friends, NBA, Utah Jazz

Ladies And Gentlemen, Your 2011-2012 Utah Jazz!

Two wizards. Only one John Stockton.

x

I — if you don’t know which of us is writing this based on the title of this post, then hello, and glad you just discovered our blog! — have great co-workers. I’ll give you an example of how great they are. I went into work last week and found on my desk a Starting Lineup John Stockton figurine. Behind him, propped in a plexiglass holder, were about twenty-five sheets of paper labeled “INSPIRATIONAL JOHN STOCKTON SAYING” with a big speech bubble in the middle of the page. I began flipping through the pages, stirred by pithy maxims like, “Plan the work and work the plan,” “Let me know where you want the ball,” and, “You look really good today.” The final ten pages or so were left blank for me to write my own inspirational sayings, as if I could possibly improve upon that last one.

What’s great about my co-workers is that no less than five of them were reasonable suspects for this stunt. (The mastermind, it turns out, was Michael Link. I asked him where he found a Starting Lineup John Stockton and he, in response, asked me how much I thought it was worth, giving me an over/under of five dollars. “Oh, way more than that,” I said. “Good,” he replied, “that’s what I want you to think.”) What’s also great is that, any time during my day when I need a little inspiration, I can look at a small, plastic figurine of number twelve and, mentally, see this:

x

And I am instantly ready to plan the work and work the plan.

For a season preview of my beloved Utah Jazz, it’s probably telling that I spent the first 250 words going on about someone who has been retired for almost a decade now. (“You’re living in the past!” is what a Cleveland Cavs fan shouted at me a couple years ago. I picture that fan now, looking at himself in the mirror in his Ramon Sessions jersey, wondering every time Antawn Jamison hoists a three if it would be possible to take a tire iron to his shooting hand and make it look like an accident.) This year, for the first time since 1988, the Utah Jazz reported to camp and Jerry Sloan was not its head coach. The last link to the great Stockton/Malone era was gone. The shock of last season’s tailspin after Sloan left and Deron Williams was traded to the Nets wore off during the offseason but then hit me anew last month. Oh yeah. Times have changed.

One day we’ll hand this over … to Devin Harris and Derrick Favors.

x

My expectations for this season were the lowest they have ever been, even after Stockton retired and Malone left for the Lakers in 2003. Utah traded Mehmet Okur for table scraps. It signed Jamaal Tinsley, the dumbest thing the franchise has done since re-signing Greg Ostertag (a move that surely shaved ten years off Sloan’s life). It lost its first two games in spectacularly bad fashion, by a combined 42 points to the Nuggets and the Lakers. Raja Bell was declared officially dead by a Utah coroner before someone pointed out that he was still walking and talking and therefore technically alive. Gordon Hayward had not progressed much in the offseason. Enes Kanter, the third pick in the draft, was hardly setting the world on fire.

And then … (and yes, I cheated by waiting until three weeks into the season before writing this) … I felt hopeful. After dropping three of the first four, Utah has rattled off five straight wins. None have been against especially strong teams, but still. This is a young, hungry team. We suddenly have size and athleticism in the frontcourt. Josh Howard was a great pick-up. Al Jefferson may not actually be a total stiff. Ty Corbin may have learned something from all those years under Sloan.

I’m not going to delude myself that the Jazz is going to contend for anything this year. It’s going to be a weird season, but one that will certainly favor the younger squads. Had you asked me three weeks ago if Utah would make the playoffs, I’d have said certainly not. Now? I’m cautiously optimistic. It’d be a seven or eight seed at best, but that’d be a real accomplishment for this team, and something to build on.

I was all shook up when Utah dealt Deron Williams last year. Now, knowing that D-Will would never have re-signed with the Jazz — and watching his Nets stink up the Atlantic Division — I confess a certain degree of smug satisfaction. I like Williams and hope he (and Okur) turn things around. Williams was instrumental, in one way or another, of forcing Sloan out (though whether Sloan jumped or was pushed we’ll probably never know). Sloan would’ve left eventually, of course. So we soldier on. It’s a strange time to be a Jazz fan, but at least they’re playing games. That’s something to be thankful for.

——————–

My NBA blogging will probably be a bit more sporadic this season, especially as I resolve not to curse the Bulls (and my friend and fellow NBA junkie Scott Guldin) by saying anything good about them. It’s a bit shoddy to make predictions three weeks into the season, but I like the Thunder in the West, even though Russell Westbrook is a head case who will absolutely never co-exist long term with Kevin Durant. I won’t tell you who I like in the East because … well, see above.

