Chicago— Dear Chicago JazzBulls fans;
Hope you're enjoying your team and our players (but not really — not that we're bitter).
The Bulls won a league-high 62 games and are 2-0 in the playoffs so far. Despite the more publicized hoarding of brand-name talent by the Lakers, Knicks and Heat, the Bulls look like the team to beat. We're real happy for you (but not really — not that we're bitter).
The JazzBulls owe much of it to the Jazz. Little more than a year ago, three of their players — Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Carlos Boozer — were wearing Jazz uniforms. This year, they instantly transformed the Bulls into a championship contender. In one year, the Bulls went from third place in their division and 41 victories, to first place and 62 victories. That's a 51 percent improvement.
You're welcome (but not really — not that we're bitter).
Let's see, former Jazz players comprise two of the Bulls' top five scorers and three of their top seven. Korver is easily the team's best free-throw and 3-point shooter, averaging 8.3 points a game. Brewer checks in with 6.2 points a game. Boozer, who of course missed every fourth game as usual (actually 27 percent, but who's counting?), ranked second on the team in scoring (17.5) and first in rebounding (9.6). He is well rested for the playoffs, or he should be, having played in just 59 games. Same ol', same ol'.
Actually, we're happy to serve as the Bulls' farm team (but not really — not that we're bitter).
Look, it's bad enough that the Bulls beat the Jazz in the NBA Finals twice in the late '90s. No problem. We'll just wait another millennium for a Stockton-and-Malone duo to come along.
Actually, it's difficult not to cheer for the JazzBulls, especially when the other choices consist of Miami, New York and L.A. We'd cheer for the Russian mob before we cheered for Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, LeBron James, 'Melo and those other guys.
But what galls Jazz fans is this: The Bulls are not that different than what the Jazz could have been. They have a great point guard in Derrick Rose; so did the Jazz in Deron Williams before they decided to sentence him to NBA Siberia while they could still get something for him. The Bulls have a good power forward in Carlos Boozer; the Jazz had the same guy. The Bulls have a great outside threat in Korver; so did the Jazz.
The Bulls have a scrappy, hustling, inside presence in Joakim Noah; the Jazz have Paul Milsap and Andre Kirilenko. The Bulls have a tough perimeter defensive player and a quick, slashing offensive threat in Ronnie Brewer; the Jazz had both Brewer and Wes Mathews, another quick perimeter player with good shooting range who signed with Portland in the off-season (now he's averaging 16 points a game for the Trail Blazers; we're happy for them, too, but not really. Not that we're bitter).
That could be the Jazz out there instead of the Bulls; instead, the Jazz are sitting at home watching their former teammates play on in the playoffs and their fans are looking for something to do. The Jazz had all those players, and now they're gone and making other teams much better (not that we're bitter).
Not that Jazz players have a history of winning rings here, there or anywhere. Yahoo.com produced a list of the Top 25 Players Never to Win a Championship. Four of them are former Jazz players (we won't count Dominique Wilkins or Bernard King). This includes:
Adrian Dantley, ninth on the NBA career scoring list when he retired after 15 seasons in the NBA, seven for the Jazz; Pete Maravich, who spent half of his career with the Jazz and then made a futile bid for a ring by joining Larry Bird and the Celtics; Karl Malone, who retired as the second-leading scorer in NBA history and spent 18 seasons with the Jazz before making a Lebron-like failed bid for a ring by signing up with the enemy Lakers; and John Stockton, who retired as the NBA's all-time leader in steals and assists after 19 years with the Jazz.
Well, we wish the JazzBulls better luck than their Jazz predecessors (but not really — not that we're bitter).