Conservatism Killed The Cat: Utah Must Take Risks To Ascend
Deron Williams knows it. And so does the rest of the league.
The Utah Jazz need something new. They need something more than what they already have.
After a third straight season lost at the hands of the universally-better Los Angeles Lakers, questions were not only abound, they're simply smack-dab at the forefront.
Utah's star did not shy away from the obvious. As he shouldn't.
A day after the Jazz were swept, Williams sat in front of his locker as reporters cluttered around asking the same questions that had been asked the previous two seasons.
This time, the NBA's best point guard made a statement—something that seemed somewhat of a necessary statement after what had just transpired.
Williams was, is, and forever-will-be sick of losing. Especially to the Lakers, that all-too-familiar mountain that Utah can't find the means to ascend and topple.
I didn't write anything substantial regarding the Jazz for a good couple months, only because I knew what was to transpire.
When Carlos Boozer chimerically missed the biggest regular-season game in franchise history after taking what seemed to be a routine Boozer jumper against Golden State the night before, I knew the record would continue to play.
And play. And play. And play some more.
The "strain" proved that, once again, Boozer had (has?) a choke-hold on a franchise that, for some reason, adores and worships his statistics and lets his demeanor slide along the wayside.
Sure, beating the Denver Nuggets without Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko was a monumentally-impressive feat. But, the Nuggets are like Lindsay Lohan after a prime snort—all over the place, smashing cars, screaming, pissing, moaning, crying, etc.
If Utah wants to be considered one of the elite, the front office and the team itself has to take risks. Risk-s, plural.
A team this young, and supposedly burgeoning with the "right" talent, shouldn't regress the way it has after bursting onto the scene in 2007, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Any self-respecting idiot can see that this team knows its limits, and, the one dude that shudders at the mere idea of losing knows it.
Jazz fans knew that when Deron Williams signed a three-year maximum contract extension—rather than five—that it only meant one thing: championship.
Rings. Titles. Standing atop alone, looking down at the rest of the miscreants that had been beaten along the way.
There is a major Catch-22 in the sense that many consider the Jazz a "small-market" franchise. They don't exactly attract the LeBron's, Wade's, or Bosh's of the association.
Gun to your head, you would probably feel inclined to name Utah as the last place a premier free-agent would like to settle down and try and win some hardware.
So, build through the draft. As the record continues to screech, the Jazz draft, in modest terms, horribly. Aside from Williams, John Stockton, and Karl Malone, it's a max-contract to Andrei Kirilenko, a will-he-ever-develop CJ Miles, and the likes of Greg Ostertag, Curtis Borchardt, and Raul Lopez.
Should the front office be praised for building a perennial 50-win team that brings in revenue and strings die-hard fans along for a ride that only ends in a head-on collision?
Or should it be ridiculed for taking arguably the most-conservative annual stance in the league? It's no secret Jerry Sloan is a strong advocate for consistency, but at one point the writing on the filthy bathroom wall has to grab someone's attention.
Oscar Wilde once said: "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."
Last summer was supposed to be the fight-or-flight off-season for the franchise, but after being bullied into a corner by contracts and player decisions, it's now all fallen on the summer of 2010.
With Boozer prime to walk and Utah praying that the lottery pick they own courtesy of Isiah Thomas turns into Williams' future running mate, Kevin O'Connor and Greg Miller will be sweating bullets. Or should be, at least.
This is the quiz: are the Jazz ready to take a few blind risks in attempts to beat the Lakers come May and June or will they re-sign Boozer and watch him average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game and allow the Pau Gasol's of the world to take him out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
An athletic big man that can guard the post, contest shots at the rim, and run the floor would be an ideal find. Too bad those are in shorter supply than pristine job opportunities.
How about a wing that can run, finish at the rim, create his own shot, defend and defend, and defend some more?
Wesley Matthews was as nice of a surprise as anything in the NBA this season, but it's the Jazz. They always have nice surprises.
It's building upon those and becoming deeper as a roster. Developing competition for playing time. Fighting to get better in order to help the team win basketball games.
Miller was recently quoted as saying that he was "surprised" by Williams' comments that the team needed to be more aggressive in making the team better suited to win a title.
There will come a time where Jazz fans will have to choose a side and stand their ground.
Is the playoffs enough? Are first or second round exits enough? Or is Williams right?
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more famous, endearing, and influential face in the state of Utah right now than Deron Williams.
As he goes, so does the heart rates of the Beehive State.
It wasn't exactly a threat to O'Connor and Miller to cowboy-up and make things happen, but it certainly was a seed planted early on, knowing full-well it could eventually bloom into a disaster waiting to happen.
Williams comes off the books in two seasons, and if Cleveland's current state of extreme trepidation is any indication, things could get ugly for Miller.
If Deron Williams walks, there will be an upheaval unlike anything ever seen or imaginable in Utah.
So, just take note, guys.
Improve your roster, give your team a fighting chance to beat the Lakers next May and everything will be kosher.
Starting tonight, say your prayers, rub your lucky rabbit's foot, wear those charmed set of boxers, and close your eyes and tell yourself: "Evan Turner, Evan Turner, Evan Turner".
Oh, and take a risk for a change.
"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing". -George Bernard Shaw
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