Your obligatory Mark Eaton pic:

x

Let’s go Jazz.

[h/t Erik Brueggemann on the Stockton/wizard pic]

Advertisements
family, friends, movies, NBA, Sam, Scooter Thomas, sports, Utah Jazz

Voreblog Power Rankings: December 8, 2011

Ranking who’s currently wearing the pants in the Vore household. Previous rankings here and here.

x

Entering the list dead last.

x

8. TUESDAY’S DATE NIGHT. Previous ranking: N/A

You know you’re in for a bad date night movie when your babysitter tells you, as you’re walking out the door, “Oh, I saw that over Thanksgiving break and it was terrible.” We knew the movie in question, Breaking Dawn, would not be good, but just how not good it was startled even our low, low expectations. Taylor Lautner needed all of five seconds to rip his shirt off, while the CGI sequences involving wolves speaking to one another were almost as bad as the flaming moose CGI sequence from Knowing. (Almost.) Date nights being a rare commodity, Tuesday’s date night was, shall we say, a Flaming Moose. Did you know? Jacob imprinted.

7. OUR CHRISTMAS TREE. Previous ranking: N/A

Charlie Brown, move over.

Our five foot artificial Christmas tree is sparkling and festive … starting at three and a half feet up. The Vore Christmas tree is #7 this year thanks to #4 and #1. O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, how lovely are thy topmost branches.

6. ERIN (down). Previous ranking: #4

After being dealt a grievous blow by David Stern and the National Basketball Association, Erin last night suffered another setback at the hands of the site Vistaprint, which suckered her into designing a super-sweet Christmas card only to tack on an egregious charge for envelopes before slipping in an even more egregious shipping charge which we had to pay if we wanted to see our cards before next February, so that what started out as an enjoyable endeavor filled with Christmas cheer soon devolved into a price-gouging, knicker-twisting, profanity-laced tirade at 11:30 at night. To top it all off, Gmail’s new look is terrible. Future prospects: Grim. A Google search about how to switch back to the old Gmail format proved fruitless. On the bright side: Vetoed Ben’s favorite cow ornament. On the less bright side: Ben put her Graeters black raspberry chip in the fridge instead of the freezer the other night. This was honestly not payback.

5. BEN (down). Previous ranking: #3

Despite once again failing to appear on People’s Sexiest Men list, Ben has, for the first time in his five year fantasy football career, qualified for the Mustache League playoffs thanks to his savvy midseason pickups of Cam Newton, DeMarco Murray and whoever is playing defense against the Chiefs. Ben is also ecstatic to have an NBA season this year, and has spent the last two weeks doing meticulous research on the new luxury tax and its ramifications on Utah’s bloated payroll. Though things look grim in Salt Lake this season, at least there’ll be basketball. Good news: A Dunkin’ Donuts opened across the street from where Ben works. Bad news: A Dunkin’ Donuts opened across the street from where Ben works. Also: Unlike Tim Tebow, Ben cannot pull another man into the bathroom during a tug-of-war contest.

4. SCOOTER THOMAS (up). Previous ranking: #5

After his precipitous fall from the top spot in the power rankings, Scooter Thomas has since regained his footing by asserting his dominance over the Christmas Tree (#7) — by eating the (fake) needles off all the bottom “branches” and then regurgitating them back into his food dish. (Why?) Despite the incoherence of this behavior, what’s undeniable is that Scooter T. has his mojo back. On the downside: Negligent owners forgot to fill his water dish yesterday, resulting in him licking the bathtub floor after Erin’s shower this morning. Sad.

3. CAMILLE AND MIKE ALLEN. Previous ranking: N/A

For sending us a Christmas card with the following message on the front: “Happy Holidays!” And the following message inside: “…is what terrorists say. Merry Christmas!” We were going to do the same thing but we didn’t have the cojones. Future prospects: Bleak. How will they top this next year? Guess they’ll have to have a kid or something.

2. GRANDPARENTS (same). Previous ranking: #2

The grandparents maintain their perch at #2, thanks to traction with the head honcho (see #1) and a willingness to indulge his sweet tooth with second helpings of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving (Nana and Papa) and fawn over him via Skype while he attempts in vain to pound the keyboard (Mamaw and Papaw). Grandparenting. Can’t beat it.

