Tuesday, March 29, 2011

maybe a bright spot

last night, i wanted to throw feces at the television. i wanted to jump up and down, shove my desk out the window, break mirrors. to quote from a movie that most people inexplicably still think is about MMA, “i wanted to breathe smoke.”

but there was one nice glimpse into the future of the team; a handful of rookies playing solid basketball for an entire quarter.

normally, this wouldn’t seem that impressive. but i think it’s fair to say that the last 10 weeks have put jazz fans in a position to appreciate the little things more. but it’s also possible that i am grasping to the only not terrible element from last night’s disaster and lying to myself that next season shows some promise.

i typically avoid asking directly for feedback from readers, but right now it’s hard not to question whether i’m thinking rationally about this. should hopes be raised for the future of the team based on hayward/favors/evans performance last night, or was it three kids playing mediocre basketball against a truly atrocious DC squad?

thoughts? questions? concerns?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

weekender 6

this hasn't quite been the keep-me-focused feature i'd hoped it to be back in november. but, as dave chappelle might have said 8 years ago when people still cared about him, "fuck it."

three quick things to wrap up the week.

first, i was bragging on facebook/twitter recently that HoD had acquired its first follower. guess who literally DOUBLED their subscribing readership in under 48 hours this week? JAMES PETERSON DID.

second, at this point, for the jazz to make the playoffs, miracles are required. it's like, now i watch games just in case dirk and the jet start making out at halfcourt and get so into it that they're both ejected from the stadium. and then the cheerleaders all make out in protest because they have serious opinions about gay rights, but nobody throws them out because we live in a world of double standards that generally benefit people like me (male, white, straight, no priors) and "any way you want it" starts playing while sideshow mel hands out drinks.

see? while that happening every night for the balance of the season is technically possible, it's still probably in the miracle neighborhood. (i just noticed that i didn't even include the jazz winning in that scenario; just two dudes getting ejected for necking and a party with girl-on-girl makeouts. in some ways, i question how i survive as an adult.)

third, normally i clean up my posts from here when i cross-post them to the UJ360 message boards. but i've noticed that the only cuss word that's seen any regular usage lately has been the F-bomb. i really need to expand my goddamn offensive vocabulary and shit. perhaps reading more tweets, written in anger, from LostTacoVendor will do the trick.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

the worst

it's only fitting to start posting entries titled after singles from lagwagon's "resolve," an album dedicated to the memory of derrick plourde. plourde had been a fixture of the southern california punk revival scene beginning with his involvement with lagwagon in 1991 and lasting through stints with the ataris, RKL, and significant contributions to lagwagon lead singer joey cape's side project bad astronaut.

in 2005, plourde shot himself in the chest.

the entirety of "resolve" is dedicated to the memory of the deceased drummer; how much he impacted the lives of those around him and those who simply heard his machine gun-fast, robot-accurate drumming. while plourde, or any of his bands (excluding perhaps the atari's flash-in-the-pan hit, covering a terrible don henley song), never really made it to the big time, much of the drum work he did on various records is seared into the identity of a generation of counter-culture youth from america's suburbs.

i should note that i'm not trying to make light of a guy who committed suicide here, but making an analogy of plourde to this season's jazz isn't terribly difficult.

the utah jazz came late to the NBA game, moving from new orleans to a state "where music is illegal" around the same time the larry bird entered the league. the franchise made a handful of brilliant moves in the 1980's, culminating a decade later with a pair of runs at a world championship. 13 seasons after utah's last shot at a title, the wheels fell off the car when sloan resigned and the front office traded an all-star point guard midseason. according to david locke (and reality), even before the moves, the team had been showing multiple signs of an major problems back in december. trading deron williams, then, wasn't really the initial death knell for the jazz season. it was more of the coup de grĂ¢ce.

for jazz fans, other than what seemed like a mild hiccup between the stockton/malone era and the deron williams years, there has always been light at the end of the tunnel; even with a mediocre season, the playoffs have been a virtual certainty for the salt lake city franchise. but now the all-too-real potential of having a regular season only team is starting to weigh heavily on many jazz fans, including yours truly.

when plourde left lagwagon, the band was able to move forward without missing much of a beat; the group's best-selling album (1999's "let's talk about feelings") was recorded with a new man behind the drum kit. arguably the best effort from the band after their 2000 hiatus was, in fact, the album dedicated to their fallen colleague.

while most jazz fans have stayed relatively upbeat about the future prospects of the team, i think it's fair to say that all of us have indulged in a bit of pitying ourselves and the organization. if the best thing we have to look forward to is reflecting on the glory years of a squad that never won a title, it's going to be a long and thankless road.

i think karl malone's attitude, that the team needs to look back at what worked on a fundamental level (grit and execution), is likely to be the saving grace next season, despite whatever moves are made by the front office personnel. sometimes, a now-irrelevant band channels an intensity of emotion lost after a career of never quite making it to the big time in order to cap its catalog with a masterpiece. but it wasn't solely the emotion that made resolve such an amazing record. it was a band that had honed its craft to perfection. it took reflection. it took work.

it's an old cliche that you never know what the future may bring. but occasionally, when fortune brings disaster, something amazing results. maybe the death of 25 years of reliably great jazz basketball will mark the birth of the next 25. but it's not going to come without some pain.

