SALT LAKE CITY — I hear crickets. I hear the sighing of dry leaves. I hear the mournful call of a faraway train.
I'm hearing a lot of things, real or imagined. But that's often the case around here on trade deadline day.
What I don't hear is any noise from the Utah Jazz.
Looks like more of what we've been seeing so far this year: A .500 record, augmented by an occasional flurry of promise. Otherwise, business as usual — the business of quietude.
The NBA's deadline passed on Thursday without so much as a raised eyebrow in Utah. General manager Kevin O'Connor was reportedly burning up his cell minutes, trying to make a deal, but nothing happened. The team that took the floor on Thursday against Minnesota was the same that produced another valiant-but-futile effort on Wednesday in Phoenix.
So this is it for now; what you see is what you get. What I'm seeing is a team that for the foreseeable future will struggle mightily just to make the playoffs. The days of worrying about post-season seedings are history. Now the question is whether the Jazz slide enough to get a high draft pick. They also have a protected pick from Golden State, which could be as high as No. 8. Those are OK options, but without trading for a game-changer, expect continued mediocrity.
There are things nearly as bad as mediocrity. For instance, the curse of being almost great, forever on the cusp. Remind you of anyone? Try the Jazz of the 1990s. They had a monstrous win-loss record but not a single championship. Then there's the curse of being dreadful. To the Jazz's credit, they have almost entirely avoided that since the early 1980s. So far, no fans have appeared at EnergySolutions Arena wearing bags on their heads.
Still, for fans who have invested their souls, this is tough. The Jazz might improve with age, but there are a lot of teams singing the same song. If you're on a moving walkway, going the same speed as everyone else, are you really moving?
Hence, the Jazz must change the mix. Otherwise, they will remain an occasionally dangerous bunch that nobody fears, or particularly notices. I wouldn't say the Jazz bosses are dimwits or do-nothings. Nor would I say random trading is good. They still have the draft, free agency and a sizable trade exception to work with in the offseason. But a little movement during the season would have made them more them interesting.
Last year as the trade deadline neared, the Jazz stirred things by swapping Deron Williams for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and the draft pick that netted Enes Kanter. In other words, they gave away their superstar for some good players. That wasn't dumb, it was logical. The Jazz had as much chance of re-signing Williams as I have of curing baldness.
Other years the Jazz acquired Jeff Hornacek or future draft picks that included players such as Ronnie Brewer and Gordon Hayward. But it's iffy business. In 1998, they thought they had landed center Rony Seikaly in exchange for Chris Morris and Greg Foster, but Seikaly didn't report, so the deal fizzled. Gordan Giricek for DeShawn Stevenson wasn't a great move, but Stevenson had what seemed unresolvable issues with Jerry Sloan.4 comments on this story
You win some and lose some, but this year the Jazz didn't do either. So they remain the 10th or 12th-best team in the Western Conference. They still have too many defensive lapses and not enough perimeter shooters. Al Jefferson still misses the kick-out when three guys collapse, Hayward still acts unsure and C.J. Miles still tantalizes but disappoints.
There are plenty of good reasons why the Jazz didn't make a deal on Thursday. You never want to give things away. At the same time, there's a reason the Jazz are currently out of the playoff picture.
You are what you are until someone or something makes it otherwise.