Utah is doing quite well right now. The Jazz appear to have pulled it together and are winning games. Through it all the Jazz fans have stood by their team. Utah Jazz fans are regarded all over the league as loud, fanatic, and help make life difficult for road teams. Beyond the home games the Jazz fan diaspora has become quite active on the Internet and over the past 2 years have an established a very solid blogging presence. Jazz fans are also among the most hated by other teams' fanbases. There are a number of reasons why, and part of the reason for this round table to was to actually explore this. Some say that we Jazz fans are big-time homers -- yet as you'll read none of the people who took part in this roundtable feel like the MVP of the league can only be a Jazz player; or that the Jazz players themselves are without flaws. Furthermore, we're highly critical of our team, and know where we stand in the West -- we aren't as big a group of homers as you think we are. Anyway, in this roundtable we discuss playoffs, player evaluations, and the reputation that Jazz fans have on the Internet.
Chronology Note: These questions were posed and answered around February 11th, 2009 (before the All-Star Break -- and before wins against the Lakers, Celtics, and so forth). Back then the Jazz were: mired as either the 8th or 9th seed in the west; way behind in the division; were not healthy at all; and not dominating teams like we are now. Since the time these questions were posed many things have changed in the NBA. Some teams got hot, some teams went cold. Some players (like D-Wade) have gone nuts and put themselves in the MVP race.Today the Jazz have put together a nice streak of wins, and control their destiny the rest of the way.
Ready or not, here we go.....
1. The Jazz will (or will not) make the playoffs this year because:
Basketball John: It's a little easier to say this now, but the Jazz definitely make the playoffs this year. They're playing the best ball of the year and now they have everyone back healthy. There's no reason why they should miss the playoffs.
UtesFan89: The Jazz will make the playoffs because they will finally learn how to stay healthy and finally get going. Plus, Deron won't let them miss the playoffs.
Moni: [They] will, because it’s someone else’s turn to have all the bad luck. Or because even if we don’t get AK or Boozer back and assuming no one else gets injured, I think we still have a better second half (actually 29 games) than at least one of the following: Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and NO.
Spencer: They will because we are peaking at the right time
Amar: Utah will make the playoffs because they are right in the thick of things right now (even with all the injuries this season), have a number of games against the teams ahead of them in the standings still to come (thus, a chance to make up ground), and are getting healthy finally. A low seed is available, and the Jazz still have an outside shot at the division.
2. What teams in the West are the Jazz capable of beating (when healthy) in a playoff series? Can they beat any of those teams without being a full strength?
Basketball John: They do have to be at full strength. They obviously have played well without Boozer, but in a playoff series that completely changes. I think they're capable of beating anybody. But I don't think they're likely to beat the Lakers. They would also have a difficult time against the Spurs because, well, they're the Spurs. Until we win there more than once per decade, that's how it will be.
UtesFan89: Well, the bottom of the West, but they won't make it. If healthy, they can run with anybody... save maybe the Spurs if the Spurs have home court. If not healthy (I'm guessing you mean like now)... the top teams (LA, SA) will be hard, but as they just proved, they can run with anyone if they feel like it.
Moni: I’d say all of them except the Spurs. I assume you mean Playoff-bound teams in the West, or I might have to add the Pesky Timberwolves to the “can’t beat” list. We’ve won against six of the eight other Playoff-bound teams at partial strength, so it’s possible, though not necessarily likely. As long as we have DWill, we can take NO, AK or no AK, Boozer or no Boozer.
Spencer: The Jazz can, not will, but can beat any team in a seven game series if they are healthy.
Amar: No teams in the west scare me in a 7 game series except the LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. I think that the Jazz can beat the Nuggets, Hornets, Rockets and Mavs without being healthy – but it depends on who is out, losing Boozer and only Boozer hurts the Jazz, but not as much as losing Deron would.
3. The key to the rest of the season is:
a) Deron Williams
b) Health – because we need our starters healthy
c) Health – because we need the bench playing together again
d) Winning road games
e) a massive brawl during the next Nuggets / Blazers game
Basketball John: f) All of the above.
UtesFan89: d) Winning road games. All of them would be huge, but if you can't win on the road, the playoffs will be a quick out.