Monday, March 21, 2011

romantic junkie

today's short post brought to you by ALL. thou shalt go for greatness.

after last night's loss to houston, the balance of the jazz season reads like that most famous line from dante's divine comedy.

abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

despite the gloom and doom from some of the utah jazz 360 board's regulars, as recently as 12 hours ago i retained some illusion that the jazz would likely make the playoffs. all it would take was winning against inferior teams and a couple of upsets. the rockets win last night, however, dropped the jazz from being able to claw back into 8th tonight with a win against memphis straight into the 11th spot in the west.

not good.

it's still entirely possible, from a mathematical perspective, for the jazz to win and some of the lower western conference playoff seeds to slide enough for utah to make it to the postseason. but the probability is somewhere on par with me starting alongside jefferson next season (i did win a game of HORSE over the weekend with a kareem sky-hook 3 pointer, but you get my point). in short, barring a miracle, the jazz finish under .500 and get a couple of lotto picks should the draft go on as regularly scheduled.

(it's worth noting, however, that given the current state of CBA "negotiations" with the NFL that the draft will not take place for either league in a normal sense, if at all. you can bet your lunch that the NBA and the NBAPA are watching, enamored, with the progress of professional football's latest labor dispute. and given that the NFLPA pulled the trigger on decertification and filing a lawsuit against their employers within days of the previous bargaining agreement expiring that the NBAPA is going to follow suit should the tactic prove fruitful. in other words, this summer is likely to be a lot of waiting on motions and judgments rather than unionized labor discussions. because the draft is a subject of collective bargaining, it's unlikely that a "normal" draft is going to take place within either league.)

despite this considerable second-half-of-the-season implosion by the jazz, it seems important to point out that many of the moves jazz fans have been waiting for have finally come to fruition. the jazz have relatively youthful exuberance in the coaching staff while retaining a lot of the sloan/johnson work ethic. the front office was finally willing to make a big trade in order to better the (perhaps not immediate) future of the franchise. the team is sporting the length necessary to compete against LA's interior.

clearly there are enormous question marks remaining: what to do about the 2 guard vacuum? where is the jazz defense? what happened to the jazz's long-standing tradition of rebounding? will corbin remain committed to sloan's offense? what is AK's dollar value going forward? the list of worries is by no means short.

but i remain optimistic about the future of the organization. i would, frankly, rather see the jazz make the playoffs this year than pick up an extra draft pick. but that desire comes largely from an emotional perspective; just making the playoffs is enough to make having a pretty terrible spring (on several fronts) recede. now that jazz fans are faced with a near-concrete extension of their normal summer vacation, hope remains.

despite the recent string of close games ending in disappointment, the team is moving forward. the jazz will be able to start the off-season in the enviable position of having many assets available for improvement, as well as retaining several players who are exhibiting real grit and competitive spirit. i don't think anybody would argue that if jefferson's numbers continue next season, he's a lock for all-star weekend 2012. hayward is showing enormous promise as a tenacious defender, as well as being able to find open floorspace both during plays and when the offense breaks down. favors' potential is off the charts.

gail miller said at sloan's resignation press conference that no one player is bigger than the team. i think, as jazz fans, it's been implied often in the past that the team is supposed to be about a couple of players and everything else is a side dish. the best part about this season, and the brightest light on the future, is that the jazz brass has shown a renewed commitment to put the team ahead of the individual. i have little doubt that, once the on-the-floor play starts rolling consistently next season - and it almost certainly will - utah is back in the postseason hunt.

making smart offseason moves is obviously the key to being in the running for a championship. but given how dark the past weeks have been, having a little light at the end of this season's tunnel is comforting. it's a reminder that, despite the rough spots, this is a team that is easy to get behind.* while the team and fans might be reeling a bit now, the undisputed core of utah jazz basketball has always been competing and fighting.

it's hard not to respect that. and when it's happening, it's hard to lose games.

call me a sucker. but the jazz are my H and i'm always looking forward to the next fix.

