The Utah Jazz season passed away peacefully last night with very little fight and in the presence of 19,911 of its closest friends. This Jazz season was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 28, 2015. Its life was highlighted by surprise wins against the Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks, and a 48 point drubbing of the hapless Lakers. The season was also plagued by countless injuries and inexcusable losses that couldn’t be overcome. This Jazz season is survived by the Houston Rockets and one of the least inspiring seasons ever by a talented NBA team, and a Portland Trailblazers team that is short on talent, but was built in a more impressive manner than the Jazz were. Funeral services will be held at the Staples Center Wednesday night at 7:30 PM Pacific Coast Time. Cost of attendance will be about $4,000.
I mean, what do you say about the Jazz season and the way it basically came to an end last evening? Well since this is a funeral, I think it’s appropriate to mourn some and reflect some as well. But mostly mourn.
I get it. The Jazz had tons of injuries. And I get it. The Jazz are really inexperienced. But it really doesn’t matter. The Jazz also had a real shot at making the playoffs this year. It was like an 85 or 90% chance at some point, whatever that means. Win against a crappy Clippers roster at home and you are on the home front. Brooklyn at home. The Pelicans on the road. The Magic on the road AND at home. This Jazz season wasn’t lost last night. In many ways it was lost time and time again, against really bad teams. It is what it is.
I hate the lack of experience argument. It is stupid. Inexperienced teams don’t win? It’s probably a fair general rule, but the Jazz are also pretty talented and they, or fans, or the media, do them a disservice when they chalk up losses to inexperience. Last night as I was watching the Dallas Mavericks thoroughly outplay the Jazz, all I could think of was when I had my heart broken the third time by the Jazz. The first two times were definitely against the Bulls in the finals. But the third time was in 2001 when the Jazz were up 2 games to nothing against none other than the Dallas Mavericks. They lost 3 games in a row and the series. That Jazz team had John Stockton (16 years), Karl Malone (15 years), John Starks (11 years), Bryon Russell (7 years), etc, etc and many years of championship experience. And the Jazz got punked by a team lead by Michael Finley (5 years), Steve Nash (4 years), and Dirk Nowitzki (2 years).
I get it. Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are all-timers. Hall of Famers. But they weren’t that season. Before they were all time greats, they were pretty good, young players who outplayed teams with tons of experience. We are doing a disservice to the Jazz players when we give them excuses.
I don’t know what the power of belief is in an NBA player or team. But I do know that no great NBA player has ever existed without a belief in themselves or from others. In fact, most of the greatest players believed in themselves to ridiculous and unreal amounts. I never loved the way we talked about this season’s Jazz team as a fanbase, the media, and most importantly as an organization. It’s a fine line, because you don’t want to talk about winning games and reaching heights you haven’t earned yet. You don’t want to look foolish. But at the same time, it’s time for the Jazz to start thinking bigger. This Jazz team is a top 4 western team with a few small, realistic moves. Look at their injuries and their point differential. Imagine what one extra guy who’s been there would do for this team. It’s time to aim a little higher. I think it might be a year past time. I am as guilty as anyone on a player to player basis, but it’s time to start believing a little bit more in what this Jazz team should become.
There will be time for thoughtful contemplation about this Jazz season and time for handing out kudos and orange slices. But tonight is not that time. Tonight I am mad and frustrated and let down. It’s not a time to point unfair fingers of blame that I will regret later, either. But it’s just a time to mourn this season and all the chances the Jazz squandered.
And if I am mad, I sure hope the players are livid. I hope the Jazz organization and players take a long time to let this feeling fester and drive them. I can’t do anything to help the situation. I can’t blog harder. I can’t living room GM any better. Tomorrow I will wake up, and what was it, Lebron? Oh yes. Go back to my same, silly job, and what not. But I really hope this blown chance at the playoffs sits in the Jazz player’s bodies like a summer-long sickness. I hope the players come back next season expecting much more out of themselves and their teammates.
I hope the front office gets to work. I hope this disappointing end to this season eats at them and spurs them to raise the bar a little bit and expect more and make more honest evaluations of their strengths and weaknesses. I hope the players, the coaching staff and the front office have a collective message at media day in September: “We expect to make the playoffs and be one of the better Western Conference teams. And this is how we are going to do it.”
There’s really nothing more to say. The Jazz showed promise and they showed moxie and they showed fight. But in the end, they fell short of an achievable goal. And while we should praise them for some things, we must also not make excuses for them. It’s time to be better.