SALT LAKE CITY — There’s not a single All-Star on the team. None of the Jazz’s key players has more than three years of experience. (Talk about a baby boom.) The top scorer and rebounder are gone.
Yet people want to dance in the streets.
Welcome to the Tomorrowland age of Jazz basketball. Looking back is pointless because, well, there’s nobody there.
The Jazz on Friday made some moves that left the kids in charge of the house. Al Jefferson is taking his one-handed push shot to the Charlotte Bobcats Hornets, or whatever they’re called these days. Paul Millsap, the team’s anchor since the departure of Deron Williams, is headed to Atlanta, along with that symbol of feisty determination, DeMarre Carroll.
What’s left is exactly what angst-ridden Jazz fans wanted — an all-peach fuzz lineup: Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
Everyone else can climb aboard. The Disneyland Train is leaving the station in three minutes.
In picking up almost nobody (backups Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush), the Jazz stirred up more excitement than if they’d added a bigger name to the old lineup. That’s because all three acquisitions from Golden State help fill the minimum salary cap requirements, yet their contracts expire next summer. Also, the Jazz get future draft picks.
Message One: the “Core Four” really does get next.
Message Two: The Jazz will be seriously involved in free agency next year — with a better pool from which to choose.
As any vacation resort can attest, selling dreams is the way to go.
For a franchise long noted for inertia, these are high times. In eight days they added six players. The three former Golden State players might not be around long enough to get their driver's licenses.
The fascinating thing about the current Jazz is the optimism. Besides having no All-Stars, there are no obvious Hall of Fame candidates, either. Yet fans are elated.
Maybe it’s because a change is supposed to be as good as a rest. Jazz fans certainly could use a respite from their worries. Because it has been three years since the Jazz won a playoff game (April 30, 2010), discontent hit a high point late last season when the team failed to make the playoffs. While Jefferson’s defense was a topic, as always, most complaints centered around coach Tyrone Corbin.
Trained under Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, Corbin took over the reins in a conservative way in 2011. He mostly stayed with veterans and retained Sloan’s schemes, too.
But Corbin has loosened up over time. He OK’d all the current Jazz moves and clearly believes children are the future. As a certain diva once put it, his job now is to teach them well and let them lead the way.
At least for the next year, Jazz games are going to look like recess at the grade school.
As this summer’s best free agents began to disappear, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey executed a clever move — he folded. Out of reach were top free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. O.J. Mayo committed to Milwaukee, Tiago Splitter to San Antonio, Kevin Martin to Minnesota. Andre Iguodala went to Golden State.
Some nice names remained as free agents, but only from past lives: Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Rip Hamilton.
So the Jazz opted for what lies behind Door No. 3, by setting their sights on the 2014 free-agent class. That could include Luol Deng, Paul George, Andrew Bogut, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph and some other guys named Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo and Tim.
All Lindsey will need to do is sell the franchise, the city and the opportunities to those who have options. He might even dust off a couple of tried-and-true sales pitches. Choose us and you get a free blender!
With the start they have, it might even work.
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