SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz’s schedule is out, and somehow it feels a bit like that necktie you got for Father’s Day.
Nothing too surprising.
As always, the Jazz will be playing 82 games, just two against each Eastern Conference team. Most analysts are picking Utah to be among the two or three worst teams in the NBA, same as last year. Although the Jazz have added intriguing parts such as Dante Exum and Steve Novak, and should be better, who won’t be? Philadelphia drafted Joel Embiid, Milwaukee drafted Jabari Parker, Cleveland signed LeBron James, Detroit added um a new Chrysler design?
Utah’s best player is still Gordon Hayward, which doesn’t portend a championship. Still, the NBA’s absolution is that there’s always someone worth watching, even if your own team ends up in the recycling bin. With that in mind, here are the games to see, regardless:
Lakers at Jazz (Jan. 16, Feb. 25): It’s true that Jazz fans hate the Lakers more than anyone, but now that Kobe is slower and Pau Gasol is in Chicago and Carlos Boozer is in Los Angeles, why not enjoy their misery?
L.A. will be beatable and Kobe Bryant will still be razzable. Besides, it will be fun for the ESA crowd —now twice a year — to go Booooo! when Boozer walks out, instead of Boooooz!
Clippers at Jazz (Nov. 29, Jan. 28) Among the wonderful angles to this pairing is that the Clippers are truly entertaining. Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are among the most irrepressible players in the league.
Also, you can come just to see the longsuffering Clips emerge from the Donald Sterling cloud. Watching them play minus distractions should be as guilt free as a diet soda, yet as sugary as cotton candy.
Spurs at Jazz (Dec. 9, Feb. 23): Gregg Popovich and his snarkiness get tiring, just like Tim Duncan’s bank shot. Still, Pop is the first coach to hire a female full-time assistant, Becky Hammon.
It will be entertaining to see if he treats Hammon the way he treats sideline reporters. If so, whenever she has a question he’ll just stare incredulously and say, “Are you serious?”
Maybe she’ll do what almost every reporter has at some point wanted to do: punch him in the nose.
Portland at Jazz, (Feb. 20, March 25): One of the rising teams in the league, the Blazers are what the Jazz aspire to be. They’re also a team that persevered through a lot of setbacks. (Anyone remember when they were called the Jail Blazers? When their future rode on Greg Oden’s brittle bones?)
Seeing Damian Lillard will remind Jazz fans which former Utah resident they really need to clamor for when free agency comes around. Hint: It’s not Jimmer.
Philadelphia at Jazz (Dec. 27): There aren’t many nights when Jazz fans can actually enjoy feeling superior.
Atlanta at Jazz (Jan. 2): This is a chance for Jazz fans to objectively see what they gave up. Now that Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap have been with Team USA, it’s interesting to see how two good players worked their way into being fine ones.
Looking at players from an opponent’s view is always educational.
Cleveland at Jazz (Nov. 5): On any team, in any year, in any game, LeBron James is worth the ticket price.
Additionally, the Cavs have hired David Blatt as their coach, formerly of Israel, Turkey, Italy, Russia and Greece. Talk about kismet. He comes to America and inherits the treasures of the earth.
Milwaukee at Jazz (Feb. 28): Exum may well become a fine player in the league. But make no mistake, had Jabari Parker been on the board on draft night, at No. 5, it wouldn’t have been a contest whom the Jazz picked.
The good thing for many Jazz fans is that they can watch an LDS player without all the Utah-BYU baggage that comes with a Jimmer visit.
New Orleans at Utah (Nov. 22): and then comes the actual Jimmer visit.
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