SALT LAKE CITY — As a parent, it's always a little (or awfully) scary to turn your car keys over to your 16-year-old kid who, other than that "B" he or she scraped by with in driver's ed, actually has very limited experience behind the wheel of any vehicle.
It's something that's done with great (and justifiable) apprehension, especially the first few (or 50) times you do so.
First and foremost, you're terribly worried about your child's safety and well-being.
Are they really ready to do this? Are they sufficiently prepared for whatever happens out on the road? Can we trust all those other folks out on the road — you know, the ones you're constantly cussing or glaring at for all the dumb things they do? And what if, heaven forbid, something goes wrong?
Yes, it can be downright frightening. So much so, if fact, that there's a strong temptation not to ever let them drive.
But then you realize it's a rite of passage, a sign that they're growing up and not just a kid anymore.
Besides, they've always been pretty responsible — well, except for that time they let their little brother wander away for a few frightening minutes at the mall because they were busy texting one of their friends.
So you go ahead and hand ’em the keys — and hope and pray for the best.
And then everything works out just fine. Oh, sure, there are a few bumps along the road and a flat tire or two. But in the end, you know you did the right thing.
This is essentially the role that Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey finds himself in these days.
He's got this young, hotshot point guard, Trey Burke, who was college basketball's consensus player of the year in 2013 but has never played in an NBA game yet.
And Lindsey must decide whether he should hand this highly touted rookie the keys to the Jazz "car" and let him drive it — be it to a successful season, perhaps even a playoff berth, or straight into oblivion.
If I had any input in the matter (of course, I don't), I'd throw caution to the wind and say heck, yes, hand the kid the keys, cross your fingers, give him a roadmap unless he gets lost and let's see where he takes ’em.
After all, he's gonna have a bunch of other early 20-something but already somewhat experienced guys — Gordon Hayward is riding shotgun, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are the two tough guys in the back seat, and Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans are hiding in the trunk, ready to pounce on unsuspecting opponents — riding along with him.
Hopefully, they'll help get things headed in the right direction if Burke makes a wrong turn along the way, which he undoubtedly will do from time to time.
And although they may take their lumps and their win-loss record will momentarily suffer for it, the time has come to let those young guns play, learn and grow together, even if it means trading some tough times sooner in exchange for a lot of exciting success later.
In interviews with the media, Burke has shown he already possesses an NBA player's savvy and swagger about him. No, this young man does not lack for confidence — a necessary quality for everybody who reaches this level.
Sure, Lindsey should probably do the G.M. equivalent of increasing his auto insurance coverage (or lowering the deductible) by making sure the Jazz have another more experienced point guard — whether it's Mo Williams, Earl Watson or somebody else with a few more miles on their wheels — to help mentor Burke in case he gets in trouble or needs some direction(s).
But, let's make no mistake about it, Burke oughta be doing most of the driving — both literally and figuratively.
Yes, it's a brave new era in Jazz basketball, and Utah's youth movement has officially begun.
Lindsey let the team's leading scorer, Al Jefferson, leave Utah when Jefferson agreed to a three-year, $41 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats. Much like his days in Minnesota, Big Al will continue to score a ton of points, pull down a bunch of rebounds and play very little defense for a team going nowhere.
But, as is often the case with professional athletes, money and stats seem to mean far more to them than winning does.
On Friday, Lindsey pulled the trigger on an interesting deal, acquiring basically three warm bodies — veteran small forward Richard Jefferson, big man Andris Biedrins and shooting guard Brandon Rush — from the Golden State Warriors.
Those three players' biggest contribution to the Jazz will be the fact that their $24 million in combined salaries will help Utah reach the league's minimum requirement and, more importantly, will be off the books when their contracts expire at the end of the 2013-14 season.
That $24 million investment likely means another longtime Jazz favorite, power forward Paul Millsap, won't be back, either. But as much as we hate to see him go, Millsap is part of Utah's past — and not its future.
Now they've only got a couple more roster spots to fill — shooting guard Randy Foye is one guy they ought to bring back — and let the fun (and games) begin.
Lindsey, who's been on the Jazz job less than a year, is quickly putting his stamp on this team as a bold, wheelin'-dealin' G.M. who's not afraid to take risks and make things happen.
After all, that's how they got Burke in this year's draft.
And hopefully, in a couple of years, he can sit back and, with great satisfaction, see how well all these moves worked out.
Kinda like a proud papa who handed the car keys to his kid — and all that young man did was turn out to be the best darned driver in his whole class.
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