Moni: The key is consistency, so a combination of b) and c). It might just be a mental thing, but I imagine that the game flows much better when you’re used to being on the court with the same guys night in and night out, build up chemistry within set lineups, and have a keen awareness of those guys’ strengths and weaknesses. This is particularly true for the Jazz because of Jerry’s [normal] substitution patterns. Once they get everyone back and into the “normal” rotations, winning road games will follow because the Jazz have to be one of the deepest teams in the league at full strength. DWill will be DWill. (Of course, I’d relish “e.” I love a good NBA fight as long as it doesn’t involve the Jazz.)
Spencer: a) Deron Williams
Amar: all the answers are valid, and come together to form a greater whole than the sum of their parts but I’m going to go with c) here. Early in the season (you know, back when we were 5-0) the Jazz won games because the bench unit was together, healthy, and vastly better than their counterparts on the other teams. Previous seasons the Jazz bench was like a rusty rowboat with holes in it compared to the luxury yacht that was the starters – and whatever slim lead the starters would get would slowly erode with the bench in the game. This was no longer the case (when we were healthy) as the Jazz were able to extend leads making life easier for the starters. On paper this is one of the biggest assets this team has over previous Jazz teams – having a healthy bench unit means that our starters can focus on starting and finishing, instead of having to play the entire game and have nothing left in the tank to seal the deal.
4. Strategy for the rest of this season: a) develop younger players or b) try to win every regular season game possible with veteran play?
Basketball John: I think we're in a win it now mode because who knows what's going to happen this offseason. The youngsters got some time with all of the injuries, but we really need to win to get home-court.
UtesFan89: c) Both of the above. You can win & develop talent. I'm not asking for 40+ minutes for Almond & Fesenko & The Koof. But some time (I mean, what did The Koof do to deserve the doghouse now?) would be nice... especially when injuries have really cut down on the number of healthy players.
Moni: b), for selfish reasons. It ruins my day when the Jazz lose, and everyone around me suffers. (Jazz/NBA games are on in the morning over here, so when I say it ruins my day when they lose, it literally is the entire day.)
Spencer: b) try to win every regular season game possible with veteran play
Amar: b) has to be the answer here, there’s too much uncertainty this off-season – and we’re still in the playoff hunt right now, there’s no reason to tank and play guys like Kosta and Fes 30 mpg. Sure, that may make them better players in the long run, but at the expense of this season’s potential franchise successes.
5. Define “Title Contender”, and do the Jazz satisfy the criteria from your definition?
Basketball John: You have to be able to go deep into the playoffs. In order to do that you have to be able to step it up on D every night. Most teams can score, but not everyone can defend. Right now the Jazz are in the middle of the pack defensive-wise. Over their last 9 wins, they're holding opponents to 93 points a game. I've been pretty impressed with the defensive effort lately. Maybe something has finally clicked with the team. We'll see how long they can keep it up.
UtesFan89: Title contender: Any team still mathematically alive for the playoffs (where it depends on who shows up... at least until the refs take over) and that isn't tanking games for a higher draft pick. Or trading away good players to clear cap in anticipation of losing out in the LeBron James sweepstakes. Get to the playoffs, and it's all about match-ups and luck and whoever plays harder. Yes, the Jazz fit this.
Moni: Focus, full commitment to the same strategy/goal, full commitment to defense—across the board from 1 to 12.
As the Jazz are constituted presently, no. At the beginning of the season, I really thought this was going to be the Jazz (and DWill)’s year. Of course, this was before the ESA turned into a triage site. So perhaps due to injury and perhaps because we have a lot of young guys (not named DWill), we have problems with all of the things I mentioned above.
Gregg Popovich said something once that’s stuck with me since I heard it. When asked to describe “the perfect Spur,” he said, “Guys that have gotten over themselves.” The Spurs have done a good job of assembling a roster of guys that fit that description, and that’s one of the reasons they’re so consistent and contenders every year. There is more than one guy on our roster that looks for his own shot above all else, outside the offense, with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. There is at least one guy on our roster that couldn’t possibly be less committed to the concept of defense. Until those change, I don’t think we can win it all.
Spencer: Nobody wants to see the Jazz in Round one especially the Lakers.