* no homo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

fair, weathered fans

haha. oh fair weather fans. unbelievable. RT@My_Lo Yes Jazz fans this team is a disgrace.

just a short thought on the above sentiment from last night's twitter feed - i'm not going to write anything longer than a few paragraphs because i am still fuming about last night's game and the terrible, terrible officiating.

let's be honest here. the jazz have under a 50-50 shot at making the playoffs at this point, and even if they do, is this team capable of beating san antonio in seven games? in one game? allow me to slap you in the face with the same dead fish that caught my grill last night. the jazz aren't a good team right now. at their reality-best, this is a .500 team for the remainder of the season. frankly, i will be happy with .500 to close out.

before you get all "oh, there's potential!" on me, let me clue you in on the problem: the potential has been there for five years. the heart is there sometimes from some players. the start-to-finish execution, the killer instinct, is glaringly absent.

saying these things doesn't make me a fair-weather fan. look the term up in your merriam-webster and you'll see this:

1: loyal only during a time of success [a fair-weather friend]

i hate to break it to you, delusional jazz fans, but those of us who think the team is running out of W's haven't abandoned our loyalty. and it's incredibly pompous and narcissistic to consider yourselves "better" fans because you have no grasp on reality. i was throwing things in my apartment last night. i cried during sloan's press conference. hell, i own a kirilenko jersey. i love everything about this team to the point of alienating the people around me.

but i'm also tired of losing. i suppose that makes the players and management fair-weather also, because you can bet your condescending ass that they're tired of losing, too, and are wondering what they're doing wrong. maybe calling the team a "disgrace" is a little extreme, but My_Lo wasn't the only person tweeting things out of unbridled anger last night:

JazzInJersey: "penetration, getting it into your big man" fuck you TNT. i'm finally willing to call [a] win for the refs. fuck the fucking NBA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


tomorrow's game between the jazz and the nuggets is going to be televised on TNT all over the nation. kenny, chuck, and ernie are no doubt going to talk way too much about the recent movement of players from those two teams. despite our heated history, i think there are two things denver and utah fans can agree on right now:

1. shut up about the fucking trades, they have been consuming our lives ad naseum for what seems like eternity; and
2. carmelo anthony is a douche.

come to think of it, i'm pretty sure every man, woman, and child outside of NYC can get on board with that second point.

it's just especially sweet for jazz fans, being the first to know that "carmelo's people of utah" really was just one small faction of people that couldn't wait to get him out of the western conference.

moving, if not forward

to both of my loyal readers, i'd like to apologize for being MIA since the deron trade. i had a family emergency last week that required some last-minute flying around the country. as a result of spending about 48 hours in an airport/on an airplane in a 72 hour period, i've also contracted a particularly interesting set of symptoms that i wouldn't wish on anybody (not wearing a lakers uni).

i get that, as result of this, i'm a little late to the "what the fuck do we do now" party. so late, in fact, that the theme of the event has changed to "well, that could have been worse." we picked up two pretty solid talents, in addition to a couple of probable lotto picks, and "sent a message" to the NBA's top talent that management still holds the cards (most of the time). the jazz are playing as well as i think anybody could have anticipated given the past three weeks; even though they're not winning games, they're at least in games - monday's thriller against boston was a heartbreaker, but it was certainly more fun and encouraging to watch than the last boston-jazz game i saw.

so where does that leave jazz fans? not so very long ago, Jerry's Kids were in a real position to grab the #2 spot in the west; now, Ty's Tykes are two spots out of the Big Dance. bright spots?
  • big al is playing balls-out, all-star basketball. you know the numbers.
  • kirilenko, since jerry left, is shooting 69% from the field. he's also averaging 4 dimes and 4.8 boards, along with 15.6 points per game. compare those numbers to his season averages: .471 fg%, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 12.0 ppg. other than losing out on 3/4 of a rebound per game, Filet-O-Fish has improved his game since jerry left.
  • devin harris is, playing with the jazz, already having improvements in his game versus his career averages (jazz/career): .850/.806 ft%, 3.3/2.5 rpg, 7.3/5.0 apg, 16.7/13.2 ppg.
  • the jazz had 37 assists on 44 field goals against detroit on saturday night.
i posted recently that i'd spend the rest of the season focusing on who is going to show some heart and effort since it didn't seem like deron had enough. (god forgive me if we don't make the playoffs because i didn't knock on wood after thinking that.) the answer has been that our frontcourt has largely responded with heart and hustle. earl, ronnie, and devin haven't been slouching. our shooting guards, however . . . i'm going to re-read the bright spots i just pointed out and focus on that for a while.

what do we need to do in order to get raja to stop making stupid mistakes? how can CJ's game see some consistency? at this point, i'd take consistently mediocre over on fire then sucking balls. and that's pretty much it for the 2 guard spot.

what all this boils down to is this: while i was dealing with my family stuff over the weekend, i had a chance to talk at length with a former jazz-beat writer for one of SLC's big newspapers. it so happened that during our deron trade chatter, my brother-in-law, who lives in phoenix, mentioned that an arizona paper reported the jazz had almost moved paul millsap for robin lopez and pietrus.

if that trade rumor held any truth, i can't help but understand some of deron's grumblings a little better. the jazz were finally willing to make some big trades, potentially and/or successfully moving fan-favorites, all-stars, and team cornerstones. yet the one place the jazz are weakest right now - the 2 guard - remains woefully undertalented (i don't think raja is a very good ballplayer in his old age, frankly, and i already mentioned my thoughts on CJ's current game) and understaffed in comparison to the utah frontcourt.

so, KOC and mr. rigby, if you're looking to get this team moving, what are your plans to get its roster moving in the right direction?

i can only hope we don't have to wait until 2012 to find out.