Today's post brought to you by Bad Religion.
As anybody who's been following the Utah Jazz online this season knows, the hallmark of the season for many fans has been the rift between those who believe strongly in the future and those who buy into the team's "win now" aesthetic. There is, undoubtedly, a serious sub-debate there about whether that rift really exists; in other words, that playing the youth more may not make much of a negative impact on the team's record once the season is over. But the fact remains that some fans are unhappy with the way the team is managed and coached, while others believe there is a long-term plan in place that makes the present seem, at best, sluggish and unyielding.
Admittedly, I am in the latter camp. Maybe I had one too many cups of Kool-Aid, but here's some of the facts. Arguably the most dominant team in the NBA over the past 13 years has been the San Antonio Spurs, who built their dynasty on the model produced by Jerry Sloan's Jazz squad. The difference between the Jazz version and the Spurs version is that the Spurs version has won championships. You can (and I do) argue that the Jazz would have a pair of championships if not for that Jordan guy. But it's not as though the Spurs beat a bunch of slouch players to win their rings. The fact is the Spurs did things better, if only in minor ways. But the little things make the difference, and that attention to detail is what makes champions regardless of whether you're talking basketball, computer programming or flying an airplane.
So what have the Jazz done to improve their chances of winning? Instead of simply re-modeling their plan on the Spurs-modeled-on-the-Jazz idea, they just brought in the guy who, in part, put those championship Spurs squads together. With Dennis Lindsey on staff, Utah has signaled that despite KOC's "we're not rebuilding" comments from a couple of years ago, the Jazz are, in fact, hitting the reset button. And one would think that part of rebuilding means going to the youth at the expense of the older guys who, more likely than not, won't be back next season.
Unfortunately, the Jazz don't exist in a vacuum. If you sit the vets, it creates dischord in the locker room. It undermines the already limited attraction to free agents who might otherwise consider playing in a Jazz uniform. It tells the youth that they have no guarantees from the brass that, once given the reigns, they will have confidence to retain them. It signifies to your fan base that if they scream loud enough about not being a top seed in the West, the team will cave to pressure. Perhaps the biggest drawback of abandoning your vets in favor of youth is an admission that you've been doing it wrong, and thus everybody who's bought into the system (coaches, players, potential new players and fans alike) has been willing to overlook a lie.
In my opinion, there is no way for the Jazz to win this debate this season. Fans of the youth feel like their guys are being sidelined unjustly. Fans of the vets can read the writing on the wall and know what they've been rooting for is gone next season. On the other hand, both camps will have carte blanche next year, as the Core Four should see extended playing time (barring some major free agent pickups, which is extremely unlikely) and the long-term plan for the team is going to stay in place with Dennis Lindsey likely to only tinker with how to lace the wheel rather than re-inventing it.
The point I'm circling around is has to do with this being my first substantive post on HoD in months. It's been difficult for me to write anything meaningful that hasn't already been covered by more talented people, be they professional journalists or reckless boggers. There doesn't seem to be much point in continuing to debate the merits of how to handle the rest of the season. Corbin has made no bones about his commitment to staying the course. Personally, I still think the Jazz have an outside shot at landing the 6 seed in the West and taking that series to 6 games, depending on the opponent.
I would call that a victory and I would call that progress. Jumping up two playoff spots, competing hard in the first round and giving the youth real playoff experience is enough for me, as long as the opportunity isn't squandered over the summer. But given that the Jazz now are run by one of the most successful basketball execs in the business, I trust that we see further improvement next year. The rest of the West is so stacked that earning a 4 seed is going to be an immense challenge regardless of the moves the Jazz are able to make this offseason.
With those things said, here's the rub: I'm tired of the malcontent and arguing for the sake of arguing about the Jazz's 2012-2013 season. This will likely be the last post from me that touches on The Narrative or whatever we're calling it at this point. It would be nice to see Jazz fans get back to focusing on wins and having fun rather than posturing and bickering. Time to take a proverbial (or literal, if you're into that sort of thing) walk and a deep breath, and get back into rooting for our squad.
See you at The Solution, Jazz fans.