Amar: I think that a ‘contender’ and a ‘playoff team’ are not the same thing. Even if you do win over 7 playoff games (on average) like the Jazz do, that does not make them a serious threat to win the title. To be a title contender you have to win games against good teams at home decisively and be able to win hard games against good teams on the road. You’re not a title contender if you aren’t one of the top teams in your conference from October through to May. Utah is a nice team, with a tough as nails coach and a very great home crowd . . . but they aren’t ‘there’ yet. They will be in the future though.
6. What teams are clearly better than the Jazz right now?
Basketball John: You have to go with the Lakers/Spurs in the west. The Celtics are a better team. Though it will be interesting to see what effect Marbury has on them now. And Cleveland/Orlando are right there. I think the Jazz could still take most of them in a 7-game series.
UtesFan89: Well, there are 7 teams in the West with better records than us, and 4 teams in the East (Atlanta!!?). That said, if the Jazz are at home, they could beat anyone. Lets go with the Kobes, Cavs & Celtics. Maybe the Magic & Spurs too.
Moni: -Clearly- better? The Spurs. Maybe the Celtics, but the deadline for this is before the game so I can’t say for sure.
Spencer: Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Portland
Amar: Lakers, Spurs, Boston, Cleveland
7. What highly regarded teams are the Jazz in the same neighborhood of?
Basketball John: It's hard to say because we've just barely got everyone back together and we haven't seen them play for any extended time yet. If they play like they have been in the last 10 games, then I would say they are as good as any. Of course, a lot of those games were at home. We'll get to see soon just how good they are when they head out on the road.
UtesFan89: Portland & Denver. Dallas?
Moni: At full strength, all of them. (The sad thing is, we may never know how far this team could have gone because the salary cap situation means that there will probably be some major changes to the roster this summer.) At partial strength, I still think we’re as good or better than Phoenix, Dallas, NO, and Houston in the West and at least the bottom 5 Playoff teams in the East. I’ve also believed and known for years that we own the
Midwest Northwest Division, so I have to add Denver to that list as well.
To me, the X-factor is AK. When he’s on the court, he does so much to improve the Jazz offensively AND defensively. If we have AK and are only missing Boozer, and Sap had a nice, restful spa vacation over the break, I like our chances against anyone.
Amar: Maybe Portland and Orlando
8. What popular teams are the Jazz better than?
UtesFan89: The Suns. Though they're only popular because they have Amare on the block. The Hornets. The Rockets... especially if T-Mac is out as is being rumored. Dallas.
Moni: I’m not sure which teams are the “popular” ones. The Lakers and now the Celtics have the most bandwagon fans, and Cleveland, Denver, and Houston are popular because of one player. I guess it depends on whether we’re at full or partial strength, so refer to my answer for #7.
Amar: (homer hat on) Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans . . . probably also Portland
9. MVP of the NBA this season is?
UtesFan89: The head coach of the Hawks.
Moni: I don’t really follow other teams, but it seems to me that there’s no one clear-cut MVP candidate at this point in time.
Spencer: Kobe, LeBron that's your only options
Amar: LeBron James
10. Are any of our players Top 5 at their position? Top 10? Top 15?
Basketball John: Deron is top 2 point guard. Carlos, when healthy is a top 5 PF. Memo is probably a top 10 center just off the top of my head. I didn't do any research into that. AK is a top 5 6th man if that's a position. Millsap is up there as a 6th man as well.
UtesFan89: Deron is a top-5 PG. Okur is a top-10 or 15 C. Booze is a top-5 PF if healthy. 'Sap is a top-5 bench player, as is AK. Flop is a top-5 flopper.
Moni: PG, Top 5 easy. C, Probably Top 5 and definitely Top 10. I’d say that Sap is a Top 15 PF and AK is a Top 10 PF/SF (not necessarily statistically, but for all the things he does that make the Jazz so much better). And I maintain that Ronnie B is a Top 5 dunker and was absolutely snubbed for the Dunk Contest.
Spencer: Deron #1, Boozer Top Ten, Memo Top Ten
Amar: Deron is Top 5, Memo is Top 5 (really, take a look at it . . . Yao, Shaq, Howard and one other guy are better than what Memo brings to the table with his 19 and 9 plus great shooting and three point range), Boozer is Top 10 when healthy, Brewer is close to Top 15 if you look at his defense. Andrei is up there if you look at guys off the bench.
