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The Utah Jazz are in the big time now, no one cares about their feelings

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I’m not telling you not to root for this Utah Jazz team. I hope you do. However, you don’t have to wear rose colored glasses for this team.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

“You’re in the big-time now. No one cares about your feelings,” said the gentleman seeing me incredibly distraught after my professional audition.

There I was fresh out of college, thinking I was going to be a big time actor. I was a big fish in a small pond at an Idaho college auditioning for the chance to get some professional money. Sure I had been at summer theaters before, but nothing like this. I had my headshots clean, the resume down, and my monologues ready to go. Went into my first audition and I was shown the door before I could say a word.

“NOPE!” yelled the casting director. I stood there looking like an idiot, dumbfounded. What do I do? Do I still give my monologue? I started to introduce myself and the casting director, not even looking up said, “I said no.” I walked out. After walking out, an older gentleman who I assume had been in the game for a while looked at me and said, “You’re in the big-time now. No one cares about your feelings.”

That’s how it was for some small Idaho town actor trying to get his first professional gig. There wasn’t enough time. Even at smaller summer theaters, people didn’t give a **** about anyone’s feelings. It’s a job now. This isn’t someone’s after work hobby at a community theater anymore. People got to pay the bills. They have a schedule. Don’t screw up their limelight because you couldn’t get your act together to know your lines, find your motivations, and be present in a scene. This is a job now.

I didn’t break into the big time. I quit early due to meeting my wife who wasn’t too keen on traveling from gig to gig every 2-3 months ... or weeks.

Why do I bring up my very brief acting career?

Because there seems to some confusion out there with this Utah Jazz squad. Trust me, I’ve seen this road before. We went down it during the Tyrone Corbin years. There is the human aspect of players where you are rooting for them and you really want them to succeed. But the trouble is how do you balance it when it is paired with a team with a glass ceiling as visible 10 inch stained glass?

During the Tyrone Corbin years there was a cognitive dissonance with the reckoning of comparing Corbin to Jerry Sloan, veterans vs young guns, and the evolving NBA vs Big Al post-ups all day. Behind all those faces were incredibly good people. Big Al and his mentorship to Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (both of whom were gunning for his job was special). Tyrone Corbin—even with all his failings as a coach—was one of the league’s good guys, many respected him as an assistant and loved him. The young guns—who were perpetually dripped in mistakes due to lack of experience—were fun to monitor off the court (CJ Miles tweets, Jeremy Evans and Gordon Hayward Olive Garden times, and Enes Kanter’s playboy Instagram escapades).

When it came to the on-court performance though, it was not fun. You’d see Corbin hockey sub all the young players as if it the vets and the lottery picks were the A and B Team. You’d see Raja Bell getting left out to pasture from the organization because he spoke to power. You’d see guys throwing others under the bus as they hit their offensive and defensive limitations. It was a mess. It resulted in one playoff appearance that felt more like Judas’ 30 pieces of silver than that Jazz roster breaking through. Coincidentally, that playoff appearance probably cost Utah Damian Lillard and Golden State’s pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Those perpetual tire spinning years led to the hiring of Dennis Lindsey, Quin Snyder, front office reworked, a new training staff, and the Jazz being put in a trust.

I’m not here to air dirty laundry out from the past, however. Rather consider me the Ghost of Utah Jazz past warning you of the future. It is possible to love this Jazz team for what they are AND criticize them for their failings. Most presently in the case of Ricky Rubio, Quin Snyder’s substitutions or unwillingness to call timeouts, and the Utah Jazz’s front office coming up empty at the trade deadline without a third piece.

Before we get into that—which I apologize if the Ricky Rubio, Quin Snyder, and Dennis Lindsey stans get a little heated—I want to bring this back to acting. Before I had my first professional or semi-professional audition, I remember studying Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet. Mamet loved to write about modern business because he considered those boardrooms the field of war for the present. That’s where conflict naturally arose and where villains, anti-heroes and heroes laid claim to the spoils—or lack there of. There’s a monologue at the beginning of the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross that has now since been made famous by Alec Baldwin. So much so that it nows graces the stage even though it wasn’t part of the original work. You can see it here (warning strong language—it is Mamet after all).

