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The Downbeat #2003: Jazz Narratives Edition!

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Are things going up or down for the Jazz? Or both?

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are running into narrative territory — are they still destined for a great season, or will Gordon Hayward’s injury derail that hype train before it leaves the station? What are some of the questions we have to ask after watching three preseason games? There’s some NBA history and trivia; and also a sneak peek (?) at the new home court. ALL OF THIS AND MORE IN TODAY’S DOWNBEAT!

The Utah Jazz are 2-1 in preseason so far with three games remaining -- all against the three teams they already played: tonight hosting the Phoenix Suns, Monday hosting the Los Angeles Clippers, and next Wednesday hosting the Portland Trail Blazers.

What have you liked from the Jazz so far?

What have you been worried about?

For me I like what I’m seeing from Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert. I strongly believe their on-court synergy is going to be something the team can rely upon going forward. It’s also a synergy which appears to exist on both sides of the court. That’s rare.

One thing I’ve been worried about is perimeter defense. But that’s a constant worry I guess, when you play so many talented perimeter guys in the Western Conference. George Hill is supposed to help out a lot there. He has the resume to be called lockdown, but he can’t guard both his man and Rodney Hood’s man at the same time. The team’s bench guards have been even less impressive. It’s early, and it’s not the end of the world. But it needs to improve.

There’s so much talk about Gordon Hayward’s ascension, what about the #3 guy from that same draft class, Derrick Favors?

Is Favors going to really take control of this team? I hope so. I’d love to see him go out there and get 4-6 easy buckets a game this year. But I think the bigger challenge for him will be seeing if he can guard all the SFs that are trickling into the PF position, on a nightly basis.

Last question for now, the offense looks slower than ever, with more guys standing around now that Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw go one on one. Are you cool with this?

The jury is still out, and wins help make any on-court play-style more palatable. But right now I’m not crazy about what I’m seeing. The play doesn’t even seem to start until 8 seconds have bled from the shot clock. That’s by design, I understand. It’s not a terribly fun offense to watch though. It’s a crutch used by teams that didn’t have a lot of offensive firepower (like Mike Fratello’s tenure as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 90s)

I hope that by now the offensive sets would look a little crisper and dynamic. Two vestigial dribble hand-offs and one poor screen to start every play do not instill much foundational confidence in the abilities of our players to run the plays their head coach draws up.

Are the Utah Jazz in trouble without Gordon Hayward? Some people think so; others are less worried.

But Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News (via NBA.com) had this to say:

When Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey brought in Hill, Johnson and big man Boris Diaw over the summer, the Jazz became one of the deeper teams in the NBA. Combining Hayward's expected absence with the ongoing rehab of backup shooting guard Alec Burks, Utah is once again quite thin on the wing. Even if Burks does return by the beginning of the regular season as expected, it is likely that Joe Ingles will once again see significant playing time.

Ryan McDonald, Deseret News, via NBA.com

Read the whole thing. It’s factual. Though, I think the Jazz ARE equipped to deal with this problem. Why am I so sure? It means more immediate minutes for two guys who may have been under dipped: Dante Exum and Trey Lyles. The “wing player” minute pool is 96 minutes a game. Hayward plays above 30. That needs to be filled up. It will be filled up partly by Exum (one of four point guards on the team right now that have guaranteed money coming to them, only Marcus Paige, PG #5, does not) stealing a little more at SG. And it will be filled up partly by Trey Lyles, who may have been seeing fewer minutes at PF because of Boris Diaw’s addition, and can now take some more at SF.

Those two young guys need as many minutes as possible. Getting minutes early on this season will help them get into their flow, and develop on court confidence that helps them get over temporary bad slumps or poor play. This team is going to hitch themselves to Gordon for the playoff push. But we don’t need to tire out that Indiana Clydesdale right now.

Also, no Hayward right now really does mean more Joe Johnson. And that’s great, because he really is in a career transition mode and needs to figure out where he exists in this new NBA that seems to be moving away from Iso-play.

I’m not happy that Gordon is injured. But I’m certain that Utah is not going to be as devastated by his injury as some would theorize. Furthermore, a lot of the games the team will lose early this season without him are games that would be lost with him as well.

Reaction GIF - Kermit

The Utah Jazz have a brand new court! Be excited!

Woo!

Trivia time — It’s a web-only version of “who he play for” but YOU are on the hot seat. This was spread around for a bit, and mostly by people saying “I got all 10 right!” — not that I’m hating on those guys. I did manage to get all 10 of them right, so I have no doubt the vast majority of you smart people will equal that feat!

Mental stimulation isn’t what some of the readers of this site come for. I know. Some of you come for potentially NSFW images. Crude? Yes. Accurate? Probably. We didn’t have HD TVs back then.

Mercifully. (Also, some sports cards in the day do confirm the general premise. Not that I’m going to elaborate.)

The NBA Season starts (for us Utah Jazz fans) on October 25th, which is 13 days away. Two weeks. Halloween is on the 31st, that’s 19 days away. Or about three weeks. As a result, things are only going to get increasingly Jazz and increasingly spooky over the next little while. Some places are already getting in the act. Dimemag, a place I’ve written for before and somehow they block me on twitter, got into the swing of both of those things.

Their guy Alex Siquig goes deep onto how it could be possible for the Jazz to win the title:

The piece is fun to read, but it’s more creative writing than actual analysis. It’s still very worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

The Utah Jazz will lose five of their first six games, with their sole win coming against the bumbling Los Angeles Lakers. They will have lost every other game by single digits, including an overtime barnburner in San Antonio, where George Hill has a little bit of a revenge game, dropping 36 points with Steph Curry-like efficiency. The Jazz know they are close, but the loss of Gordon Hayward to injury and integrating several new rotation players proves a confounding Rubik’s Cube to Quin Snyder, who looks even more like a serial killer this season, because now he knows his squad is on the cusp of elite play and it stresses him out that he has no idea how to get them to make that final tiny leap to contention.

Snyder had slotted in Joe Johnson to replace Hayward at small forward, and while his range and steady veteran know-how gave Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors room to operate (Gobert especially feasted on rebounds via Johnson’s numerous long-range misfires), something with this lineup is not quite right. It’s too conservative. One night, before the Jazz’s first and only trip to Madison Square Garden, Snyder is visited in a dream by a friend he lost long ago, who tells him he knows how to save the Jazz’s season. When Snyder wakes up he can’t quite remember the dream exactly, but inserts Dante Exum into the starting lineup to play alongside George Hill, while Rodney Hood slides down to small forward. With Hill’s game-managing and Exum’s long-armed disruption, the two-point guard lineup pays off in a big way and the Jazz go on an eight game winning streak, with six of those wins on the road.

The Jazz continue to win in ugly, physically punishing fashion.

Alex Siquig, Dime Magazine, 2016

I did really enjoy this, and their entire series this NBA Preseason. I do want the team to win the title this year, but I don’t know if it’s going to exist in anything beyond our own fanfiction in 2016-2017.

And they also remixed all the NBA Logos to be Halloween related. Behold:

This is kind of cool, but the Jazz don’t really get a cool re-do. Honestly, there wasn’t much that they could really work with, so I’m fine with that. I’m not mad. I’m not going to steal their images and link them here either. They deserve the click through.