11. Chris Paul is an absolutely talented, amazing, entertaining franchise player who posts great stats and is an all-around great guy: yes or no.
Basketball John: I would have said yet to all of those up to the last game against the Hornets. The only one I would question now is the all-around great guy. I'm not talking about off the court, I'm sure he's excellent in all respects. Before that game, I've never seen him whine as much and get as pissy with everything. Every NBA player complains to the refs, but he didn't seem to be very professional in that game. I don't know what it was. I just remember thinking that if this had been a playground game, he would have gone home in a fit and taken his ball with him.
UtesFan89: Yes. When healthy.
Moni: I don’t know what kind of guy he is (DWill seems to like him well enough J), but to the rest, yes--from what I’ve seen; like I said, I really don’t watch other teams. He is also the Savior of the NBA and needs to be hyped at every opportunity because he doesn’t get enough attention, poor little guy!
Spencer: Yes, and until this recent stretch by Deron, he was the best point guard in the league. I think Deron is currently the best pg in the league.
Amar: CP3 is all that and a bucket of chicken. He’s also a guy who is improving, he came into the league being called ‘small’ and not having a jump shot but he can now make threes and rebounds great for his size.
12. Can you see the flaws of players on your own team (e.g. Boozer doesn’t play great defense, Harpring is no longer capable of being a solid rotation guy in the NBA, Andrei is fragile and has a shaky jumper, etc)? If so, name some. (you can pick one of the ones I mentioned, but less obvious the better)
Basketball John: Boozer hasn't been around enough to see if his D has improved. I would have agreed with the Harp statement at the beginning of the year, but he's been fantastic for the past several weeks now. Andrei isn't fragile and his jumper has been pretty consistent. As far as flaws for players though, here you go: Deron - too many turnovers. Ronnie B - was going to say jumper, but he's been nailing the mid-range j's lately. CJ - Inconsistent as they come. Memo - Would have 300 more points if he could learn not to step on the three-point line when he shoots.
UtesFan89: CJ is a shoot-first, shoot-second guard, it seems. Brewer has a lot more confidence in his jumper than anyone else. 'Sap might be solid, but he's not Booze inside offensively. And that hurts. Deron has way too many TOs... easy to steal the ball from him, it seems.
Moni: As Ronnie B would say, definitely. Boozer is the main Jazz thorn in my side. His refusal to play D irks me to no end, and from what I can remember (since it’s been so long), I used to completely lose track of what was going on in the game because I was too busy yelling at him to play D. His D is offensive, he commits way too many lazy fouls, he never takes charges, avoids physical contact like the plague, and shoots too many mid-range jumpers rather than working his way into the paint for a higher-percentage shot. He lacks heart, he can’t be trusted, and in his mind, Carlos >>>>>>> team. I don’t know if he really cares about winning, and he talks too much.
Ultimately, the reason that he aggravates me to the extent that he does is because he really has the talent to be great. I’d go so far as to say that he’s more naturally gifted than Malone. Karl became the player that he was through sheer will power and hard work. Boozer shows some amazing footwork (on offense of course) maybe once a game or every other game, and he’s got to be one of the most ambidextrous players in the NBA. But he doesn’t have Malone’s heart or work ethic, and as a Jazz fan I am constantly frustrated and irritated as a result.
I really wish the Jazz would ship him off to Karl’s ranch in Arkansas for a one-on-one summer camp during the off-season and let Karl instill stuff in him.
Ronnie B, CJ, and AK all chuck too much. Ronnie’s FG% is way down from last year, which may just be a product of him not getting easy shots under the basket anymore without anyone to draw the double team. When CJ shoots the 3, I believe it’s going in, but he generally doesn’t do anything but shoot and jacks it up whenever he gets the ball. AK has been brutal from the floor this season. His FG% is decent because he gets a lot of dunks, but check out NBA Hotspots. Cold from pretty much everywhere.
DWill turns the ball over too much, which could be because he’s throwing the ball to guys that aren’t as used to catching his passes. And sometimes in crunch time he passes the ball when he shouldn’t let anyone else have it. That’s about it.
