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Utah Jazz face off against Los Angeles Clippers, and Trey will be alright. Downbeat #1781

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Five stories to make you happy, mad, angry, sad, and encouraged - - in no particular order.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Today we get some hate-hard from me as I look at the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers. I can't really stand either. The Clippers somehow earned the hate of late. And well, I can't stop making fun of the #KobeSystem. I also have lots of love, as we look at the Utah Jazz ' Trey-tandum (Trayndum?) of Trey Burke and Trey Lyles . . . and we finish with cap space nonsense and the greatness of Dikembe Mutombo .

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The Utah Jazz play the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, and look to return to .500. The Clippers did just that last night with a 111-94 win over the Denver Nuggets. In a way it's good that they did, because LAC had lost three games in a row. Had they lost four straight I think the Jazz' collective goose would have been cooked as Doc Rivers would have found a way to motivate his group into preventing a five game slide. That said, I don't think that stopping this slide means that their problems are all gone. The Clippers are 3-7 in their last 10, and haven't won games in a row since starting the season with four straight victories. Yeah, their last time winning in a row happened on November 2nd. Of course, because I'm a sports fan and absolutely superstitious, I know I'm now jinxing my team.

So, sorry.

I do know that the Clippers are just a team we MUST beat. They are like the bleach blonde, feathered hair, jean jacket wearing, hot car driving bullies from 1980s teen movies. They are ridiculously unlikable, and as far as gangs go, you just want to see them fail. It says something when the guy you hate the least on their team happens to be the popped collar, tight polo shirt wearing guy who went to Duke (J.J. Redick). Usually that's the most hated guy.

What makes the Clippers so face-punchingly detestable is all the close losses the Jazz have recently sustained.

  • Last season they won 107-101, 112-96, 101-97, and 94-89 -- three close games
  • Two seasons ago they won 98-90, 102-87, 96-87 -- one game was close but the final margin was 8
  • Three seasons ago they won 105-104, 116-114, 107-96, 107-94 -- two more close games
  • Four seasons ago they won 107-105, and 105-96, while losing once 108-79 -- another close loss

And maybe the bigger issue is that the Jazz have not defeated them in four seasons. I never believed in my life that it would take the Jazz more than once a few months to beat them, not an entire presidential term. Let's hope the Jazz get a win tonight.

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I like Trey Burke. I think that's pretty obvious. He's growing up before our eyes, but one thing I never questioned about him was his locus. He knows where he is, and a lot of young players don't get that. On the court he displays leadership, he seems to be the only one who initiates on-court huddles of the players, or seems to be the only American guy talking out there on the court between plays. That's a hallmark of this togetherness rating that we don't see much of. He's not touching everyone on the court at the frequency of Steve Nash , but he's someone who seems to understand what's supposed to be happening (even if at times he isn't able to make the right play himself). He seems to be making the right moves off the court as well.

While Trey may never be embraced by the casual or cynical Jazz fan, he's still one of the most visible players on the team and at 23, is still learning how to be a pro. As the Lieutenant Governor of Utah suggests, perhaps he just does get it already?

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Speaking of Trey . . . what's up with Trey Lyles? Also, is it just me, or does he somewhat resemble former Utah Jazz center Felton Spencer?

(Reading Shums' downbeats leads to this)

But back to Trey, so far this season he has played in 11 games and started 2. He is solidly our 11th man on the roster in terms of minutes per game (only 8.2 mpg), and while he is doing okay on the glass (2.2 rpg, 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes), his offense has just been a little off. Lyles is shooting .296 / .200 / .500 so far this season. Maybe he needs to practice with Mr. Perfect a bit? Also, I will admit, as a Kid I actually thought Mr. Perfect was just good at everything. I wanted to believe. And so I did.

Some believe that Trey is currently best served as being a part of the Idaho Stampede. I do not believe the Stampede can help anyone. And it seems like Dennis Lindsey agrees (look at all the guys who were sent down . . . no, really, try to find a list). Instead playing in the NBA, practicing against NBA players, and making mistakes in the NBA will help him the most. It's clear that he's not getting the minutes right now, but if you look at the list there are lots of young bigmen who didn't play early either -- some of them ended up becoming rotation players. (Some examples are: Josh McRoberts, Kendrick Perkins, Samuel Dalembert, Zach Randolph, Andray Blatche, Andrew Bynum, Alex Len, Robin Lopez, Zaza Pachulia, J.J. Hickson, and Kosta Koufos.) And fo  this Jazz team, that's what we want Trey to be one day. And the more he plays in the NBA the sooner it will happen.

