Young Jazz Moving On Up

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — There’s a line between the lottery and that last spot in the playoff pecking order.

Yeah, it’s no secret. It’s always out there, lurking in the shadows this time of year.

And it’s a tightrope some team ends up straddling every season. Current players fight tooth and nail to do whatever it takes to gain entry to the NBA’s postseason party while the folks in charge of the long-range vision for the franchise weigh a potential short playoff stint against the benefits of adding another young player via the Draft.

The Utah Jazz walked that tightrope the past two seasons, watching the end of an era change the fortunes of a loyal fan base. It’s the sort of transition, from playoff-regular to lottery team, that can scare the daylights out of some fans.

Just ask the Pacers, a playoff team (as the No. 8 seed) last season and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. They are still trying to lure their fans back after a half-decade in lottery limbo after the Malice at the Palace.

The Jazz were able to weather the departures of both Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, in that order, without falling completely off the face of basketball planet. Locking up that eighth and final spot in the West last night with the win over the Suns is validation for the players wearing the uniform now that their work hasn’t been done in vain.

(It should be noted that if the Jazz had missed the playoffs, they would have perhaps had a late-lottery pick anyway. By making the postseason, the Timberwolves get it — courtesy of the Al Jefferson trade. The Jazz do have a shot at the Warriors’ draft pick in the lottery, which Utah acquired as part of the Williams trade last season.)

That celebration last night after the win over the Suns was revealing. It shows that no matter what outside influences might believe, Jazz coach Ty Corbin had his team locked in and focused on seizing the opportunity at hand from the start of training camp, something Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor no doubt preached to his coach from the moment he elevated him from Sloan assistant coach to become the man to replace his legendary mentor.

Having witnessed it before in other young teams (the Hang Time Grizzlies the past three years and the Hawks five years ago remain two of the shining examples) and knowing the positive impact it can have on the entire group, not to mention the franchise, means the Jazz could draft off of the fuel from this playoff bid for years to come.

The Jazz has a relatively young crew with headliners Jefferson and Paul Millsap leading a young core that features Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and others into uncharted territory. They’ll have to grow up fast in the first round against the Spurs.

But you’d rather they do it there, in the middle of the playoff mix, than spend another year wondering what it feels like to call yourself a playoff outfit.

And if you don’t believe it, ask those guys wearing the Suns and Rockets jerseys about it.


  1. Zachary says:

    I don’t get why everyone is counting out the Jazz in the first round against the Spurs. They’re playing hot (winning 5 straight) going into the series and now have something to prove on a huge stage. Sure it’s a stretch to say they can beat San Antonio but they’ll definitely give them a run for their money. Millsap Favors and Jefferson on the floor together will give the Spurs problems getting points in the paint. I think the biggest problem Utah has had defensively is defending outside shots, especially behind the arc. If they can’t do that against San Antonio it will be a short series. Offensively they need to do what they do best and pound it inside for the easy baskets. Harris, Hayward, Burks, Howard and Carrol have to knock down shots to spread the floor so our bigs aren’t getting double teamed every time the ball goes inside. I think these Jazz players in the system they play could beat any team they go up against if they could just execute it with 4-5 mistakes a game while shooting 49% or better.

  2. Jupit says:

    The crowd in that suns game was deafening – fans have been great all year though, even when no one gave the Jazz a chance. Go Jazz!

  3. charles says:

    If Josh Howard is healthy, they could give Spurs a really hard time….Ofcourse, Devin has to be a speedy demon too…

  4. MathesonKwik says:

    Still think my home town team is the smartest/best franchise in basketball. Just cause’ they seem to always do the most with the least.

    Hopeful that a few smart off-season acquisitions and drafting well keeps them playoff bound for many years to come.

  5. supplanter33 says:

    Welcome to Miami Nash! πŸ˜€

    • Badandy says:

      Nash to LA. I am definately not an LA fan, but a distributor like nash to hit Kobe, Bynum, Gasol, and co…. Makes for a LETHAL LA squad.

  6. I like what the jazz is doing there young and got some good players milsap is a really good player there a player or two away from becomeing really good team corbin has done a good coaching job

  7. John says:

    I was really pulling for the Suns. Steve Nash is one of if not my most favorite PG since I have been watching basketball.

  8. Nate says:

    The Utah Jazz were underrated from the get go this season, and they still are; even after accomplishing so much. This team was an afterthought, and no one really thought there would be much to say about them. What about now? They have one of the best front courts in the NBA, and their general manager made one of the greatest trades ever in getting rid of Deron Williams. Superstars shouldn’t have as much power as they do, and the Jazz showed you they weren’t going to go through what Denver went through, and what the Magic are currently experiencing. Millsap and Jefferson provide a low post presence as well as great touch from mid-range. Millsap has grown into the leader of this team, providing them with big shot after big shot this season, especially in crunch time. The Utah Jazz have one of the greatest upsides in the NBA right now, with a great coach in Ty Corbin, as well as one of the smartest front offices in the league. I expect great things from this organization, which has showed the most consistency of any of the other 29 NBA franchises.

