It should come as no surprise that after the Jazz started to get a) some of their injured guys back, and b) allowed some of their banged up guys (who were still playing) to get well again that c) the Jazz would start to win some games. Similarly so, people all over the world would start lauding Utah again. This has been par for the course over the last few seasons. In the 2004-2005 season the Jazz won only 26 games. Why? Not because of any extra-ordinary amount of 'suck', but because of injuries. (AK and Booz were out almost all of the season EACH) The next year -- when healthy -- the Jazz almost made the playoffs. End result: people started to talk about the Jazz. Since that time, the Jazz have increased their wins in each of the successive seasons. Alas, it would be folly to suggest that the Jazz did better when they weren't flying under the radar.
After all, no one was talking Jazz at the All-Star breaks the last few seasons (except for last season maybe), but each time the team is able to have spectacular runs in the final 30 games of the season and have won their division twice in a row. The mental edge that some of our players hone due to being passed over may not be so sharp right now when everyone and their grandmother is counting the Jazz in this time around.
Hollinger, of ESPN.com, once suggested that the Jazz would be the team to watch in 2009. Even after the season of injuries that the Jazz have suffered so far, he contends that the Jazz can still win the division. Mark Stein, also of ESPN.com, moved the Jazz up to 9th best in the league in his power rankings, and in his chat later on this week suggested that he should have moved then up to 7th best. Chad Ford, again, ESPN.com, chimed in yesterday that when healthy "the Jazz . . . are the Lakers biggest competition in the West." Skeets and Tas over at TheBasketballJones suggest that the Jazz *are* this good, and only injuries got in the way.
As nice as all of this sounds, even the most vocal, yet highly respected, detractors of the Jazz have gotten on the respect wagon of late. AOL's NBA Fanhouse could be my browser homepage, their contributors get the news out from all over the league onto the net almost faster than anyone else. They recently had a roundtable discussion on the Jazz, and anyone who knows their writers knows not to expect glowing reviews. Matt Moore has contested for quite a long time that the Jazz are paper tigers. [fair enough...] He, however, did recant somewhat on his own blog, the amazing Hardwood Paroxysm, with his post "In the interest of fairness". (SLCDunk.com quoted MM yesterday on his LHM tribute) Moore even suggests that reading the comments in the Fanhouse roundtable elicited him to dig a little deeper.
"But I read the comments on our round table today, which featured an amazing combination of actually lucid, intelligent commenters, and I realized that I just didn’t fully give the story."
I'm guessing he wasn't talking about the comment calling everyone a moron, but perhaps maybe this one started things off. That "Doc A" guy sounds really smart. Now only if he had a blog that he could post his thoughts on . . . one that properly formatted itself depending on the browser settings of the viewer . . . grrrr. [For those who didn't get it, I'm "Doc A"] Tom Ziller (you should know who this guy is if you like reading basketball on the internet) goes where no one else has gone before and even suggests that we should, collectively, "Fear the Utah Jazz".
The recent love for the Jazz extends beyond the reaches of ESPN.com's columnists or bloggers . . . Kenny Smith (who has two rings), despite not being able to pronounce Deron Williams' name, goes out and heaps praise on our, small market team.
Charley Rosen, Phil Jackson's butt buddy, is an opinionated old coot whose analysis of games is limited to whatever game is on cable TV that month. Dude doesn't even go to games. Essentially, if you look past his mediocre success as an assistant coach in the CBA he has no greater insight into the game than anyone else with a remote control and a laptop. This week he found it within his back heart to say something nice about our players -- one in particular -- the same one that Kenny Smith can't pronounce despite covering him for at least two rounds in each of the last two playoffs.
All of this must sound great if you are a Jazz fan, right? On one hand it either shows that the world at large is a) respecting our team, or b) had their head so far up their sigmoid colon that they merely overlooked the Jazz and their lower seed record as evidence that the Jazz were just a bad team. I don't particularly find much comfort in either answer.
The Jazz don't do well with hype. You can look back and see what happened in that eventful 2004-2005 season, or look farther back at what happened in the 1998-1999 playoffs . . . or still farther back to one of those 5 first round exists during the early Stockton & Malone era after looking so good at such a young age by taking the Lakers to 7 games in 1987-1988. Hype can dull the edge, or worse, completely remove the chip off of the shoulders of our hungrier players. By giving the Jazz too much hype, perhaps, our expectations for them will never be attainable? Partly because of our expectations, but alternatively, also due to the hype removing some of the focused insanity that motivates people when they feel disrespected. Utah needs all the focus they can get, just look at their road record vs. under .500 teams . . . they don't play well unless they feel like they have something to prove.