oh, the nba and your constant flurry of making me feel human emotions. what's the single biggest heartbreaking story you've delivered to my electronic doorstep this season?
the end of greg oden's career in portland? no (although wesley matthews, on whom i am developing a creepy man crush, going to portland is in my top five).
the unsurprising news that your idiot fans voted yao to the all-star game even though (1) he mediocre at best, and (2) he's constantly injured? booooriiiing.
is it even the jazz and their middling, consistently inconsistent play? i'm afraid not.
no, the nba's 2010-2011 saddest byline has been, and continues to be, the plight of the cleveland cavaliers. i get that gilbert's open letter, along with footage of fans burning lebron jerseys, from seems-so-long-ago summer made the team and its supporters out to be a bunch of crying bitches. but you know what? they were right to be angry.
hey jazz nation, remember every time boozer had a radio interview with chicago or miami? remember how you wanted to pluck out his goose-turd (anyone ever play a round at forestdale?) eyebrows and forcefeed them back to the guy for talking about leaving utah so openly? how do you think you'd feel if he had promised you a championship after growing up in ogden, only to run to LA as soon as he was a free agent?
see, they had a right to be changry.
and now, given the 25-and-counting losses by the cavs, i present to you the saddest story in modern basketball. a team, once a perennial playoff contender; a team that, for a few seasons, was at least a darkhorse championship threat, is now a poster child for pity. and it's not like the season started out completely bleak for cavs fans; even before the streak, cleveland wasn't looking fantastic, but they were sitting at 8-19. that's a .296 record, enough to have them only 4 or 5 games out of playoff contention right now had they kept that tepid pace (detroit, at .373, is 3.5 games out of 8th as of this writing, while new jersey, at .288, is 8 back). but this losing streak: it's enough to make most nba fans look away from sports center out of sheer embarrassment.
so what's got my fingers crossed? besides always having some lateral strain on the knuckles in my hand for the sake of the jazz making it to 4th in the west in the next 9 weeks, i'm crossing them in hopes that the jazz don't turn into cleveland after the 2011-2012 [season/lockout]. yesterday, scott howard-cooper, or scow-poop as i like to call him, posted a quick note regarding sloan's recently announced one-year extension over on nba.com's hangtime blog. predictably, the comments were split evenly along three lines:
(1) non-jazz fans who respect sloan but hate the jazz wishing their team had a coach like sloan;
(2) jazz fans who are excited about the news; and
(3) jazz fans
i'm not one to put much weight behind comments on sekou smith's brainchild, though i realize the irony of being one of many inane sports fans with his own dozens-of-hits-per-week blog while discounting my fellow social-media-savvy morons. but the last few weeks of chatter regarding deron's unhappiness, sloan's unwillingness to change, and the "necessity' of having a big three to be a championship contender has given me pause.
frankly, i don't see sloan's presence as a deal-breaker for his gr8ness. if deron wants out of utah, it's not going to be because of sloan (despite a snide comment about running the same plays for 23 years). it's going to be because of the front office's unwillingness to spend "what it needs to" to build the jazz into a title threat (i refuse to refer to championships as "chips," by the way). it's going to be because the existing team is, frankly, pretty lazy. it's because the ESA is getting quieter by the game. it's, to some degree, because he moved from downtown to holladay which is full of creepy polygamists and people who say things like "i got that H for you."
simply put, it's because deron wants to win a championship, and because he's such a perfectionist, he's not going to wait for that to fall into his lap.
the comparisons to john stockton need to stop, and they need to stop now. stockton was a fundamentals-only workhorse who did what he was told and played one game at a time. stockton played before kobe and shaq's personal problems led to one of the deadliest frontcourt pairings splitting apart; before dwayne, dwight, and chuck did commercials together; before the nba stole a championship franchise from seattle; before lebron. simply put, he played before the league finally became, right up front and unabashedly, about money first, rings second. deron wants a ring, and he knows that the fastest way to get there is with a hefty price tag.
but he also knows that a huge payroll, by itself, isn't going to be enough. the jazz are over the salary cap now and it's not working, which means utah's players and fans have one more year to prove to deron that he should stick around. that's not going to be on jerry; the guy is a hall-of-fame coach that has been to the western conference finals twice. please, go ahead and name me another coach on a team, as it exists right now, with room for deron who has better credentials.
the problem for utah is that this final year might not come. it's a real possibility that, with a season-long lockout, sloan and deron both walk; sloan permanently, and d-will to blue and greener pastures in dallas after jason kidd also hangs up his nikes.
thus i keep my fingers crossed. not for the jazz, but for the NBA, the NBAPA and derek fisher (booo) to make sure there is no lockout, no de-certification of the union to bring lawsuits. i'm crossing them for the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people across the country who will be out of work (part or full time) as a result of stadiums being closed. i'm crossing them for jarron collins and sundiata gaines and all the players who make relatively few dollars, half of which goes to taxes and the other half to union dues that might put them out of a job*.
but, selfishly, i mostly keep them crossed for myself, to keep jerry sloan and deron williams in utah. i'll take 48 wins on the season over 25 consecutive losses any day of the week.
and now we all know, 25 consecutive losses after losing your coach and your all-star is an all-too-real possibility.
*i don't need a lecture that $200k isn't a lot of money. do the math: $100k, more or less, to taxes. $30k to union dues. $10k or so to relocate yourself, and your family, to a new city every 2-3 years. family coming out of the woodwork for financial support. pressure to live up to the NBA rep and drive a benzo and eat at fleming's. suddenly these bottom-tier nba players are bringing home about what you do, and they are going to have ruined knees and backs when they're 40.
cross-posted from harpringer of doom