A Tale of Two Cities: Utah Jazz and New York Knicks Collide

Justin KeyCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2011

PHOENIX - JANUARY 07:  Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks high fives teammate Bill Walker #5 after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 7, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Knicks defeated the Suns 121-96.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There may not be two more different teams in the entire NBA, both historically and currently, than the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks. The relevance of the Jazz has remained prominent for the last 23 seasons, although always omitted from championship-like talk and, ultimately, splitting the fanbase into the faithful and the faithful naysayers.

All Knicks fans, on the other hand, are exhaling a sigh of relief as the toast of all towns has again become significant in the NBA, much thanks to MVP candidate Amar’e Stoudemire and, of course, James Dolan’s long term plan to tank multiple seasons.

The ideological differences between the two franchises, and the two cities, are also prominent. New York is one of the most recognizable cities in the entire world, while Salt Lake City’s most memorable contribution, on a global scale at least, was the 2002 Olympic Winter Games nearly a decade ago.

Then again, Utah’s basketball spectacle, the Jazz, has outshined the Mecca of basketball proudly for over a decade.

Late owner of the Jazz, Larry Miller, took pride in something that the Knicks organization never cared too much for—he believed that the system is more important than the players. As a result, Jerry Sloan has manned the helm of the Jazz for 23 years, pounded home over 1,000 wins, gone to the NBA Finals twice and been in the playoffs 19 times with a 20th on the way.

During that 23-year time span, the Knicks have gone through 12 different head coaches, everyone from Rick Pitino, Don Nelson, and  Jeff Van Gundy to Pat Riley and Mike D’Antoni just to name a few. The Knicks have also missed the playoffs eight times, including eight of the last nine seasons.

Currently, the Knicks and Jazz couldn’t be sporting different systems. Mike D’Antoni loves to push the ball offensively and shoot the ball within the first seven seconds of the shot clock, a running metaphor for how often the Knicks have a coaching change.

If a shot goes up and there are 17 seconds remaining on the shot clock, it had better be an uncontested layup according to Sloan.

Sloan runs the flex offensive, almost inflexibly. D’Antoni’s system runs-n-guns relentlessly. The only similarity that these two share is their love for the pick-n-roll, which they both defer to in the fourth quarter.

Sloan preaches defense; D’Antoni isn’t really sure what defense means.

Heading into the current season, hopes were high for the Knicks with the addition of Stoudemire. And to say the very minimal, Stoudemire has impressed often and has turned the Knicks around in multiple ways.

Not only are the Knicks winning with relative frequency (21-15 record), but other superstars around the league are openly desiring to join the organization, something that hasn’t really happened in years past.

In the Western Conference, nobody has expected too much of the Jazz this season. Many analysts had them either not in the playoff picture or just barely squeezing a spot for themselves. However, the Jazz, like Old Faithful, have continued to play tough basketball, earning them a share of the top spot in the Northwest Division and fifth overall in the Western Conference.

On Wednesday night, these two teams will be battling it out. The game marks the first of a two-game home stand for Utah against Eastern Conference opponents.

It’s also the last game of a road trip and four in six days for the Knicks, all against the Western Conference.

The game will be the second in two days for the Knicks, the first in four days for the Jazz.

The Jazz are coming of another remarkable double-digit comeback victory, a win that saw Paul Millsap score 23 points in the final 11 minutes. Fans are now referring to this performance, along with his 11 points in 26 seconds against the Miami Heat, as “Millslapped.”

But Millsap will have his hands full against Stoudemire on Wednesday.

With the way these two teams are playing, this game could go either way. A testament to the highlighted differences between these two teams is also their play.

The Jazz seem to dumb down to their competition for at least the first half, where they are one of the worst offensive teams in the league. However, they also are in the top three for all teams in the second half, where they win most of their games.

The Knicks tend to do the opposite. Their uptempo style and three-point shooting allow them to play with anybody, but it’s a matter of sustaining their ability to knock down shots late in the game. A week ago the Knicks torched the league-leading San Antonio Spurs for 128 points and a victory. But after hanging with the Los Angeles Lakers for three quarters on Sunday, the Knicks managed only 17 fourth-quarter points and lost the game.

European starter Danilo Gallinari will miss the game with a sprained knee for New York, his fifth game in a row.

Mehmet Okur, also European, is considered a game-time decision for the Utah Jazz, possibly playing in his fifth game all year.

The only things these two teams and franchises have in common is they’ll both be in Energy Solutions Arena on Wednesday night at 9pm Eastern Standard Time.