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.

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