Papa and le tigre.

x

Papa, Nana, le tigre.

x

Papaw and Mamaw, Skypers extraordinaire.

x

1. SAM (same). Previous ranking: #1

Aside from a small bout of diaper rash, Sam continues to own the power rankings with his Christmas Tree dominance and irrepressible ability to bend everyone’s will to his liking. (“Sam wants more pie? Well sure, let’s give it to him!”) With a burgeoning vocabulary and firm handle on the sign for “more,” Sam runs shop at the Vore household, crashing trucks down the stairs to his heart’s content and getting Classical Baby on demand whenever he so chooses. He also knows just the right moment to grab and pull at Scooter Thomas’s tail whenever his feline nemesis gets a little too chippy. Future prospects: Bright. Despite the need for absolutely nothing for Christmas, he’s still everyone’s favorite to shop for. Ain’t that the life.

marital tension, NBA, sports

BREAKING NEWS: NBA Season is On!

NEW YORK (AP) — NBA owners and players reached a tentative agreement early Saturday to end the 149-day lockout despite intense, eleventh hour attempts by Erin Vore to provoke tensions on both sides and prolong the standoff until the end of time.

“I am bitterly disappointed that both sides reached an agreement,” Vore told reporters. “I thought maybe I’d never have to be subjected to a Utah Jazz post again. Well, that dream is dead.”

The NBA hopes to begin the delayed season on Christmas Day. “Great, way to ruin my favorite holiday,” Vore said.

“We want to play basketball,” NBA commissioner David Stern said. “No, we don’t,” Vore added.

After a secret meeting earlier this week, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to try to save the season. Vore, present at the talks, sat next to Derek Fisher and held up signs that said, “CAN’T WAIT FOR NUCLEAR WINTER!” throughout the tense negotiations.

According to sources present during the talks, Vore berated Stern for being a “pansy” and a “turdburger.”

The usually unflappable Stern appeared particularly shaken when, after calling for reconciliation and labeling past disagreements as “unfortunate,” Vore shouted, “Your mom is unfortunate!” Later Vore added, “Before we’re done here, y’all be wearing gold-plated diapers.”

“What does that even mean?” Stern whispered to NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who shrugged as he deleted the 724th e-mail from Scott Guldin to his BlackBerry requesting that the price of the League Pass be lowered.

This handshake deal almost didn’t happen when Vore began pulling down her pants in an apparent attempt to poop on the actual handshake. She was restrained by security and escorted outside where she crumpled on the sidewalk and sobbed for an hour.

NBA, sports, Utah Jazz

Everyone Loves Dirk; The Last NBA Post You’ll Have To Suffer Through For Some Time

Time to stop slandering the Germans.

x

It was a fantastic NBA postseason, culminating with the second-happiest ending I (Ben) can recall. Usually I’m bitter and devastated by the outcome of the Finals, and not just because Utah lost (’97 and ’98). Let’s do a quick recap of every Finals since 1984, when I was six and I distinctly remember watching Game 7 of the Celtics/Lakers at my grandmother’s house in Columbus, as rated on a scale of happy with outcome, indifferent but mostly disappointed, deeply disappointed and, in four extreme cases, despairing-of-all-breath-that-I-have-yet-to-draw-upon-this-earth disappointed.

1984: Boston over L.A. in seven – indifferent but mostly disappointed (I really liked Michael Cooper)

1985: L.A. over Boston in six – indifferent but mostly disappointed (I decided I really hated the Lakers)

1986: Boston over Houston in six – not happy but not disappointed. I definitely didn’t like Houston. Honestly, though, I don’t recall much if anything about this series. I think that was the summer I watched Star Wars eight gabillion times.

1987: L.A. over Boston in six – see 1985

1988: L.A. over Detroit in seven – indifferent but mostly disappointed – I liked Joe Dumars. And no one on L.A. was nicknamed “The Microwave.”

1989: Detroit over L.A. in four – happy! Immediately after this year I started disliking Detroit though, beginning my (very) brief career as an MJ fan.

1990: Detroit over Portland in five – deeply disappointed – I liked the Blazers and Bill Laimbeer was a goon.

1991: Chicago over L.A. in five – deeply ambivalent (I realize this was not on the scale above) – I couldn’t root for the Lakers, but I think I had a sense then of how fully I would grow to hate MJ, who I rooted for only so long as he couldn’t get past the Bad Boys. Once he did, he was the bad boy.

