The NBA Playoffs are in full swing, and as I've caught only a handful of games in full it would be accurate to suggest that I seem very blase about the whole experience. Maybe the main issue here is that the Utah Jazz went on such a tear to finish the season but ran out of games. Games that mattered. Games that were won because of the young guys playing, and not games that were won because people on the wrong side of 30 were starting and playing big minutes. As a fanbase our people are very excited and energized for the next season. We love our coach Quin Snyder. We trust in our General Manager Dennis Lindsey. And our players really want to get out there and fight for one another. No one was saying "I'm playing for 29 other teams" in post-game interviews. And the exit interview process had us all wanting more. The attitude of this core group is probably what is the most attractive thing. The key guys, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert were all vocal about wanting to make the playoffs next season. And while Dennis and Quin pumped the breaks on that a little bit, you can tell that the Jazz have finally on their way back. It's a great time to be a Jazz fan, and now, the downbeat:
In the playoffs the Western Conference #1 seed, the Golden State Warriors, take a 2-0 lead on the road. The best National Writer, Scott Howard-Cooper, tweeted this out:
The Warriors have a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since the 1989 first round against the Jazz.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) April 21, 2015
Because I was a rabid Jazz fan back then I had to reply because I remember that series. I remember what tricks Don Nelson used to turn that series. And I bitterly remember the outcome, the Sports Illustrated dissection of it in their then most recent issue, and so forth. Part of the reason why I absolutely HATE the Dubs is because of that series. I was new and fanatical in my fandom. The Jazz were on the rise and had such an better than expected season the previous one where they extended the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, etc) to seven games in the second round. Truly, that squad was a better 4th quarter away from going to the Western Conference Finals back when Jerry Sloan was still Frank Layden's assistant. That young, unafraid Jazz team even won Game 2 on the Great Western Forum's floor. The entire experience of being a team of young guys ready to take over to being a team that got swept (spoilers) out of the first round the next season was one that resonates with me today.
I cannot ever enjoy the trickery and cowardice displayed by Warriors long-time coach and head architect Don Nelson. And I cannot enjoy the over-hyped, media adored "Dubs" ever.
And as a chronicler of sorts it's up to me to pass on the ways of our people to the younger generations before I die. The Jazz lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors in 1987. The next season, 1988, the team had that "we took a great leap forward" year in the playoffs, beat the Trail Blazers, and almost decapitated the Lakers. The year after that the Jazz crashed back down to Earth and were swept out of the first round by the Warriors in 1989.
Since that humiliation the Jazz steadily grew and ended up going to the Western Conference Finals five times over the span of seven seasons -- and became a known force. The Warriors were in and out of the playoffs for years and won only one more series until the "We Believe" year where they stunned the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
That was a very sweet year because the Jazz were going to get throttled by the Mavs, but instead got a cupcake after their Game 7 on the road win against the Houston Rockets. The Jazz dispatched that Dubs hype train in five, and went back to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the John Stockton / Karl Malone years. My hate for the Warriors has been fed well over all the years of their franchise failures, and now that their squad is at the Top of the Western Conference my venom froths uncontrollably. Such a pathetic, weak, and cowardly franchise should not sit upon the Conference throne; and if they win a title this year . . .
All of their posturing, nipple exposing post dunk celebrations, cheap shot on Mehmet Okur, playing four guards to initiation a mismatch against Mark Eaton ways will have been rewarded with the only thing Jazz fans do not yet have -- a championship to call our own. I got to bed like Arya Stark listing the Warriors as a team I do not want to see ever win an NBA title again. They already have three ('47, '56, '75).
As for the Jazz, I'm old enough now in my NBA fandom (over 30 years now) that I've seen the rise, and fall, and ruin, and rebirth of franchises. Making the playoffs and getting swept in the first round wouldn't be a step back for our young Jazz next season -- many who have never been there before. But making or breaking the 2015-2016 season on those playoff shores is still premature in my mind. After all, Dante Exum isn't even going to be old enough to drink yet, and most of our guys can't even rent a non-compact a car yet.
Wow, thanks for the very long, hate-filled rant Grandpa. How about some Jazz news? Well, free agent to be Joe Ingles isn't going to be playing for his home nation, the deadly and poisonous Australia, this off-season. The Melbourne Herald Sun reports that he's going to sit this round of Olympics qualifiers. Boti Nagy writes:
Joe Ingles was so ready to represent Australia against New Zealand in mid-August's two-game Rio Olympics qualifier, his wedding date to Thunderbirds captain Renae Hallinan was set around it.
But Ingles' body knew what his mind wasn't ready to embrace — that after a season in Israel, a Euroleague championship, a World Cup with the Boomers, then an 82-game NBA regular season with the Utah Jazz, it was time to take a break and recover.
Reluctantly and in consultation, South Australian product Ingles withdrew from this Boomers' campaign, a decision made even harder with Aussie NBA contemporaries such as Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum and Cam Bairstow all making themselves available.
"I still think about it now," the 27-year-old, 203cm dual-Olympian said of making himself unavailable to face the Tall Blacks.
"I really want to (play) but at the end of the day, the goal is to win the series.
"I never would have pulled out if I didn't believe we could win it, especially with six of our seven NBA guys making themselves available.
"Seeing what Andrew Bogut has done this year, I would love to have played with him and especially with Patty (Mills) back playing now, because we're good mates."
Ingles, who has been a Boomers fixture for the past seven years, wrestled with the decision but his body made it for him,.
"I had my knee drained of fluid several times this year and had a back issue," he said.
"I missed three games and probably would have missed more if the (NBA) All Star break hadn't come when it did."
- Joe Ingles, as reported by Boti Nagy, Melbourne Herald Sun, 2015
The rest of the piece talks about the group decision to keep him out, but fear not Jazz fans -- the rest this summer should help him make the expected full recovery over the next few months. How does this change his free agency situation? I don't think it does. In fact, it may help him because he's (in a way) putting the NBA first over his nation. Some NBA Owners love that. (Like the Mavs' Mark Cuban.)
Over at HoopsHabit, my man D'Joumbarey A. Moreau breaks down Five reasons why Gordon Hayward should make the All-NBA Team. Moreau starts off with one point that is inarguable, "Hayward absolutely had one of the 15 best seasons in the NBA this year." And he goes on from there to make a compelling case that many Jazz fans will agree with.
- The All-Star Game snub (and we've seen guys make the All-NBA team without making the All-Star game before)
- His performance at Small Forward compared to his peers
- The NBA should endeavor to reward winning
- A look at the supporting cast, and how Hayward's leadership made a huge difference
- And despite being in his 5th season, Gordon is still significantly underrated
Check out his piece over here, and thanks D'Joumbarey for being a national writer who writes and watches Utah Jazz games!
I am in the process of a number of big posts this summer, and one of them has me going back into the archives quite a bit to help better understand and contextualize the Jazz history and experience over the decades. Like I said, I want to chronicle a lot of stuff before I die. So, in my research I find myself going deep and learning a lot about the team from before I became a fan of it. Check out this Detroit Pistons @ New Orleans Jazz video:
Yes, we have a lot of Pete Maravich, Gail Goodrich, Rich Kelley, Aaron James, Truck Robinson action. These are historically significant players all Jazz fans should know about. And yes, that's a super young Bob Costas doing the play-by-play and making a reference to people at home who may be watching this game in black-and-white.
What type of content do you want to see more of as we get closer to the NBA draft? Scouting reports? Opinion pieces? Something else? I'd love to write what you want to read. So tell me.