So in a very conflict free setting of a university in a History of Modern Theatre class I remember hearing that monologue by Alec Baldwin. I remember being absolutely pissed off by the monologue. To set up the scene, a bunch of underperforming salesman have been given one last night to save their jobs. Whoever gets a sale that night, saves their job. Whoever doesn’t, is fired. Alec Baldwin (basically a regional sales manager/trainer) comes in to set up the scene. Let’s just say he gets their attention quick.

I’m here from downtown. I’m here from Mitch and Murray. And I’m here on a mission of mercy. Your name’s Levene? … You call yourself a salesman, you son of a *****? … You certainly don’t pal. ‘Cause the good news is you’re fired. The bad news is you’ve got, all you got, just one week to regain your jobs, starting tonight. Starting with tonight’s sit. Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. ‘Cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. You get the picture? You’re laughing now? You got leads. Mitch and Murray paid good money. Get their names to sell them. You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close ****, you are ****, hit the bricks pal and beat it ’cause you are going out.

I remember thinking, “What the hell’s this guy’s problem? He’s showing no mercy. No respect for the individual. Everyone has a special circumstance.” It gets way more personal.

And you’re nothing. Nice guy? I don’t give a ****. Good father? **** you, go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here? Close. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you ****? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don’t like it, leave. I can go out there tonight with the materials you got, make myself fifteen thousand dollars. Tonight. In two hours. Can you? Can you? Go and do likewise. A-I-D-A. Get mad. You sons of *****es. Get mad. You know what it takes to sell real estate? It takes brass ****s to sell real estate. Go and do likewise, gents. The money’s out there, you pick it up, it’s yours. You don’t, I have no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits tonight and close, close, it’s yours. If not you’re going to be shining my shoes. Bunch of losers sitting around in a bar. “Oh yeah, I used to be a salesman, it’s a tough racket.”

Starting to hit a nerve? He’s not done. With probably the most hard hitting closing line he ends with:

These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you, they’re gold. And you don’t get them. Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. They’re for closers. I’d wish you good luck but you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it. And to answer your question, pal, why am I here? I came here because Mitch and Murray asked me to, they asked me for a favor. I said, the real favor, follow my advice and fire your *** because a loser is a loser.

It pissed me off. I debated until my voice was hoarse in that class. I defended those failing salesman to the end. Saying it wasn’t fair that they were only given one night to save their jobs. Saying that some dude doesn’t have any right to disrespect them for being good fathers and providers. Disrespecting them for calling them losers. How’s that supposed to motivate anybody in their position?

After some INTENSE back and forth as I wouldn’t cede any ground—shocking, I know—my professor at the time closed up arguments. Before moving on to the next topic of discussion he said something to the effect of, “It’s not in his job description to reward them at work for being good fathers, kind people, or charitable people. Does it help to have successful employees be amazing human beings? Is it better for the work environment? Hell yeah, but how the hell do those things accomplish the goal—which for him at that time is saving this *****y sales branch? They don’t. Altruistically it feels better for us as humans for this happy venn diagram of successful people and kind people to always overlap, but that’s not life.”

I left fuming. My professor had flamed my position after I took heat from all sides in that discussion. It wasn’t until the cattle call auditions that it hit home. Not one of those casting directives gave a crap about my personality, how great I was to work around, that I’m good with people. They had to find someone who looked like the character they were casting, sounded like what they envisioned, and could possibly fit a costume that might already be made. Any feelings and warm fuzzies I was looking for had to be tossed away if I was going to get to my goal of landing a job.

Which brings us to the present. Now. The fact—as close as we can say it is a fact—is Utah is a flawed, but exciting team.