Price is an exciting player but he’s not a PG and shouldn’t be played as such.
Jerry doesn’t yell enough anymore. I want to see him stalking the sidelines, breathing fire at the refs, and getting more Ts.
(I wouldn’t say that what you said about Harp in the question is a “flaw.” Whether he’s still struggling with injury or his body has just broken down irreparably, you know the heart and hustle are still there. Sap has been in the same situation in the past few games, i.e. his body just can’t do what his mind wants to, but I don’t think anyone would call him “flawed.”)
Spencer: Deron is prone to turnovers and gets out of control sometimes (think GS game) and Miles never shows up in the fourth quarter if he plays.
Amar: I don’t want to repeat what everyone else said, but yeah – our team has plenty of flaws. AK sometimes goes for the amazing pass when a normal one would do – resulting in a spectacular turn over. Memo does not put his hands up in the air on defense enough, guys just lay the ball up over him too often. Guys like CJ and Korver miss too many open threes for shooting specialists when they are completely unguarded. Sometimes our entire team gets too jump shot happy, and don’t even try to go in the paint.
13. What’s the reasoning behind calling Jazz fans unclassy, or ‘the worst fans in the NBA’? If this is the case, why are the Jazz such a good home team with such bad fans?
Basketball John: It was the booing of Fisher, the supposed racial taunts during the Warriors series, throwing stuff on the court in the Spurs series, and so on. There's no doubting the fans' passion, but it gets misdirected a lot. The Jazz are still a great home team because it's an intimidating atmosphere for other players to come in to. Being "bad" as described above isn't contradictory to being a good home court team.
UtesFan89: Others are jealous of the Jazz fans. And the NBA hates Utah, so anything to make them seem like the bad guys.
Moni: I really don’t know. I assume that a few “unclassy” fans are giving all Jazz fans a bad name. I think that all those anti-Jazz fans out there on the Internet are way unclassier than Jazz fans. (see #15)
Spencer: Never heard this send me some links of this being said.
Amar: I think it’s the case of a few bad (possibly drunk?) apples spoiling the bunch. There was that pic of that guy covering his eye during Derek Fisher free throws last playoffs that was in a sea of other Utah fans who were NOT doing anything rude. Lots of fans on the Internet seem to hate the Jazz fans (perhaps because we are fans of a team that just beat their team?), or call us all homers for supporting the Jazz – instead of joining the band wagon for some other, more popular team. Bad fans, in my book, are those that go to games and are on their cell phone the entire time, or are fans only in the case that they show up to games to be seen as fans. (Paris Hilton goes to Lakers games in a Kobe jersey . . . she shows up after halftime. You Lakers fans have you count her as one of your own) Other fans complain that the Jazz fans boo calls that go against their team, or make life hard for visiting teams. Isn’t this exactly what you want from your home crowd? Lots of comments I read on the net suggest the Jazz crowd are horrible people to the core, if that’s the case, I can only imagine what they would say about the old Boston Celtics’ crowd that would physically intimidate refs into making calls favor their teams. The last comment I want to make is that the Utah crowd gets called out (by fans of other teams) because of the lack of ethnic minorities that go to Jazz games. Look, SLC isn’t as cosmopolitan as places like New York or San Francisco . . . the crowd is going to be made up of the people who live there. I’m an ethnic minority, and if I lived in Utah I’d go to their home games. Does that count? Bringing race into a discussion on if fans are bad because they are mostly white sounds a bit, what’s the word, racist if you ask me.
14. Homer Test: which team wins?
|Team A||Team B|
|Dirk Nowitzki||Mehmet Okur|
|Elton Brand||Carlos Boozer|
|Tayshaun Prince||Andrei Kirilenko|
|Trevor Ariza||Ronnie Brewer|
|Chris Paul||Deron Williams|
Basketball John: That's a pretty even matchup. I guess it would depend on whether the Jazz are at home or not.
UtesFan89: The Jazz. Seriously. Brand would get hurt (as would Booze), leaving us with a 4 on 4. Dirk would get ejected for a foul on AK. Deron owns Paul head-to-head.
