Back To the Future: The Utah Jazz Need a Newfangled Approach

A shell of my former selfCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Head coach Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena at Oracle Arena on February 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Everything good needs replacing.

Some raspy-voiced, crooning dude holding a guitar said that once.

Forgot his name.

I doubt Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor’s heard the song, but it just so happens that unlimited lyric paints a pathway directly to the front door of O’Connor.

How can you gage this Utah franchise? Generally strong as the iron-rod, it took a catastrophic hit last season with the loss of owner Larry H. Miller.

Tattooed in fervent fearlessness, Miller held such a high ceiling for his beloved franchise that he would barrel through a concrete pillar for the chance at hoisting the NBA title.

Larry never got that chance.

Now, the current status and foundations of the franchise seem to be in great stature, right? The Jazz are winning. They’ve being ripping off wins like old, moldy band-aids since early Jan. There’s been All-Star play, coupled with pleasant surprises all around.

Who woulda thought? Wes Matthews. Who woulda thought? The resurrection of the mercurial Andrei Kirilenko? Who woulda thought Ronnie Brewer wouldn’t be on the active roster come late Feb. and Carlos Boozer would?

The typewriter could continue on all the way to 2057.

So, the Jazz, the little team that couldn’t forever and ever, finally are doing. Sitting at 36-20 and quite uncomfortably in the third spot in the public-transportation-at-rush-hour-tight Western Conference, questions abound still lur—like a miffed and starved daddy croc on Animal Planet.

Basically two-thirds of the way through the season, many Jazz fans have bought in. Not even, they’ve gone all in—not exactly playing with house money.

The backbone of the new Jazz: current boss Greg Miller, president Randy Rigby, and O’Connor were scoffed at earlier in the year. Somehow, Boozer was back in Salt Lake City after a slew of what an objective person would call “interesting comments”. Piddling along like a bad Jackie Chan movie, Utah impressed few.

Thank goodness for 2010, right, boys?

Suddenly, the Jazz are the hot gossip at the trendy, cool-kid table in the cafeteria.

Utah could put Lindsay Lohan, the troll of Jersey Shore and the Heidi “T-1000” Montag to shame. That’s how vogue this team has become.

But what will happen come playoff time? Can this team beat the Denver Nuggets in a seven-game tango? How about seven straight against Kobe and his starlight bunch?

Let that rest quietly on the backburner for a bit.

What about the future?

The messiah will be arriving in June. Or as so many believe. Thanks to the probable 2010 summer pilgrimage of NBA esteemed, the Jazz are in hold of a potential No. 1 pick. That is unless Tracy McGrady pulls a Barry Bonds in the remaining 26 games.

So, back to O’Connor.

The guy’s either a maniacal genius of the second-round pick or the epic failure of the first.  He may hold a Ph.D in castoffs with a minor in nobody’s, but was he even able to even pass his generals first and foremost?

Go ahead and try to name the first-round picks of the franchise the last 10 years.  Seriously, do it. You know the names.

I see you, DeShawn Stevenson. I got you, Raul Lopez and Curtis Borchardt. Let us not forget Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder. Oh, how could I forget Sasha Pavlovic?

Now, granted, the whole spiel shouldn’t be blamed solely on the head of O’Connor. It’s taken a group effort over the year to fart away picks.

Just a few names passed over: Michael Redd, Tony Parker, Gerald Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Josh Smith, Anderson Varejao. Now the typewriter really could go on till 2057 and keep right on going.

Yes, the draft is a crapshoot of some sorts. What you see isn’t exactly what you get. But after a decade of mediocrity on a small-market team in a niche that is Utah, when does one have to answer for their crimes?

It’d be one thing if the players the Jazz drafted had went on to other teams and done great things. Crickets…it’s that bad.

The Jazz, along with O'Connor, signed Boozer and Mehmet Okur when they were basically nobodys and they transformed into All-Stars. Cute? Sure. But do they make Utah a championship-level team? 

The answer is no. 

Pro-Kevo folks will clamor the drafting of Deron Williams and Paul Millsap. Well, let’s be frank: O’Connor and the Jazz were handed a pistol and had a crack-shot at two fish in one barrel. Yes, most believe they got the right one, but that goes without saying.

It wasn’t a win-lose. As for Millsap, the man’s a gamer. Subtract the painfully obvious trade up and selection of Williams and basically, you have Millsap to show for the past 10 drafts.

Morris Almond? Poof. Even Brewer got bounced out of town.

CJ Miles is still developing five years later. Kyrylo Fesenko is still buying hoards of cookies at Smith’s MarketPlace (yes, I saw it with my own eyes) and Kosta Koufos?

Ask again later.

At what point does it become a real issue? I think it is and has been for quite some time. Not to mention now that they have one of the premier players in the association in Williams, who’s will to win is insatiable as a drop of cold beer (or root, whichever you prefer) in the midst of indian summer.

Williams has said since the pen hit the pad that he wants to win. Not just win 50-plus games and be content with Nike ads. He wants to ascend Everest.

Has O’Connor and Co. assembled a roster that’s capable?

Well, there’s a schizophrenic 20-and-10 guy coming off the books in a few months, a bloated, expiring contract of a Spider-Man and every female heart in the state of Utah will explode into oblivion if the heartthrob, sharp-shooting Kyle Korver isn’t re-upped.

Oh, and the draft pick. Utah does need to send Isiah Thomas an entire case of whatever he wants, but looking at it from a logical point of view, the Jazz lucked out. What would have happened had the Knicks turned it around and the proverbial unprotected pick had ended up at about 15-22?

Hey, that’s O’Connor’s forte, ain’t it?

If you want to believe anything is possible, then go right ahead. I’ll agree with you. But there will (and should) come a time when proper repercussions are taken. Larry’s wish was to see this franchise win a championship.

If a team has continually regressed after hitting a peak three seasons ago, pick up the phone. Something’s obviously wrong.

And if dumb luck would have any say in O’Connor’s saga, it would be something to see the Jazz end up with the No. 1 overall pick.

Only to hear, with the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select Donatas Motiejunas, power forward from Lithuania.

Then you can get your sweet bippy that Williams will start scanning the housing market in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.

O'Connor has done a valiant job at assembling a winning team in a small market. He should be commemorated. 

But at what point does conservativeness become an issue? 

Are the Jazz always going to be good, but not great?

Utah is first-rate at covering up growing hostility within the organization. Deron Williams, for a change, introduced a little anarchy into the mix after voicing his tenacious displeasure after Brewer was dealt.

The surface level is tranquil, but the under-belly is boiling, and whether anyone admits it or not, there will be some sort of substance hitting the fan if the Jazz don't change things up sooner or later.

Until then, sit back, relax, watch the Jazz win 50 games, and get no further than the second round in the playoffs. 

Then hear O'Connor pirouette around questions and resign Carlos Boozer. 

It'd be epic, wouldn't it?


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