Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Bring Hope

I've been absent from posting during the playoffs. I apologize. But the Jazz series had a thick layer of inevitability that I couldn't cut through no matter how hard I tried. I watched the games more as an observer than a fan, watching to find some glimmer of hope for next year. I watched without much thought for the outcome of any particular possession or game. It's hard to blog about inevitability.

So, now that the season is over, I feel like there are things to ponder, things to write. Luckily, I am a very stable jazz fan. I don't get caught up in Jazz-are-title-bound hype when we win seven straight at home, and I don't worry about the "state of the franchise" when we lose to a clearly superior team in five games. Thus, in this time of doom and gloom, I am here to bring you hope.

  1. What Could Have Been: The thought that continues to needle me about this season is that it was flushed down the toilet by dropping two late home games to lottery clubs. If we beat Minny and Golden State in April, we're playing either the aging Spurs or the Nuggets in round 1. If it's the Spurs, I would be blogging about our second round matchup right now. And, while the Nuggets have looked good against New Orleans, I think that Jazz/Nuggets would have gone seven games. We were very close to being competitive this postseason.
  2. Talent Level: The Jazz have a lot of talent coming back next year. Our entire starting lineup returns (Boozer and Okur ain't leaving). Most of our bench talent is back, with the likely exception of Mr. Paul Millsap. While Millsap will be missed, his absence won't leave the Jazz bench totally ineffective - we just need Kirilenko and Korver to up the ante.
  3. Summer Break: No summer basketball for Williams, Okur, and Boozer means that we should be healthy next year. Along with the contract distractions, injuries killed the Jazz this year. Kirilenko, Fesenko, and Kofous are all playing this summer. Of course, having a summer off only helps stave off injuries if you actually stay in shape. For out-of-shape Euros, like Okur, summer break is more of a mental-health benefit. It allows him to binge on turkish delight and mutton so he can bulk up for training camp.
  4. Contract Years: Okur, Boozer, Brewer, and Harpring are all playing for new contracts. Let me predict right now that Boozer plays 75+ games and has a career year rebounding the ball. He's cool like that. I wish I could place a wager on this in Vegas.
  5. Aging of the West: For years the Western Conference has been brutal. But there is a subtle shift in power occurring. The Spurs and Hornets have been exposed in the playoffs. And I'm not convinced that the Rockets are going to be better next year. The Mavs are getting older as well. That leaves the Lakers, Blazers, and Nuggets as the cream of the crop. The Jazz can easily compete for home court in the first round next year.
  6. The End of an Era: Jarron Collins has likely played his last competitive basketball game. While I don't think that fact will improve or worsen the Jazz, his absence will certainly soothe Booner and Pasty Gangster who are convinced that Jarron is the anchor holding the Jazz back. Good bye, gentle scholar. We will miss your sweater vests and your citizenship.
Now, to be sure, there are problems: the Jazz can't win on the road, we are likely to lose our most aggressive post player for nothing, there are obvious chemistry issues on the squad, the luxury tax looms, and we may be trying out a new coach. But, I am optimistic about next year. I think next year's Jazz absolutely will outperform this year's squad and that we have a good shot at making the Western Conference finals. So cheer up, Jazz fans. Hope springs eternal.


Tucker McCann said...

"Good-bye Gentle Scholar,"

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. That nickname should have been utilized during Collins magnificent career. I can hear it now, Collins gets a put-back, and the Jazz's PA man whispers into the mic, "the gentle scholar . . . for two."

And seeing as that occurrence would only take place once every 3 months, it would be something really special for Jazz fans.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Rich said...

An audacious post.

Yes we can!

Draft Guru said...

I think we need to apply the ever successful slogan of "Change". We all want "Change". Right? Go Jazz! Blow this thing up!

Orlando said...

Blowing the Jazz up this offseason seems like a terrible idea to me. How do we do that? By trades? In that case we have the same cap problems, only worse because any contracts we take on will be longer than Boozer's or Okur's. We are stuck with our team next year. And I don't think that's necessarily bad. I wouldn't trade the Jazz' roster/salary situation for any team outside of a handful of squads. And those teams all have a Lebron, Wade, or Kobe.

Pasty Gangsta said...

My new favorite media story line (besides "The Pig Flu Will Kill You Tomorrow") is this yarn about how the Jazz are in decline because two years ago they went to the conference finals, last year they went to the semis, and this year they lost in the first round.

Let's break that down. Two years ago they caught a huge break and played a terrible Warriors team in the 2nd round. Last year they won their 1st round series and lost in the 2nd round. This year, with virtually the same team but with major injuries and guys playing for contracts, they fell apart down the stretch and drew the best team in the West to open things up.

What does this point to? That this Jazz team, on average, is a 2nd round playoff team. Which in my book is exactly accurate. But as Crotty notes, we're a younger team getting more experience while most others in the West are older teams getting. . . older.