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I don't want Kobe Bryant to retire. The longer he plays the more tarnished his legacy becomes. Also, this reminded me of that:

And that reminds me of THIS Basketball-Reference list:

  1. Karl Malone (284 games, 36.1 mpg) 38.2 Wins Shares
  2. Reggie Miller (295 games, 31.7 mpg) 32.5 WS
  3. John Stockton (246 games, 29.4 mpg) 30.5 WS
  4. Tim Duncan (234 games, 29.3 mpg) 26.9 WS
  5. Jason Kidd (284 games, 31.5 mpg) 23.7 WS
  6. Dikembe Mutombo (356 games, 17.4 mpg) 20.0 WS
  7. Steve Nash (202 games, 31.7 mpg) 18.2 WS
  8. Grant Hill (321 games, 28.3 mpg) 16.6 WS
  9. David Robinson (142 games, 28.0 mpg) 16.1 WS
  10. Ray Allen (198 games, 28.0 mpg) 14.1 WS

It's most combined Win Shares (WS) after the age of 36. And Kobe (#116: 46 games, 33.5 mpg, -0.4 WS) is LAST on that list, behind even Tyrone Corbin. Even behind guys who played in only one game and nine minutes. More of this Kobe please.

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Last night the Atlanta Hawks retired the #55 jersey in honor of Dikembe Mutombo. I think the Hall of Famer is clearly worthy of the honor. He played for six different teams during his NBA career, the first five seasons were with the Denver Nuggets. With the Nuggets he played 14,411 regular season minutes over 1,824 games. With Atlanta he played 12,419 regular season minutes over 1,443 games. So while we Western Conference fans remember him most from his time there (or perhaps his five seasons with the Houston Rockets, but only 4,171 minutes) he did play quite a bit in the East, Including his lone NBA Finals experience as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 18 year NBA vet only played in 101 playoff games in his career. For a point of direct comparison, Boris Diaw has played in 99, and dude has played the majority of his career with the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats. (Not even the Charlotte Hornets.) If you can say something bad about his NBA career it was that the #4 pick in the draft, and many times most feared defender in the NBA (DPOYx4), just didn't win a lot.

And that's why I bring this entire episode up. I'm a Utah Jazz fan. I've always appreciated Dikembe as a player, but more personally, I felt like he was a very great person. He is a humanitarian. He wrote his SAT to get into Georgetown in FRENCH, and speaks many languages. He decided to go to Georgetown because of their high level of education and was sent to America with the blessings from his tribal elders to return to Africa as a doctor. Instead he became a global icon who instead of taking care of individual patients builds hospitals in his homeland -- taking care of entire communities. He's not one of the other NBA millionaires who blew their money away on frivolous things, his legacy as a human will endure long after the NBA ceases to be important.

Yet, I'm not over him. I think that the Utah Jazz really should have tried to get him as a Free Agent back in 1996, after his rookie contract with the Nuggets ended. He moved to Atlanta for a number of reasons, one of the big ones was because it was so close to Africa that there were some direct flights. I can't fault a guy for going back to his homeland as much as possible, I do the same. But career-wise I think playing with John Stockton and Karl Malone on the other side of the mountain range would have led to a greater career for him.

Could the Jazz have offered up a similar deal do that Deke accepted from Atlanta? Would they have had to have paid more than the $12 to $14 million per season that agent David Falk was asking for? Could the Jazz of that era handled adding a $15 million dollar player to the '96-97-98-99-00-01-02 era Jazz? Maybe not, but his average price over the length of his (also extended) contract ended up being $12.5 million per before he got waived and traded many times before signing with the Rockets.

The highest paid player on the 1996-97 Jazz was Stockton at $6.0 million, the next was Karl Malone at $4.7 million. And the next three were Chris Morris $2.5m, Jeff Hornacek $2.4m, and Antoine Carr $2.3m. The Jazz HAD the cap space for sure, but probably weren't ready to pay a player that much at that point in time. But I think that's a championship winning team in the mid to late 90s for sure.

And a championship is priceless. (N.B. I'm a fan not for the feel good sake of rooting for a bad team, like Clippers fans were back in the 80s, I want the Jazz to win a title.)

Congrats to Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, you are a great man and deserve to be awarded for your greatness on and off the court. I still will always dream of a possibility that the Jazz could have signed you as a free agent, and that your jersey would today hang up there in the Aunt Viv next to the greats, Stockton, Malone, and Garth Brooks.