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The Downbeat #1997 - Which numbers matter?

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The Utah Jazz have a lot of numbers to reach for this season, but some are more important than others

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Numbers. The Utah Jazz are ruled by it, in fact the entire NBA is. From All-Time stats to salaries . . . and even the most important thing — wins — are things we count. So let’s start counting them all today!

Okay, we need to address this:

This is pretty much what I was talking about a few days back when mentioning that the Jazz have a problem retaining full rights to their icons, unlike some other teams. Here we see John Stockton IN TRAINING CAMP with the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, we’ve heard the fables of Stockton hosting workouts with Deron Williams, Trey Burke, and possibly others. But that’s not the same thing as being in their practices and emotionally yelling at their kids in uniform. (And yes, that’s Giannis Antetokounmpo getting instruction from Stockton. Be aware.)

It’s not like we don’t have a bunch of point guards who could benefit right now, with rookie Marcus Paige, second year player Raul Neto, and guy returning from injury / former teen Dante Exum. But heeeyyy . . . .

I guess we should just be okay with this because Jerry Sloan was in San Antonio Spurs training camp a few seasons ago, but not ours. And perhaps this is just the way it’s going to be — when you look outside of your organization those new people will be bringing with them their own guys (because I guess Antonio Maurice Lang is a better bigman coach than Karl Malone).

More realistically this problem seemed to exist before the Dennis Lindsey / Quin Snyder era as well; as Mark Eaton never worked out with Kosta Koufos or Kyrylo Fesenko when they were young and needed specific defensive coaching on how to use their size.

#HotTake Pistol Pete Maravich’s ghost will be helping Jrue Holiday with his behind the back passes next season.

Moving from one knee-jerk reaction to the next . . . the Utah Jazz are going to be paying guys to stay -- for realises now. Rookie contracts only exist for Trey Lyles, and Dante Exum. (2nd round rookie contracts are different) The two guys we’re most worried about keeping are Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. And everyone knows it. As a result Alex Kennedy’s tweet required Jody Genessy’s comment . . . both frighting and reassuring:

So here we are on the precipice of maxing out two guys (Hayward and Gobert) who haven’t even been All-Stars even once in their careers. It makes the head spin.

In other news, I’m unnaturally defensive of Olden Polynice because I used to absolutely KILL with him in the Electronic Arts (pre EA Sports) video game “Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs”. The PC disc version of the game was filled with the teams from the 1988 NBA Playoffs roster updated for the start of the 1988-89 NBA Season. And yes, while my main team was the Utah Jazz you couldn’t help but have fun using the other teams. One of the sneaky good teams in the game was the Seattle Supersonics. That team had a lot of good players like Dale Ellis, Derrick McKey, Michael Cage, Nate McMillan, Xavier McDaniel, and so on. But super stealthy good player to use was bench bigman, 2nd year player Olden Polynice. He was just so big and fast and potentially boosted up in attribute values because he was a lotto pick.

I enjoyed him as a Jazzman as well, though the team failed to make the NBA Finals during his tenure in Utah.

My fond memories of OP do not seem universal. Behold:

To which Polynice replied:

If you actually KNOW about Polynice’s life you would understand how great a story it is, beating the odds to be in the history books (Top 100 All-Time in career games, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, FG%, and offensive and total rebound percentage). You wouldn’t have guessed that for a child in Haiti who doctor’s felt like who never walk in his life — compounded by the fact that his family couldn’t afford a wheelchair.

Sure, you could argue that Scottie Pippen had a bigger impact as a basketball player — but Polynice is truly the bigger name when it comes to what actually matters. (And I’m not just talking about his hunger strike during the 1993 NBA season for the freedom of Haitians refugees who were imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.) Years later in 2012 the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, would name him a goodwill ambassador for his island nation.

In addition to basketball analysis, Polynice strives to advocate for the National Disability Employment Agency, of which he serves as an ambassador for the NDEAM’s 31 day’s project.

So I agree with Holden. Truly few people in the world have done what he has. It’s not just about putting up rebounding numbers in the NBA, or being a lotto pick. It’s about what you do with your life. Pippen? My memories of him are of fouling (and not getting called for them) Shandon Anderson in the NBA Finals on back to back plays, and sitting out of a final shot situation where Phil Jackson decided to put the ball in Toni Kukoc’s hands.

If you are just a Utah Jazz fan your memories of Polynice may not be as grand as mine. But that’s okay.

I’m a fan.

Back to basketball . . . and back to “normal” for us, getting snubbed. As in: guess which team still isn’t cool enough to be “hip”? It’s the Jazz!

You know the game, and here are the players / teams they picked:

  • OKC - Russell Westbrook / Steven Adams
  • GSW - Kevin Durant / Draymond Green
  • MIN - Andrew Wiggins / Karl-Anthony Towns
  • CLE - LeBron James / Kyrie Irving
  • POR - Damian Lillard / C.J. McCollum
  • MIL - Giannis Antetokuonmpo / Jabari Parker
  • PHI - Ben Simmons / Joel EMbiid

Okay, so Gordon Hayward / Derrick Favors / Rudy Gobert / Rodney Hood (In some combination) not making this list? Fine. I’ll take it. I guess it goes back to the money thing -- none of them have been All-Stars. I guess winning resolves a lot of national opinion though. Something we all expect our team to do this season.

Speaking of which . . . the data over at Nylon Calculus has the Jazz winning +6 more games this year.

That takes the team over .500, and a 46 win projection. The team can get to 50 and above in my mind, but compared to the rest of the league, this would be tied for the 3rd best jump (Philly +16, HOU/NOP tied for +7, UTA/BKN tied for +6). Not too shabby. It’s not the number we fans want, but I think out of the main goals: winning 50, winning the division, or making it to the 2nd round — the 50 number is the least important one.