It doesn’t take much for Jazz fans to root against someone else. Heck, just being the visiting team earns more in-game boos than the majority of NBA arenas care to offer.
That’s why the four-five seed matchup out East is so intriguing, at least to embittered Jazz faithful. It’s not often that disliked and departed stars are set up to fail, especially on a playoff stage for everyone to see.
With the Bulls and Nets, there’s potential for a double portion.
In the case of Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, Jazz faithful can gleefully cry “karma” two years after he may or may not have factored into Jerry Sloan’s 2011 resignation. Williams wasn't far behind, though his departure came via trade to the then-New Jersey Nets.
The following year-and-a-half saw a whirlwind of attention revolving around Williams and his intentions as a free agent in 2012. That kind of hype lumped him in — deservingly or not — with the likes of LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Dwayne Wade, though unlike those three, Williams had yet to make an NBA Finals.
Now, Williams is the face of a “new” franchise in Brooklyn, a team owned by a Russian billionaire who earlier this season said, "(Expectations) are not very high, just championship, not more. We are only human beings."
So what does that make Williams and the Nets when they face Miami in the second round — assuming they get that far?
Meanwhile Boozer’s transition to go-to guy has been less voluntarily, a consequence of Derrick Rose’s season-long absence (ACL). It’s a role Jazz fans are confident he can’t fill after seeing him come up short — often literally — in the playoffs time and time again.
And while Boozer backers (assuming any are left) will point to Rose’s injury as a handicap to the Bulls’ postseason performance, Jazz fans will respond by eagerly pointing to Boozer’s salary ($15 million) as proof that he should be capable of leading a team through at least one playoff series.
To Boozer’s credit, he showed up in Chicago’s Game 1 loss, when his 25 points, eight rebounds and four assists were nearly enough to offset Luol Deng’s no-show (3-for-11 FG, six points, two rebounds).
That, however, has been the story of Boozer’s playoff history: always good, but never quite enough — even though his free agent contracts always seemed to promise more than that.
Deron Williams likewise put up status quo playoff numbers in Game 1, though the combined help of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace gives him a better supporting cast than Boozer, and maybe equal to what he had in Boozer and the Jazz.
But is it good enough to do more than get out of the first round? Doubtful.
Either way, the ultimate and individual value of Williams and Boozer will be set this postseason. At ages 28 and 31, they’re in their respective primes. They are the No. 1 options on their respective teams.
Together in Utah and in the Western Conference, the two were good enough to make the Jazz not quite good enough.
Jazz fans may enjoy finding out.
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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