Sunday, May 11, 2008
A team I can connect with...
The Jazz won today at home, 123-115, in one of those games that literally TOY with your heart. With three minutes to go the Jazz were up by 10 points and it looked as if they were surely going to win the game. Sadly, it's rarely that easy for my team to wrap things up so tidily. All is well, however, as the series is now tied, 2-2, with some nice momentum in our direction.
I've been thinking lately about how wonderful it is to have a team I can connect with again in the Utah Jazz. I remember the glory years, 1996-1998, where Jazz basketball was about Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the myriad of bench players that made the team great. Names like Bryan Russel, Shannon Anderson, Antwoine Carr, and Jeff Hornacek became commonplace in any conversation about the team. As I watched them play, I grew to respect and admire them. They felt right with the team. I could relate to them and wanted so badly for the team to succeed. I remember waking up in the morning to read the paper and check the NBA standings. There was a time, for a few years, when we would be near the top of the list. John Stockton was approaching and then surpassing various NBA records. Karl Malone was doing the same thing. It was a great time to be a Jazz fan.
After the 1997-1998 season, the Jazz, who were very much deflated from their inability to win a championship in two trips to the finals, fell into mediocrity. The spark was lost. Soon after that fall, I went on my mission and forgot about the Jazz. My only tie to sports in the states was in BYU football, who at the time were doing exceptionally well. When I returned to the states from my mission, the Jazz roster consisted mostly of names I'd never heard of. I had no familiarity with the players, no interest in the team, and no real expectations to become a hard-core Jazz fan again. I figured the glory years were behind me. The outlook was bleak, at best.
I remember when the team acquired Deron Williams. I didn't know anything about him or his college career. I only hoped that the current acquisition could do something to rejuvenate a team that was long due for a major overhaul. I felt the same when Carlos Boozer signed with the Jazz. My hopes were high, but I hadn't done my homework and I wasn't entirely invested in the success of the team anymore. I had no idea if these players would turn the team, or if they would fall, like so many before them, into the musty depths of failed potential.
But in the years since, I've seen a group of skilled players form a truly successful team. I look into the faces of Williams, Boozer, Okur, Kirilenko, Milsap, Harpring, Korver, Miles, and Price and I see the face of the Jazz. They work together much like the teams of the 90's did. It's obvious that Sloan has created a team that fits well again into his style of teaching. This makes it an exciting time to be a Jazz fan.
The Jazz are once again a passion of mine and I look forward to their further development and maturity as a team. In the long run, I hope they can continue to improve so that eventually Jerry Sloan gets the championship he so rightly deserves. In the short run, I hope they beat the Lakers in LA this week, and wrap up the series with a win at home.
Go Jazz. :)
Posted by Bear and Kel at 7:18 PM