That’s who we are. That’s who we want to be. —Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — Fresh from their illogical road win over Toronto, the Jazz brought their act back home against Golden State on Tuesday, with the same result. Only bigger. And badder. This time they obliterated the NBA’s best, instead of just one of the East’s best.
Break up the Jazz.
That might happen anyway.
Still, the 129-99 win featured a new-look Jazz, in more ways than one. Redesigned court. Retooled uniforms. Rejuvenated attitude. A pair of Trump-like upsets and a three-game win streak.
Nobody saw this coming.
If this doesn’t sell a million of their newly minted jerseys, nothing will.
“That’s who we are,” center Rudy Gobert said of the team’s effort. “That’s who we want to be.”
“It’s one (game) of 82,” coach Quin Snyder modestly cautioned.
The losing margin was league-leading Golden State’s largest of the season. Speaking of margins, Utah’s is still thin when it comes to playoff hopes. But the Jazz are playing their best of the season. One pressing question is whether they should wear their new sunset-to-dusk colored uniforms every night. Then there’s this touchy subject: Should they actually trade anyone on this team?
Of course they should.
The Jazz last won three consecutive games in late November and early December.
For now, though, they should enjoy the moment. They had an answer for everything the Warriors threw at them — Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry included. Ricky Rubio showed his “international man of intrigue” flair. Joe Ingles played like a guy worth $52 million, setting a personal record for 3-point buckets (six). Gobert had two blocks — one in the box score and the other in his head, by blocking out the Warriors’ playoff sweep last spring. Donovan Mitchell was himself.
Everybody got into the act.
“It’s the NBA,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Everybody’s got talent.”
The Jazz went up by 16 near the end of the first half when Rubio lobbed to Gobert for a terribly artistic (naturally, he’s French) backhand slam.
With the Jazz playing this well, why mess up the rhythm?
Because the ceiling is too easy to see with this group.
The Jazz won’t shoot 58 percent and force 19 turnovers every night.
As Gobert regains his bearings after missing 15 games with injuries, the Jazz can say they’re back to beating better teams. Last week they defeated Detroit and Toronto, the latter arguably the best team in the East. Earlier in the year they downed Oklahoma City, Boston, Washington, San Antonio and Cleveland.
At the same time, they fell at Atlanta, to the league’s worst team. They have also lost to Brooklyn, Chicago and Charlotte.
The Jazz are about where they should have been expected, given their injuries/talent quotient.
What to make of the Jazz is really what to do with the rest of their season. Go for the bottom in an effort to get a higher draft pick? That’s an approach they have said they wouldn’t test. Their top priority should be to strengthen the confidence and coordination between Gobert and Mitchell. As for the rest of them, team management is reportedly open to trading anyone, if the return is enough. It’s no secret what the current Jazz’s future is, even if Mitchell and Gobert continue to improve.
First round playoff exit, at best.
While the Jazz have a few years with their two best players, there’s no promise the stars are staying once they hit their prime. So a slow-and-steady approach isn’t ideal. As Karl Malone noted in a 2012 radio interview I participated in, “I’m just being honest, don’t let it surprise you if (draft picks) jump ship, really and truly. Because every guy that comes here yeah, he’s glad to be in the NBA, and they’re gonna say all the right things. They glad the Jazz draft him but they got an agent back there telling you how great you are and you getting screwed in Utah and nobody know who you are in Utah and all of that. You buyin' into it, buyin' into it, now you become a free agent. That’s what I’m sayin'. You don’t have the time to develop [projects]."
Much as the Jazz preach patience and building the “right way,” the best way nowadays is to get good quickly. On Tuesday the Jazz made their first trade of the season: their uniforms. The redecorated court featured the image of Delicate Arch.
Time to remake the Jazz roster, too?
“Those things we’re never going to speculate or comment on,” Snyder said.
For a fleeting moment, it seemed they didn’t need to touch a thing.