Mehmet Okur gives the state of Indiana 43 reasons to hate him.
I (Ben) have been postponing this Jazz post for a while now. On January 1, 2009, Utah was 19-14. Had the playoffs begun that day, the Jazz would have been the nine seed in the West. If you don’t follow the NBA closely, being the nine seed is no good. You remember how Golden State won 47 games last year but missed the playoffs? Utah was on pace to be this year’s Golden State.
Then Carlos Boozer announced he was undergoing “garden variety” arthroscopic surgery, weeks after announcing he would test the free agent waters next summer. That wasn’t really a surprise, although after him sitting out fifteen straight games you might question the timing.
On top of all this, Scott Guldin’s Chicago Bulls swept the Jazz this year and I could not stop having nightmares about Vinny Del Negro’s hair.
Then Utah won four straight, culminating last night with Mehmet Okur’s career high 43 against the Pacers. Andrei Kirilenko added 23 points and 12 boards. Morris Almond was scoreless in four minutes of playing time. And my fantasy team jumped two spots.
That dark cloud still hovering over Utah’s finest though? Now they’re only the eighth seed. And they’d still play the Lakers in the first round. (John Hollinger puts a whole bunch of numbers into a calculator and predicts Utah has a 93.5% chance of making the playoffs, which is reassuring, but just a 4% chance of winning a title.*)
I’ve been troubled by something Denys Lai said earlier this season, which I will quote here:
I think your thesis of the Jazz contending is an affliction that plagues many writers — they run out of good things to write about, come up with some cockamamie idea, and then proceed to defend the idea like it was two disgraced marines and you were Tom Cruise. It’s like when I debate my coworkers that Cocktail was Tom’s best work when you and both know in our heart of hearts that it was Top Gun.
In our heart of hearts we all know Tom’s best work was Top Gun. And in my heart of hearts, I know the Jazz will not win an NBA title this year. Deron Williams getting injured in the preseason. Boozer getting injured (again). Andrei Kirilenko starting a blog. Vinny Del Negro’s Bulls sweeping us. It’s just not in the cards for 2009. Which is a huge disappointment considering Utah was on the rise after two strong playoff showings. But when I watch the Cavs or Lakers play, or when I see up-and-coming teams out west like Portland and Denver (curse you, Joe Dumars!), I put on my vintage 1988 old school Stockton jersey and curl up into a fetal position on the floor.
So what’s there to keep writing about if Utah isn’t a serious contender this year? And what about other pressing questions, such as:
1. When will Paul Blart relieve David Stern of his duties as NBA commissioner? It’s only a matter of time. ABC’s Christmas Day game between the Lakers and Celtics was basically a two-and-a-half hour commercial for Paul Blart Mall Cop. And the sideline interview with Kevin James and Adam Sandler was excruciating to watch. The only thing that made it even slightly bearable was trying to figure out whether or not Sandler was high. I’m still convinced he was.
2. When will Brandon Roy return my calls? Brandon, I just want to hang out! I’ve got Portland street cred! My brother lives there! Trust me, I know we’d be BFFs! I love you!
3. Wait, Brooke Lopez scored 31 points against Oklahoma City last night?
4. No, seriously, was nobody guarding him?
5. What exactly goes on inside the mind of a Memphis Grizzlies fan? According to my friend Jason, an actual Memphis Grizzlies fan, this:
I’m worried about Rudy Gay. The knock on him coming out of college was that he would defer too much or disappear for stretches at a time. That has definitely been the case this year. I love Rudy, but I wonder if he has that desire to win. Mayo seems to have it. And I like Marc Gasol a lot. As soon as he limits his fouls and turnovers I’ll like him even more.
So there you go. (Please give Jason a hug when you see him.)
6. Where can I get some pictures of that creepy-looking Jazz bear mascot driving a motorcycle with a cheerleader? Glad you asked.
7. Is it true that human Sasquatch Mark Eaton really has his own blog? You know it. (If you scroll down to his entry from July 16, 2008, you’ll see that Mark recommends the Amisfield Pinot Noir ’05, saying it’s “one of the best pinot noirs coming out of New Zealand” and that it’s “perfect with salmon or roast chicken.” Then he adds, “Remember, life is too short to drink bad wine!” Mark Eaton: Wine Connoisseur Who Just Happens To Look Like Bigfoot.)
8. Are you just finding obscure links off the Utah Jazz homepage because you don’t have anything else to write about? Yes. This is a cry for help.
UPDATE! We’ve made Jazz blog friends with SLCDunk. “Basketball John” quotes from this post, except he quotes Denys Lai, not us. I wonder if I’m going to be excommunicated for expressing doubt about Utah’s title hopes.
* = Denys, good news! Hollinger says Golden State has a 0.1% of getting to the playoffs this year. So you’re telling me there’s a chance!)