  • They are built on defense, shaky on offense.
  • They are anchored by a once in a franchise defensive player in Rudy Gobert, buoyed by a surprising one young player in Donovan Mitchell, have veteran help from Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver, and surrounded by talent that would be getting minutes on contending teams as a bench mob, not a starting unit.
  • Ricky Rubio is currently the worst starting point guard according to most analytics and has been struggling mentally since the trade deadline.
  • Utah’s bench unit—once supposed before the season to be a strength—is as shaky as a JENGA tower 5 minutes into a game with a bunch of 10 year olds.
  • Quin Snyder has been prone to show favorites and is relying on the hope that staying behind Rubio will allow him to push through whatever mental barrier he has.
  • This Jazz team is entering the final stretch of the season filled with a team full of expiring deals—most of whom are getting a good share of minutes. Those include Rubio, Sefolosha, Favors, Neto, and Ekpe Udoh.
  • Royce O’Neale has been improving, but giving him anymore minutes could send a shockwave through the locker room as it could mean demoting Rubio and shaking his confidence anymore.

As was the case last night, many fans were frustrated by media calling out Ricky Rubio’s game high—and season high—in turnovers. That was not because people feel that Ricky Rubio isn’t a great guy off the court, that he doesn’t care, or that he’s a “terrible player”. It’s that—for whatever reason or another—he hasn’t been able to impact a game as much as he was able to post-All-Star break of last year. Did he make amazing shots last night? Yes. Did he get some game altering steals last second in the game last night? Yes. But he also started the fire that he helped put out last night.

That doesn’t absolve Donovan Mitchell last night. He got gassed, and relied a bit too on himself. But he was put into that position because the Jazz’s point guard who is supposed to be there to help with playmaking just wasn’t capable of playmaking last night.

That doesn’t absolve Quin Snyder, who as the head coach, has to know when his point guard doesn’t have it. Though, I do agree with the school of thought that pulling Rubio late in that 4th quarter would mean a whole hell of a lot more long term than just those last few minutes. Quin has to balance that. Doing that without Dante Exum as your break in case of glass starter is a hell of a risk.

That also doesn’t absolve Dennis Lindsey who went down to the wire with the Utah Jazz swirling in trade rumors that included significant role players on their roster. The deal didn’t get done and whether you believe Lindsey is at fault for it happening or not, now the coaching staff and locker room have to navigate the unintended consequences of indirectly saying, “We don’t want you here anymore.”

The Utah Jazz are going to continue to be an incredibly fun watch at times for the rest of the season—especially as they’ll get to blitz through cupcake squads for the remaining schedule. They are going to continue to be incredibly frustrating as they have a lot of players in key roles that are just limited at what they’re capable of. If you’re one of the people who’s frustrated, it’s completely okay to voice frustration and talk to what you’re seeing just as it will be completely okay to rah-rah this squad to victory when things are going great.

What is not okay is to act blind to when this Utah Jazz team isn’t fulfilling its limited potential because they’re good guys. We know they’re good guys. But we don’t pay people to play amazing sports because they’re good guys, we pay them good money to entertain us while on the court. That’s entertainment. Steve Kerr said it best.

“We’re all actors in a soap opera. We really are. And we have to deal with that part of it. And also understand that that’s a big part of the revenue stream. The intense passion and interest from fans have for who’s going where and what team’s doing what — it would be nice if everyone could pay attention to pick and roll coverage, but gossip is more interesting sometimes.

“You just accept it and deal with it the best you can and keep moving forward.”

Or as Alec Baldwin’s character put it:

Get mad. Go and do likewise, gents. The money’s out there, you pick it up, it’s yours. You don’t, I have no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits tonight and close, close, it’s yours.

I’m not telling you not to root for this Utah Jazz team. I hope you do. But no one should pretend that anyone on this squad, coach, player, front office member, is above reproach from criticism. That’s part of the gig. Some may receive the lion’s share of that criticism for the rest of the season, that doesn’t mean that’s an indictment of their character. Or as that gentleman told me after my rough cattle call, “You’re in the big-time now. No one cares about your feelings.”