  9. Mr. B says:

    Lived in Utah all my life and I’m a born Jazz Fan – That Deron WIlliams trade was one of the happiest moments, especially after Jerry Sloan left. Unbelievable the Nets traded their future for a guy who will leave them in a few months. Kevin O’Connor has done so good and the future is going to be exciting.

  10. Renato says:

    Congratulations to the Jazz.What a fantastic win over the Suns last night.And we should give the credit to thei underrated frontcourt.Millsap and Jefferson have been playing outstanding basketball all year long.I dont think they can take the Spurs down in the first round,but itΒ΄s amazing anyways what thy accomplished this season.

  11. FromItaly says:

    What a difference could make the last shot GSW missed yesterday…
    Agree that usually is better to reach POs but for Utah is quite different beacause they not only won’t paretcipate to the lottery but will lose the pick.
    Hopefully the Warriors will mess everything up by winning with SAS on thursday!

    • Tad says:

      If the Jazz had retained their first round pick this year they would lose their pick next year. They have 5 1st/2nd year players. I think it’s better to get them some experience and have a first round pick next year than miss the playoffs and not have a pick in 2013. Their current rookies are already struggling to get playing time. Burks (12th pick last year) only got consistent minutes after Raja Bell, Josh Howard and CJ Miles got injured.

      • Taylor says:

        Bell is like a cancer to this young team, he is old, greedy and not doing the things that they brought him in for – Defense being the key there. Miles is a waste of 20 minutes – if you go look at his plus/minus when he is on the court you would be appauled. He shoots too much and doesnt play defense. With a body that size and atheltic ability that he has he should be a good 2 guard but he isn’t because he is lazy and just wants to jack up shots.
        Josh Howard is promising – he is coming off a couple years of injury and personal problems but you can see what he has to offer when he is healthy and unfortunately that hasn’t been as often as Jazz fans might want.
        Burkes is a stud and is going to play a long time in this league. I just hope that the Jazz don’t make the same mistake with him as they did with Wesley Mathews. He has got game all over and if you want proof, go look at his stats when it comes to crunch time when he gets his most minutes. The big stage does not bother this kid and i can’t wait to see what he does in the playoffs and the future.

    • Da'man says:

      yeah that’s going to happen

      • Scott says:

        Taylor, finally someone that agrees with me. Raja Bell is a worthless player, he has mediocre defense, but zero offense- really zero. Its basically 4-5 when the Jazz have the ball on offense, and its not just cause he doesn’t shoot but because he doesn’t do anything- if you watch the games he stands in a corner and watches the play. C.J. is just bad all around, why the Jazz have held onto him for so long makes no sense. He has not really improved since he was a rookie, he’s just not good- he shoots a lot and misses a lot. Losing these two guys and allowing players such as Burks, Hayward, and Favors to get more P.T. was the best thing that happened to the Jazz.

  12. tjmacdoodle says:

    Belief is contageous. The playoffs can bring out a new animal in players. One thing is for sure. They are not going to lay down and die. We will see how much youth and toughness can wear down the veterans in an abreviated season. It could be interesting if some guys can find another gear

    • dattebayo says:

      The Spurs are healthy and rested with a deep roster and they have more talent and experience on most positions. They shoot the 3 ball really well and Tony Parker is playing the best basketball of his career.

      The Jazz barely made the playoffs and while that is a great achievement for this young ball club they will have a hard time against the Spurs. I would be surprised if they win even on game but maybe they will manage. I mean what do i know πŸ˜›

      • The Boogyman says:

        The biggest thing the Spurs have going for them is the fact that they always shoot about twice as many free throws as their opponents. Years of perfecting the flop……not saying they lack talent, but watch the stat line, every shot Duncan misses he picks up 2 free throws, even if no one is near him. Watching Duncan age is like watching old Vlade tapes…150 lb shooting guard bumps him and he fly’s 8-10 feet back…..

  13. Belizeboy says:

    This is an exciting team to watch and I hope they aren’t dismantled next season. Just goes to show you how overhyped Deron Williams is because where is his team right now?

    • Zach Gillette says:

      The Jazz were way better with Williams and Boozer. Williams single-handedly made the Nets worth mentioning.

      • kb says:

        Lets not act like it was just D-will and boozer who made the Jazz good the main reason we were good was because of AK47 no matter how much anyone would like to admit it I mean look at the year after malon and stockon were gone what one player were coaches pulling their hair out trying to figure out how to contain and stop Ill tell you one thing it wasnt bell, harpring, or gordon gericek, humprees, borchardt, nope it was AK47… I tell you he was one nba or espn foxsports front page like every week for his stats I remember how chancy billups said that year when asked the question out of all the nba players in the league right now who would you want to play with you in a game of 2 on 2 and guess who Billups said yup it was Andrei Kirilenko. So do the Nets now have more talent than our Jazz hasd then I would say its pretty close if not better for the nets but guess what I dont see the nets with no 42 wins even with D-Will even though dwill is a beast of his own.

      • Jupit says:

        the nets are worth mentioning?