SALT LAKE CITY — I read an article on ESPN’s Grantland.com, this week, wherein the writer broke down the Jazz situations, present and future. He did a nice job and definitely knew his stuff.
But where he faked me out was this observation: “This is the most interesting franchise in the league right now, with dozens of different possibilities in front of it and a few franchise-defining mysteries to solve. And that doesn't even factor in the ultra-exciting four-team race for the last three Western Conference playoff spots, a race that Utah, with its porous defense and by far the toughest schedule among the four combatants, is likely to lose.”
Call me slow-witted, but when I think of the Jazz, the phrases most interesting franchise and ultra-exciting don’t come to mind. What else interests that guy, stag beetles?
There has been considerable local focus on the race for the eighth and final playoff spot, which will likely be decided between the Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers. I have to believe that in L.A. this is colossally uninteresting news. The Lakers have won 11 championships since moving from Minneapolis. Are their fans really dying to see which team gets to lose to San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs?
Don’t tell me about attendance. Those tickets were sold before the season began.
Meanwhile, only Utahns and random NBA fanatics are interested in Utah. Everyone else stopped paying attention about the time Karl Malone left for (where else?) L.A.
How the Jazz and its fans got to this point is easily explained. There was the Stockton-Malone era, followed by the Williams-Boozer era, and then there is now. It hasn’t been easy. This year’s team has lost so many close games it probably should have given up. (Maybe it has, judging by Wednesday’s wipeout in Oklahoma City.)
Just recently the Jazz lost three nail-biters.
But is anyone outside the Great Basin noticing?
There was a time when, if the Jazz even finished fourth in the conference, I had a hard time paying attention. Used to be that Jazz fans didn’t even need to switch on their TVs until the conference semifinals. Now they’re rejoicing over wins against Charlotte and Detroit.
I admit I haven’t lost all interest in the Jazz. I still want to know whether coach Tyrone Corbin will find even more playing time for Alec Burks. (He should.) I also want to know if Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap will be gone next year. (One of them, please.) I’m intrigued to know if Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors become All-Stars. (My guess: One or two of them, one or two times.)
But if I were living in Miami or Oklahoma City, Utah would be just another Sacramento, minus the athleticism and weirdness.
Paul Millsap is as professional as a player can be, but he’s as interesting as a convenience store sandwich. Al Jefferson is the closest thing to an All-Star on the roster. But to put that into perspective, Karl Malone had celebrities such as pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page and musicians Neal McCoy and M.C. Hammer as fans. I have yet to hear of a celebrity whose favorite player is Jefferson.
Marvin and Mo Williams?
Players you can find.
The much-promoted “core four” players are getting better, but honestly, what does that mean? This is the third year for Hayward and Favors. By his third season, Deron Williams was clearly headed for all-stardom. Are the current kids good enough to get the Jazz into the upper half of the conference?
Not until the Spurs, Thunder, Grizzlies, Clippers, Nuggets and Warriors go away.
Realistically, the current Jazz are only interesting to Utahns — and that guy at Grantland. They’re no more intriguing than Houston and less intriguing than Memphis and Golden State.
On the bright side, as anyone who has ever been madly in love can testify, living in a bubble has an appeal all its own.
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