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A Rambly Jaunt Through My Rambling Mind

April 3, 2009

I’ve come to the conclusion that this latest stretch is what rebuilding feel like–an experience that we Jazz fans never really, truly experienced, and thought that we had escaped–but maybe these things inevitably catch up with you.

We’ve somehow regressed this season, and it can’t be totally attributed to all the injuries. Lately, we’re just lying down and inviting opposing teams to have their way with us. We desperately need veteran presence. Deron is great, great, great. His basketball ability and floor generalship are improving before our very eyes, but lapses in judgment ending in TOs still seem to occur too frequently–which he acknowledges. This escapes notice when we’re winning, but the recent losses and win escapes magnify the reality of it all. I wonder if he’s reached that point in his career/development where he’s leading the team in the way that he can/should be. (It kind of feels automatic to invoke Stockton’s name here, but they’re not the same player, and shouldn’t be judged with the same standards. In ten years, maybe, but not now.)

As the point guard and acknowledged floor leader, how much of the blame should DWill get for the slow starts? This is Deron’s team, no question, and no matter how often Boozer calls himself the leader of the team. He’s supposed to be an extension of Jerry out there, and some say that he is indeed a Jerry clone–that interviewing him, you get the same answers as you would from Jerry. Remember two years ago when he was the extremely pissed 2nd year guy calling out AK/Memo/Gira/whoever it was for making vacation plans during the Playoffs? That’s the guy he needs to be now, and he has the status, qualifications, and provenness to do that now.

We’ve all seen what happens when he gets that going-in-for-the-kill look in his eyes and takes over games in crunch time, but we need a guy that, when we’re playing like crap, gets in his teammates’ faces and tells them in no uncertain terms to stop playing like crap, being careless, playing lackadaisical, winging it. That yells at Boozer when he stands there watching the ball bounce out of bounds. That yells at Memo when he stands there on D without even putting a hand up. That yells at CJ when he slacks off on D or chucks up a shot with 18 seconds left on the shot clock regardless of the offensive set. That gently yells at AK when he starts playing with his head down.

(Fine, fine I am advocating a double standard treatment here. Some guys might respond to being yelled at, and AK is not one of them. If he needs to be propped up to play well, prop him up. Like I’ve said ad nauseum lately, I truly believe that if his game is on, we can have our way with opponents in the Playoffs. Part of being the leader is recognizing which motivational tactics work with which guys. Yeah.)

We heard earlier this season during a low point about how our Knight in rusty armor took the guys aside and told them [stuff that veterans say]. But does he have enough of a role on this team to warrant everyone listening to him and hearing what he has to say? Fisher used to play this role, I think, and obviously we had Stock and Karl being those guys before that. Now it’s time for DWill to step up to that plate, and if he can’t be that guy yet, we need someone else to do it.

Some of our young guys just don’t seem to get it. They don’t play with any intensity or sense of urgency because they don’t feel or understand those concepts; they think they’re playing hard when in reality their “playing hard” is 20% of Jerry’s “playing hard.” This can’t be helped when your team is so young, and we’ve gotten lucky with some of our young guys that do get it (Sap). But compared to, say, the Spurs, we are like a bunch of kids desperately in need of double doses of Ritalin–all over the place, distracted by shiny things, happy-go-lucky, forgetting about games while we’re in the middle of playing them and losses as soon as games are over.

How far are we going to get when even our self-avowed team leader, Carlos, is unconcerned about losses, and shrugs them off as just another loss? At times, even DWill seems to have a weary, discouraged acceptance of this “recurring thing.” Since Orlando, it’s been a downward spiral and we’ve stopped showing up, full stop. Even our wins are tainted with the lack of intensity and competitiveness, the falling asleep at the wheel. Losing is an attitude, and you can see it in this team. We’ve had excuses to fall back on all season long. Injuries. Never having played our starting lineup. Players back but not 100%. No more.

Before DWill went down in Chicago in October, I truly, truly thought that this was going to be our year. And now even with everyone back, we’re just off. There’s something wrong with the players’ mentality right now. Too often, they look like a bunch of rookies with no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.

Since we’re playing for now, not the future, should we face the possibility that this team that we’ve got is really and truly who we are, and we’re not good enough? Overall, I think KOC has done an excellent job, but do we have to turn opposing players into All-Stars night in and night out? Is it a good thing that there are going to be some major roster changes this summer given the salary cap situation? And what does it say about us that OKC managed to win in SA–something that we have literally not been able to do since the last century?

P.S. I just looked up our road record from the 2003-2004 season (aka the Year of the AK, aka the Year Jerry Did Not Win COY), and it was 14-27. Our road record this year: 14-22. As Flo Rida says, low low low low…

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