1992: Chicago over Portland in six – despairing-of-all-breath-that-I-have-yet-to-draw-upon-this-earth disappointed – This was my first weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth Finals. Oh how I wanted MJ to lose! Oh how I wanted Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams, Clifford Robinson and Kevin Duckworth to hoist that trophy instead! People forget that Lamont Strothers played on that Blazer squad, and with good reason.

1993: Chicago over Phoenix in six – deeply disappointed – I had resigned myself to Chicago greatness at this point, and while I liked Phoenix, I didn’t root for them like I did Portland. But this one still hurt.

1994: Houston over New York in seven – deeply disappointed – I was a Knick fan back in that day. Plus Houston had taken out the Jazz in the conference finals. And Vernon Maxwell and Mario Elie were Satan’s minions.

1995: Houston over Orlando in four – indifferent but mostly disappointed – see 1994. I also felt bad for Nick Anderson. And no one likes to see a sweep in the Finals.

1996: Chicago over Seattle in six – deeply disappointed – Not only did I hate Chicago, but I liked Seattle, even though it knocked out Utah in the conference finals. (See a theme?)

1997 and 1998: Chicago over Utah in six – despairing-of-all-breath-that-I-have-yet-to-draw-upon-this-earth disappointed – Nothing more really needs be said.

1999: San Antonio over New York in five – a level just below despairing… disappointed – Not just a strike season and postseason collapse from Utah. Also a Spurs title and a loss for the last likable Knicks team.

2000: Los Angeles over Indiana in six – deeply disappointed – I had a soft spot for Indiana given its rivalry with Chicago. And, of course, it was the Lakers.

2001: Los Angeles over Philadelphia in five – deeply disappointed – I wasn’t even going to get my hopes up until Iverson’s remarkable game one. Then I got my hopes up and had them squashed. I never learned my lesson.

2002: Los Angeles over New Jersey in four –  indifferent but mildly disappointed – I hate the Lakers, but I can’t honestly say I wanted to see the Nets win a title. A sad year for basketball. (This was also the year the refs robbed Sacramento of game six vs. L.A. I swore I’d never watch an NBA game again. Actually, change that indifferent to deeply.)

2003: San Antonio over New Jersey in six – deeply disappointed – a Spurs win? And two years of the Nets in the Finals? Nobody wins here.

2004: Detroit over Los Angeles in five – happy! – this seemed nothing short of a miracle. Later I realized I had talked myself into liking the Pistons more than I really did, but hey, they played like a team.

2005: San Antonio over Detroit in seven – deeply disappointed – This was a miserable series, and I liked each team even less as it went on. One of those years I wish no one won it.

2006: Miami over Dallas in six – despairing-of-all-breath disappointed – This was the second time (see 2002) when I convinced myself I would never watch NBA basketball again. I liked Dwayne Wade at the beginning of the series. When it was apparent that the officiating was a sham because the league needed to ordain Wade the next Jordan, I turned on him quickly. I spent that summer telling anyone who cared that the NBA was fixed.

2007: San Antonio over Cleveland in four – deeply disappointed – Again, San Antonio. And a sweep. It was 1995 all over again.

2008: Boston over Los Angeles in six – happy! In fact, the happiest I’ve ever been at the end of an NBA season.

2009: Los Angeles over Orlando in five – deeply disappointed – Not that I liked Orlando.

2010: Los Angeles over Boston in seven – deeply disappointed – I wasn’t infatuated with the KG/Pierce/Allen Celtics like I had been in ’08, but my white hot hatred for L.A. had only increased.

x

That brings us up to present day. Because Dallas and Miami both knocked out the teams I really wanted to see play in the NBA Finals, I’ll admit I was lukewarm when the series began. Yes, a Miami loss would erase some of the bitter taste lingering from 2006, as well as give comeuppance to the LeBron/Wade/Bosh juggernaut. But did I really want Dallas to win that badly?

As it turns out, yes.

One of the noxious talking points among NBA commentators is that international players are “soft,” and Dallas’s loss in 2006 was held up as proof, with Nowitzki as Exhibit A. Never mind that international players aren’t soft, or that players like Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol were instrumental in bringing championships to San Antonio and L.A., respectively. (The critics point out these players never carried their teams, the way Duncan and Bryant did, and the way Nowitzki failed to do in 2006.) Fairly or not, Nowitzki became the poster child of effete internationals. It didn’t help that Dallas followed that Finals appearance with four consecutive first round exits.

