Good friend and fellow NBA aficionado Scott Guldin sent me (Ben) the following text today:
nba league pass broadband choice (7 teams) = $50 or three monthly payments of $16.66. do it. do it now.
How would my life be different if I seized this amazing offer? Let us count the ways:
- I would certainly not let two months pass without a substantive NBA post.
- I would almost certainly devote less time to pleasure reading, baby preparation and personal hygiene.
- I would gradually, over time, begin to dress like Craig Sager.
What’s striking about all these things is that each would contribute toward the slow deterioration of my marriage; the potential detriment of my job performance; the almost certain jeopardization of the non-NBA-enthused readership of this blog; and the absolute suicide of my fashion sense.
So why am I still so tempted?
I have been meaning to post on the Jazz for some time now but I didn’t want to jinx its hot streak, nine consecutive wins heading into last night’s game against the Lakers in Salt Lake. L.A. was without Kobe and Andrew Bynum. I’ll wait, I thought, and gloat about a ten game winning streak heading into All-Star Weekend, second only to the suddenly indomitable Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of thirteen straight. And the last time they lost? Yep. You remember it well.
That was my plan. Until Utah let the Lakers walk all over it in a 96-81 win. Jordan Farmar had 17 points off the bench, more than any Jazz starter. Utah was a pathetic 13-of-25 from the free throw line. “Where our energy was is beyond me,” said coach Jerry Sloan.
So, I am chastened. During the entire streak I kept tamping down my enthusiasm, reminding myself of inconvenient little truths, like the fact Utah had not won a single road game all year in which it trailed in the fourth quarter. That’s pretty bad. And then when the Jazz broke that streak Tuesday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, I thought, Hey, maybe it’s not such a daunting thing that Utah plays 19 of its final 31 games on the road.
Chin up! you might be saying. (You are almost certainly not saying this, unless this is how you dress your dog.) Utah is still third in the West, only 2½ games behind Denver. All-Star Deron Williams has been on a tear (maybe because he drinks milk!), Carlos Boozer (no doubt motivated by being All-Star Snubbed by Chris Kaman) came back from a calf injury to drop 34 and 14 on the Clippers, and Andrei Kirilenko has summoned some of that goofy Russian awesomeness (averaging 16.8 on 66% shooting over the past five games) that made him a Salt Lake heartthrob back in 2004. He was even featured in the Wall Street Journal! From the article entitled “The NBA’s Locker-Room Nerds“:
Utah’s Mr. Kirilenko, who reads everything from Tolstoy and Bulgakov, says that when he first arrived in the Salt Lake City in 2001, he noticed most of his teammates would don fancy headphones to kill time instead of discussing books. He wanted to blend in, so he gave it a shot, hoping the music would have an equally calming effect and would take his mind off basketball. “I was trying that but it doesn’t help me that much,” says Mr. Kirilenko, who tears through a different book before every game and sometimes shows up nearly an hour early to pre-game meetings to pick up where he left off. Sometimes teammates try to make fun of him, he says, but he doesn’t respond. “You learn to ignore it.”
Who in the Jazz locker room hates reading??? David Stern needs to get to the bottom of this! (Aren’t those blasted “Reading is Fundamental” posters up in every clubroom??)
The truth, I’m afraid, is that while Utah has what it takes to beat #4 through #14 in the West (you’ll notice I left #15, Minnesota, out; Utah is 1-2 against the West’s worst this year), it does not have what it takes to beat #1 or #2, L.A. or Denver, in a best-of-seven series. What would have to happen to change this fact?
- Utah could trade Boozer for Kevin Martin, who might suddenly regain All-Star form and average 25 ppg. (Note: I don’t think this will happen, nor should it. Let’s move on.)
- Utah could trade Boozer for Amare Stoudamire, who might discover that he’s always wanted to play in the whitest NBA city and average 30 and 15 in a fashionable green Jazz uni. (Note: This will never happen, nor should it. Amare’s as much a head case as Boozer.)
- Utah could trade Boozer for a time machine and bring back Stockton and Malone circa 1997. And let’s throw Jeff Hornacek in there but put him circa 1994, when he still had two working kneecaps. (Note: This will never happen, but it should, and I dream about it every night.)
- Kobe, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and The Birdman could all have completely spontaneous bouts of life-threatening botulism, rendering them bedridden through mid-June, at which point they would miraculously recover. (Note: This could happen, if they all eat the cans of Campbells soup which expired in 1972 that I hid in their pantries.)
Seeing as none of those scenarios are plausible, and that blockbuster mid-season trades almost never amount to a title (unless you’re the L.A. Lakers and Memphis hands you Pau Gasol), let’s just drop it and make a few other league-wide observations going into All-Star Weekend:
- Boston is in trouble. This is the conventional wisdom, and it is true. The Celts aren’t as good as Orlando or Cleveland, and the next best team in the East, Atlanta, has their number. (The Hawks swept the season series.) You can hear everyone’s body parts creaking when Boston runs down the court. Also, I never thought I’d say this, but I like watching Rajon Rondo play. I wrote him off as a guard I’d always despise (especially after what he did to BM last year) because I can’t stand point guards who can’t hit a jumper to save their lives. (This is why I have never loved Jason Kidd or John Crotty.) And NBA point guards should shoot a minimum 75% from the line. Rondo shoots 59%. When he picked apart the Lakers during the second quarter a couple weeks back, though, it was just fun to watch. But maybe that’s also because he was making Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown all look like tools.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder WILL make the Playoffs! I find virtually nothing to dislike about Kevin Durant. I would love it if the Thunder, the current #4 seed, matched up against San Antonio (currently #6) in round one, and Durant averaged 53.6 points and 31.4 rebounds during a four game sweep of Timmy and the hated Spurs. Why did I pick them again to win it all this year? Oh, right. Gregg Popovich was holding a gun to my head. (He is one mean s.o.b.)
- The Chicago Bulls will too! Chin up, Scotty. They’ve got a run in them this year. Especially if they get Boston again in the first round. Which I’m praying for, because you have no idea how many BM puns I’ve got up my sleeve. (No idea.)
- Shaq needs to stop eating pulled pork sandwiches during games. The Cavs will need him. Eventually.
- I will sell 500 copies of this limited edition airbrush print I made in my basement.
The best part? Stockton’s eyes follow you no matter where you walk in the room. Order now!
UPDATE: Mike Allen correctly notes that this Jazz post features no photos of Mark Eaton. We will now rectify the situation.