Hayward leaving
Finally, I’ll address the elephant in the room. We lost a very important free agent over the summer, you know who I’m talking about. His name starts with “B” and rhymes with “Doris Biaw”.
Joking aside, losing free agent Gordon Hayward was painful. Any time you lose a top two player on your team, and get nothing in return, that will set you back a ways. Fortunately, luck was in our favor in this case, and we were able to find a similarly talented player in Donovan Mitchell the very year we lost Gordon Hayward. Whilte mitigating the loss, the Jazz still are not quite the same, with the balance of the team having changed drastically. Players’ roles shifted, and the Jazz management were left scrambling to put together a team that could still be successful together. Yes, all of this sucked, to say the least, but there is nothing we can do about this now but accept this and move on. Go ahead and boo Gordon as a basketball “villain” if you must when he plays against our team, but let us accept the facts, and remember that an NBA roster is always more fragile than it seems.
Sometimes the only good adversity will bring is that it forces us to get over something and put it behind us. No matter how you put it, losing Gordon stings. Especially after we fans proudly rocked his jerseys, haircut, and presented him as the face of our favorite franchise. We must understand that taking two steps backward is not the end as long as we keep trying to move forward.
With all of that said, hopefully addressing these things helps us come closer to acceptance. Often, I find the people are caught up looking only for good things, and complaining about difficulties. It may seem like an odd concept, but finding peace and motivation to move forward amid the gritty setbacks of life is just as important as finding happiness when everything seems to be going right. Hopefully these basketball-themed microcosms of life’s difficulties can teach us all to better cope with what the winds of life brings in great abundance.