After each postseason disappointment, Nowitzki retreated to Germany to train with Holger Geschwindner, the unconventional mentor who shaped Nowitzki’s raw skills into NBA talent. Geschwindner is Phil Jackson without the Zen arrogance. He made Nowitzki rollerblade and do walking handstands. He gave him reading assignments like Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon. Most remarkable of all, Geschwindner never charged Nowitzki a penny. Why? “I learned basketball from an American soldier and he was driving 15 miles back and forth to a boarding house to get me to practice,” Geschwindner says. “You have to give something back.”

Nowitzki had a remarkable postseason. His 48 points on fifteen shots in game one against the Thunder was a marvel of efficiency. Yet you could still hear his detractors bellowing, Just fifteen shots? What, is he too good to take 41 shots like a real American? Look at the prissy boy who shoots 24 free throws and doesn’t miss!

I began the Finals rooting against Miami, but by the end of game two (when I made this rash, unwise but ultimately accurate prediction, the first and only time I was right about anything this entire season), I was a Mavs diehard. (Despite the fact I live in Ohio, let me qualify that I was not a Mavalier.)

Jerry Sloan once said that what mattered in basketball was what you did after you got your butt kicked. He said it in the context of John Stockton and Karl Malone, who — despite never winning a title — both came back to camp every fall in shape and ready to try again. They were consummate professionals (as was Sloan). Those three — and other professionals like Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler — had the misfortune of being contemporaries with Michael Jordan.

Dirk would never have beaten MJ, but he’s a professional too. He got his butt kicked over and over. Every offseason he worked with Geschwindner, tweaking some component of his game or adding a new wrinkle. Finally, thirteen years into his career, Dirk got his. Sometimes the NBA does write happy endings.

——————–

Thanks to everyone who chimed in at the Voreblog NBA Playoffs Readers Forum. It’s always one of the highlights of my blog year.

To Scott Guldin — I apologize for cursing the Bulls by jumping on their bandwagon. I renounce my affection for them if it means they can win the title next year. (How sweet would a Bulls/Mavs Finals have been?)

Also, as promised, here’s a picture of Sam in his Jazz onesie.

x

To Matthew Leathers — I’m pulling for the Canucks tonight.

To Denys Lai — I booked my flight for August. Get me tickets.

To Tad Smith — I think Chuck Klosterman would, if you called him, use some of his Grantland space to get to the bottom of the Scott Hastings Shoe Cam.

To Mike Allen — You host a mean barbecue. And I’m going to start calling you “The Custodian” from now on.

To my wife Erin — The greatest gift of all: An NBA lockout. You may never have to read an NBA post again.

friends, NBA, readers forum

Scott Guldin Takes The Plunge.

Of all the voices chiming in at the Voreblog NBA Playoffs Readers Forum, one has been conspicuously absent: that of good friend and Chicago Bulls fan, Scott Guldin. There has been some playful banter back and forth between Ben and Scott about Ben jinxing the Bulls this year by coming out as a Chicago fan and predicting this Bulls team has the horse sense to win it all. (Yes, that was a What About Bob? reference.)

Scott texted Ben last night to say he hasn’t been commenting on the forum because “at first I was bummed at the Bulls’ sluggish performance, and now out of sheer superstition.”

Then, today, he took the plunge.

I remain optimistic about Chicago’s chances. (After watching Oklahoma City tonight, though, I remain decidedly less optimistic about theirs.) I won’t go so far as to say Chicago wins game three, but I think the Bulls return to Chicago with the series tied at two apiece.

In the meantime, Scott asks the Voreblog readership why he cares so much about the outcome of a sporting contest. He wants your theories to wash over him like a healing salve. You can join the conversation and share them here. Bonus! Matthew Leathers, who is reportedly in Cincinnati this weekend, may chime in and lose his mind if his Canucks drop tomorrow’s game four and head back to Vancouver with the series tied. Or you may not care whatsoever and are simply waiting for “The Bachelorette” to premiere on Monday. Whatever the case may be, let’s go Bulls.

NBA

A Bold Prediction About The NBA Playoffs

Each team that lost game one in the second round — Oklahoma City, Boston, Chicago and L.A. — will win its series.

For more bold predictions, join our NBA Playoffs Readers Forum by clicking on the absurd picture of Carlos Boozer on the right sidebar. Or just click here!