Monday, May 19, 2008

Down and Out

I know you all are probably sick of reading about the Jazz and how disappointing it is to face another long offseason, but I want to re-hash game 6 one more time.

I was cautiously optimistic about the Jazz' chances going into game 6. I knew the Lakers would bring it, mostly because I knew they wouldn't be able to last much longer, but I also thought the Jazz would respond with some of their best basketball of the playoffs to get the win.

I was sorely wrong.

Instead, the Jazz came out with visions of their summer vacations dancing in their heads, and they let the detestable Lakers walk all over them on their home court. Unacceptable. We were down the entire game - by 19 for a large part of it - and we made one furious flurry at the end to almost make the game interesting.

Note the key word almost.

The truth is the Lakers owned this game. They came to Salt Lake City with a mission: End this series. And they did it with precision and discipline. The Jazz, on the other hand, looked sloppy, unorganized and lazy. The same lack of defense that lost them games earlier in the season came back to haunt them in this, their final game in the 2007/2008 season.

That's the first thing I noticed, anyway, as I actually got to watch a little bit of this game. I walked into the community room of my apartment complex where the Jazz game happened to be playing, and I took a seat on a soiled couch. The apartments are filled with international students studying at Columbia University in New York, so I didn't mind that the room smelt of body odor and foreign cheeses. One Turkish guy was incredibly interested in Mehmet Okur, so that was cool. In reality, though, I was the only one in the room who really had a bleeding love for the Jazz.

I walked in in the middle of the second quarter during a commercial break (my wife and I had just returned from a show), and I was anxious to see how we were doing. I was disappointed to see we were down something like 35-19. I blinked a few times, thinking I was still just confused by all the glittering lights on Broadway, but the score was all too true. And as if the score wasn't proof enough, the Jazz started playing and I got to see for myself why the score was so lopsided. It looked like the gay guys I just got done watching on stage had caught the red-eye to Salt Lake and were now playing in Jazz uniforms.

Every play looked the same: Derek Fisher picks Deron Williams' pocket, dunk. Pau Gasol slips his defender, dunk. Kobe Bryant drives to the hoop, dunk and foul. On the other end, Okur takes a long jumper, brick. Matt Harpring takes a long jumper, brick . Andre Kirilenko drives to the hoop, bricks the dunk, looks around in confusion. The bile crept slowly up my throat...

It was at that moment that I realized how truly late it was, and I went upstairs to join my wife for some sleep.

Now I, like every other Jazz fan, am forced to face the most grueling test for any sports fan: summer. Now that the Jazz' season is over, how will I be consoled? By 60 baseball games every day? By the Arena Bowl? The NASCAR qualifying round?

And people wonder why I get so interested in football recruiting.

It's time to accept it though, the basketball season is over. The only thing that needs to happen now is the inevitable Laker sweep over the Celtics.

But what about the future of the Jazz?

A good portion of my fellow fans are looking at this early exit as an indication that we need to make some major changes. Calls for Carlos Boozer's head are ringing 'round the rooftops, Jerry Sloan effigies are burning in the streets and Utah is placing an embargo on all Russian-made goods.

I find myself a little less extreme.

I tend to think all this team really needs is experience. I like the core we have right now, and Jerry Sloan is a great coach. I would hate to throw a future hall-of-famer to the street because we had a disappointing playoff series against LA. Fortunately, the Jazz front office is run by rational people and not impassioned fans like myself.

If I did have to choose one person to keep, though, it would definitely be Deron Williams. D-Will to me is indispensable, and he really showcases how valuable a good point guard can be to a team. Not only that, he's a warrior. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he can take over games, he's a great shooter and he makes his team better. I love Williams, and I hope the guys in charge do whatever it takes to keep him here in Utah.

The most tradable players are, in my opinion, Okur and Kirilenko. Okur isn't as necessary as he was when we first acquired him. For a long time he was our only long-range threat, as weird as that sounds, but now with the addition of Kyle Korver, Ronny Price, Ronnie Brewer and the improving range of Williams, Okur suddenly looks more and more like a lazy Turk who shoots a lot. Kirilenko is another favorite of mine, but his heart isn't here anymore. He plays, but he doesn't want to be here. It's starting to show on the court. I favor shopping AK around for a similar player, but one whose heart isn't in France on vacation with his family.

Boozer's situation is a little different. I've always had my reservations about Boozer's heart (what with injuries and no shows and such), but the reality is we need Boozer's offense. We need his production, and we need his overall presence. Without Boozer teams will work exclusively on D-Will and unless we can pickup another All-Star, our offensive production will suffer. Plus, I just think Williams and Boozer need another year together. Keep him around, I say.

All in all, the Jazz are still a work in progress. I like our core, like I said, and I expect more experience will do this team good. Next year I expect more consistency, better defense and home court advantage in the playoffs. Anything less will be a disappointment.


Andy & Jessica said...

I need a little semi-public venting and then I am in hibernation mode until college football season:

- The only teams that win Championships play DEFENSE. So I question whether we have a chance with Boozer on the floor. You can't win when you are lazy 5-6 plays every game.

-I agree that Okur has become a liability. We have Daron Williams and Kyle Korver who shoot >40% from three, and Okur is not big enough defensively to be a shot blocking presence.

-Harpring reminds me of the guy that you hate to play with at the gym. He is not as talented as the other players but he tries to make up for it with a head full of steam. There was a moment in that last game when I though he was going to lose it and attack Kobe like a wild man. People like him are why I stopped playing pick up basketball at the gym.

If the Jazz get better defensively I think they have a real shot in the next couple of years. They should watch as Detroit creams the Lakers in the finals for an example of what they could do with better defense.

Lesley said...

Let's just say, the Booze Cruise sure was a major let down. What the Jazz have to improve on by next season is that other half of the game....DEFENSE.

All I'm saying is keeping Boozer around sure isn't going to help that cause....and giving him more money next year isn't going to leave much for Milsap who should have had Booze's minutes this series. At least he can bring "D." Even I, a luke warm Jazz fan, hit points of fury while watching that gross, gross game.

Milsap for President....

(and Boozer needs to stop stealing the easy free-throw rebounds from his teammates - cheap way to pad stats!)

Justin said...

I'm that untalented guy at the gym that plays with a full head of steam. I guess that's why I like Harpring.

Brett Zobell said...

There's no reason whatsoever the Jazz need to get rid of Booz. The Jazz barely lost to the best team in the league for heaven sakes. Yeah, Boozer didn't have the best game in the world, but that happens. He's still young and he is only going to get better depending upon his work ethic in the off-season. Millsap is great, but he's no scorer like Booz. If you get rid of Booz, then you are relying on Williams, Okur, and Kirilenko (Not exactly what you want).

My advice to the Jazz is the same as Adam, look to trade Andre. His contract is too big for how much production he gives to the Jazz. One can only imagine what Amare Stoudemire could do for the Jazz.

Rock said...

Boozer doesn't even TRY to defend. Nearly every time a Laker drove to the hoop, Boozer was standing there with his arms at his side. And don't give me crap about how he needs to stay out of foul trouble. Since when was that a reason to not play defense?

D-Will is the man. He, Harpring, and Brewer seemed like the only players on the team that consistently played with passion throughout the playoffs.

Go Pistons.