Friday, September 26, 2008

Flashback Friday: The 1988-1989 Utah Jazz

This 1988-1989 Utah Jazz team is historic for a variety of reasons. First of all, this team was the first in franchise history to win 50 or more games in a season. (They would win 51, a mark that the Jazz have equaled or bested 12 times since then) Second, they featured a 25 year old Karl "The Mailman" Malone who was coming into his own.

Bigger, Stronger, and Faster than Amare Stoudemire

[Tangent Alert: I hate all the hype Amare gets, if dude is so good and a beast why isn't he scoring 30 a game like Karl did? Karl Malone >>>>> Amare Stoudemire. For the record, all Karl did that season was score 29.1 ppg (51.9 fg%), go to the free throw line 11.5 times a game, average 10.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.8 spg and 0.9 bpg. What did the "Beast" Amare do at the age of 25? He got 25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.8 spg and 2.1 bpg.

Amare didn't even get to the FT line 10 times a game, or ever has in his 6 year career, Malone did it 3 times in his first 6 years alone.

Karl even shot better from the three that season (5-16 [31.3%] to Amare's 5-31 [16.1%])! So aside from blocks, his age 25 stats are owned by Malone at 25. And as for blocks . . . Karl was playing with Mark Eaton who sent back 3.8 shots a game "so yeah . . . think about it!" (read the 3rd one on that page to get this joke)]

Back to that Jazz team . . . aside from Malone becoming a force of nature, he also had some help from Eaton (previously mentioned as blocking 3.8 shots a game, but also getting 10.3 rpg on his own on his way towards being named and All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year); Thurl Bailey chipped in 19.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg; Griffith kept people honest on defense with his outside shooting (61 3pt made in an era where that would be one of the top totals for any player) . . . and this John Stockton guy had one of his several seasons that are arguably better than Steve Nash's MVP seasons. John would finish up with 1118 assists that season, a pretty average output for him, but still 221 more than Nash's best ever season. [I guess the whole Stockton vs. Nash thing is another tangent altogether . . . so just click here if you want to read an empirical analysis of their recorded effect on the game.] This season was also the last for Frank Layden, who would give the coaching job to Jerry Sloan 17 games into the season.

Goliath? Is that you? Griffith brings the ball up the floor Frank Layden orders three hot dogs and a beer
Mark Eaton blocks one in the All-Star game . . . one of his over 300 blocks that season. Due to Karl's development, 6'11 Thurl was often left posting up on small forwards . . . to the tune of nearly 20 ppg as the 3rd option. Dr.Dunkenstein's career was wrapping up, but he still had enough to average more than Kirilenko or Brewer did last season. Frank Layden was a more fun coach than any coach after him . . . or perhaps before him.

There are many reasons why the 1988-1989 Utah Jazz team could be called historic. There were many good things that happened this season:

  • This team had a coaching change during mid-season, and they were motivated and rejuvenated by having a young coach at the helm
  • They had some very talented players (three All-Stars, Bailey and Griffith) to offset an anemic bench
  • They won the Mighty Midwest Division Title for the first time with this core group (the first time in post-Dantley, post-Maravich era)
  • Last season they took the NBA Champion LA Lakers to 7 games in the 2nd round of the playoffs -- and scared them good.
  • The sky was the limit for this team that turn into a 'contender'

This is somehow not a foul . . .

That said, there is one reason why I find this team particularly interesting. This team, for all of their successes, took a step back after building so much momentum. Sure, three seasons later they would reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history (and reach there 5 times in the 7 successive seasons) -- but during this upswing in success the Jazz fell back down and were swept from the Playoffs in the 1st round. (Thanks Golden State!) This troubles me because right now the current Jazz franchise is experiencing a second upswing and a similarly linear progression . . . and it would really suck to have to go through those bumps and bruises all over again as a fan. (I've been emotionally invested in this team since the 1987 season, and am finally getting over all those 1st round losses)

I am even tempting fate here by even bringing all of this up right now . . . as our beloved Jazz are 'perhaps' (if history repeats itself) primed for a less than stellar playoffs? (After all, we did just play LA in the 2nd round of the playoffs 20 years after the first time it happened) Ultimately you have to look at all of the good things that happened this season and find them to be inconsequential when examined against a 0-3 playoff elimination in the 1st round to an underdog team with no bigs. The 1988-1989 Utah Jazz season was not a good one . . . simply because where they where and where they ended up fell below expectations. This Jazz team is even ahead of the curve because they've already been to the Western Conference Finals (2 seasons ago), while at this point 20 years ago, the Jazz were still three seasons away.

I wish for the best for the Jazz in this, and all seasons; but would really pray against another regression year. After all, there is no guarantee that our current window of opportunity as a contender will stay open for as long as the window we had 20 years ago.


Muskie said...

This is still probably my favourite Jazz team ever, this was the Jazz team in "Lakers VS Celtics" the original video game. I always played as the Jazz so will never forget this starting five.