Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Jazz Fan's Preview

Being a Utah guy I have to say something about the upcoming Jazz basketball season. The last couple of years have been a strange experience as a Jazz fan. When the Stockton and Malone era ended many experts picked the Jazz to finish as the worst team in the NBA for the 2003-04 season. They defied expectations (42-40 record) and just missed the playoffs that year with the help of a rising star named Andrei Kirilenko. The Jazz had plenty of money to throw around last year and they shot their wad on Carlos Boozer (ok so he stabbed the Cavs in the back but it seemed like a good deal for Utah) and Mehmet Okur (a promising scoring center on the bench in Detroit), and gave a nice contract to point guard Carlos Arroyo, who had just trashed the U.S. squad in the Olympics for Puerto Rico and seemed ready for a breakout year. The Jazz were promoting their slogan for the year "I can't wait" and it seemed to represent what many Utah fans were feeling. There was a palpable excitement about the promise and hope of this team. Jazz fans had been hearing for years before Stockton and Malone left that their era was ending. By the time it did, many were feeling some feelings of relief. We would miss the dynamic duo and things were going to be rough in the future until new stars emerged, but at least we could start that process (be careful what you wish for).
That's why the 2003-04 season was so cruel. We had no reason to expect anything that year and then somehow Kirilenko and the Jazz overachieve and are fighting for a playoff spot until the last day of the season.

Then came the 04-05 season. The Jazz win their first 6 games, Kirilenko is scoring and seemingly blocking every shot put up by the opposition. Their was excitement in the air. This team's down time was going to be non-existent!......Um...Earth to Jazz fans....come in Jazz fans..... Yeah. Kirilenko ends up getting hurt and spending half the season in street clothes. Arroyo never plays up to expectations, ends up in Sloan's doghouse and is traded to the Pistons. Boozer also spends significant time hurt and although his stats aren't bad, Jazz fans are more than a little disappointed in his season. Final record 26-56. Ouch. Back to reality.

The end of the season brought the Jazz the highest draft pick (traded up to get the # 3 slot) they had seen in a long while. They needed a point guard and they had Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the two highest rated guys to pick from. As everyone knows they went with Williams. This was no surprise to anyone familiar with Jerry Sloan. Williams seemed like the tougher guy, with a willingness to get others involved in a game. Sloan has always valued that over flashiness and scoring, which is what I'm sure he and the Jazz brass saw in Chris Paul. I have to admit I wanted them to draft Paul. The Jazz need a go-to guy and even though Boozer and Kirileko can score in double digits, I think they need someone else who will take the big shot when it's needed. Chris Paul seems like that type. Maybe I'm wrong and Deron Williams will end up being the better point guard in the long run and Paul will end up much like Stephon Marbury (talented, a scorer, but not a great player), but I have my doubts.

The Jazz have some questions that need to be answered in my mind for this year:

1. Can Kirilenko stay healthy and regain his 03-04 all-star form?

2. Can Boozer stay healthy and play like the guy the Jazz thought they shelled out all the cash for?

3. Can Deron Williams develop into a solid point guard this year and show all-star potential for the years to come?

4. Can Jerry Sloan relate to his players and actually adapt his style to fit the personnel he has?....Wait I know the answer to this already. As Napoleon Dynamite would say, "Idiot!"

5. Can Okur and Kirilenko avoid hair styles this year that leave grown men crying and mothers shielding their babies eyes?

I think the Jazz will be lucky if they come anywhere close to replicating their 03-04 season. I have hope for them but I'm also realistic that they may be a couple of years and a couple of players away from contending for a playoff spot. At any rate I'm still a fan and will stick with them no matter how painful it is. You can still get Tylenol over the counter right?


Anonymous said...

I agree we should have picked Paul not only because of his ability to step up and score but I also fear that he is the better defender at the NBA level. Hopefully I'm wrong though.

Sports Litter said...

The Jazz are going nowhere this year. I hate the Jazz more than any team because of their heated rivalry vs the rockets in the mid 90s.

Rockets will own the Jazz this year and forever.