Third...At Best: The Utah Jazz Are a Good Team, Nothing More
Holster your six-shooters.
Put down your torches.
This is just an observation.
Some will say that it's a mountain made out of a molehill. For those folks, I say to just look at the track record.
The nine-game winning streak that catapulted the Utah Jazz back into the thick of things was a treat to watch.
They passed the ball. They shared the glory. They played some defense. They made some plays.
They won some games.
Won. Not winning.
But just as it did a season ago—by going on a rampant win streak—this same Jazz squad has a ceiling.
The ceiling, is colorful, too.
Right there, smack-dab above one's head sit two words.
This is not to say that Utah, who has arguably one of the best all-around teams in the entire league, cannot make it to the NBA Finals.
The talent is there. So is the potential
Just not against Los Angeles. Just not against Denver.
Heading into the All-Star break, the Jazz now sit 32-19. The nine-game swing for the good helped. They went from being in a tie for the ninth spot in the Western Conference back in early December to third.
The Jazz are better than the Mavericks. Corral Dirk Nowitzki and you win the series.
The Jazz are better (as of right now) than San Antonio. They should be better than Oklahoma City.
So, where's the catch?
If you caught a glimpse of the 95-81 clubbing at the hands of the Lakers, you'd know that the team that national pundits everywhere were saying was the hottest team in the league, certainly isn't anymore.
They're Antarctic. After that horrendous no-show before the "much-needed" break, those guys couldn't manage to light a cigarette for Frosty the Snowman if they wanted to.
Which brings everything back to the same old, broken record.
That record that drives Jazz enthusiasts to square-up-run-your-skull-full-speed-into-a-brick-wall...ville.
Front office is happy. They slowly won back some fans that had cast them off over the summer after not showing the fortitude to make this team a better team.
Don't get me wrong, this team is good.
They can beat anyone on any given night.
But so could a lot of teams.
This is a team with arguably the best point guard in the game.
Three more former All-Stars.
A second-round steal for the ages.
But, at best, this team is the third best team to come out of the West.
Utah cannot beat Los Angeles, and it certainly can't beat a full-strength Denver squad. The Nuggets' speed and athleticism make the Jazz look like the illegitimate child of the Clippers, Warriors, and Nets.
No matter the way you look at it, it's inevitable to envision that all-too-soon ending come early summertime.
Slice that cheese, and there's an impossibility to find any way the Jazz are better than the two current inhabitants of Krypton.
The mortifying loss to the Lakers proved a few things.
1) The Jazz are still an immature team.
2) The Jazz are still an immature team.
3) The Jazz are still an immature team that officially have a ceiling.
Players will retort. They'll say that the locker room vibe is, well, exactly that—vibing.
But, at the end of the day, Utah is a team that has no on-off switch when it comes to motivation.
Hit them early. Hit them often. Play a couple quarters of legitimate defense. And...voila!
Confidence is shot like Elmer Fudd's life was depending on it.
I don't know what will come next for this team.
Who knows, really?
All's that I saw Wednesday against a Lakers team that should have been bested without Kobe Krypton and Andrew Bynum, was a team that was brought back down to earth by none other than themselves.
Maybe the guys were making early vacation arrangements a la 2007?
Where's Deron Williams to crack some skulls? He finally made it to the spot he deserves and now, should be starting in place of the injured Bryant in this weekend's All-Star game.
So, kudos to Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor and owner Greg Miller.
You got that annual streak your team supplies and your guys are back in the thick of things.
Been there, heard that, seen that, felt that, lived that.
I ask, what's the difference this year?
The road is where things will pick up following the break.
Yes, they will win games. Turn some heads from time to time, but I am beginning to wonder...
...When will the Jazz beat teams they're not supposed to beat?
Go into Boston and beat Red's boys.
March into Staples and give Jack a ceremonial one-fingered salute.
Hell, beat the Nuggets. Anywhere.
The streak was admirable, sure. But Utah beat teams that they were supposed to beat.
Sundiata Gaines etched his name into Jazz lore with one flick of the wrist.
After that, it was pretty much a Blazers team with no Brandon Roy. A Denver team with no Chauncey Billups or Carmelo Anthony.
A reeling Mavericks team.
A nearly six-feet under Spurs team.
The rest, simply too beatable.
So, now, we clap our hands at the organizational genius of O'Connor, the unrelenting sales pitch of Miller, and a salute to the Utah Jazz.
You've got everyone interested, yet again.
Prove us wrong.
We dare you.
Double dare you.
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