Moni: Team B. And that’s without my homer glasses on. Dirk is easily taken out of his game (just give Harp two minutes to work his magic before subbing Memo in), Brand is as if not more injury prone than Boozer, and DWill will do what he does against CP. I don’t know much about Prince or Ariza’s games but I’m pretty sure AK would have no problems against Prince, and playing with the “real” starters, Brewer can get back to doing what he did so well of all last season—cutting and slashing for amazing dunks and acrobatic layups.
Spencer: Team B
Amar: I tried to make these two teams pretty even, including similar play styles and elevating bench guys to play with these units. I’m not going to run down who I think is better in each match-up, but I’d have to say that UtesFan89’s response was hilarious. Taking away familiarity with each other, the easy answer is Team A. (especially if you ask the question to the guys who schedule out the national TV games) CP’s team has better outside shooters, while DW’s team is, well, his team. If you include player familiarity I think Team B wins – but I don’t think that the Jazz lineup is *always* better than a collection of some of the best rotation players on playoff-teams. It just may be in this case. If you had Duncan in there instead of Brand, and a PG that Deron doesn’t own in there, it would easily be Team A.
15. Making fun of the Jazz / Jazz fans based on tired and discriminatory stereotypes (which may or may not be accurate) is condoned . . . yet no one makes fun of other teams / fan bases in similar ways because of some silly double standard: yes or no? (Elaborate / Rant if you want to)
Basketball John: I don't think this applies just to the Jazz or even basketball for that matter. When you want to make fun of other teams/players, most go for the easiest stuff. Everyone has heard all of the Utah stereotypes with Mormons, polygamy, redneck, whatever. It's pretty low-hanging fruit stuff. Same thing though when people go after Lakers fans and Kobe. They'll bring up the Colorado incident. I don't even react when I hear it. Usually when stuff like that is brought up, the Jazz are blowing out their team or something similar. It usually comes out of frustration, and Jazz fans aren't excluded. People know that not everyone in Utah is LDS or that not all Jazz fans even live in Utah. But it's an easy target. Making fun of the state, the LDS, or any other stereotype doesn't have the backlash in any other facet of life, so I don't know why it would be any different with basketball.
Moni: Of course it is. If other teams/religions/ethnicities had to take the crap that Utah fans have had to put up with over the years, there would be major backlash and media coverage. The comment section of every single Jazz-related post on the Internet is invariably filled with hateful Mormon/bigamy/etc. rants. Same goes for the chatboxes on Justin.tv Jazz games. I’m a huge, huge non-Mormon Jazz fan, and I’ve never been to Utah. None of the players or coaches are Mormon or even from Utah, and the only real tie to Mormonism in the Jazz is LHM, so those types of comments have nothing to do with anything. Not to mention that they’re just plain wrong, ignorant, and hateful, and I really am so sick of it.
Amar: I think that there is a huge double standard that is really ignored, and that’s not cool. I’m not a white missionary for the LDS who happened to be a Jazz fan because of geography or anything like that. I’m a Jazz fan whose parents were both born on the other side of the world, I was born in Canada, and until recently, the only city in the US that I lived in was Los Angeles. Yet I’ve been called all the regular “low hanging” insults just because I like the Jazz. That’s really silly. No one expects all Bulls or Lakers fans to only live in those areas. Similarly, no one disparages other teams’ entire fanbases on such base accusations. No one says that all Knicks fans are snobby Jews, even if so many people who could be called that live in NY. No one calls Miami fans a bunch of illegal immigrants who floated into Miami from banana republics. No one calls Boston fans potato loving, dunk Irishmen. These are racially charged, or religiously pointed comments which are, technically, forms of hate speech. I’m not LDS, but I can see the double standard where a player, media member, or fan of another team can say bad things about certain groups without anyone thinking poorly of them. Dennis Rodman once passed off a poorly played game in Utah because “there were too many Mormons” there. You better bet your butt that if he said something about “too many Jews” there in LA or NYC, where they have a lot of rich, powerful Jewish groups, he would have been fined and suspended by the league office. But because it was Utah, and it was an invisible minority that no one cares to afford the same protections other groups have, nothing was done about it. This is just one of countless examples I can site, but that’s all I’m going to say for this. It’s unfair, and part of the reason why Jazz fans (who participate in forums on the Internet with fans of other teams) may appear to have such a short fuse about this stuff – it’s a double standard that is both wrong and criminal.