Posted by: James Seaman on January 26th, 2012The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
Wednesday night the Toronto Raptors officially welcomed the Utah Jazz to the 2012 NBA season—the introduction just came a few weeks late.
Up to this point (with the exception of those first four games), the Jazz had been like Reginald VelJohnson’s character in Die Hard. You know, the dad from Family Matters. He’s the fat, jolly cop minding his business and singing “Let It Snow” as he buys an armful of Twinkies from the AM-PM on Christmas Eve. Al Powell (Johnson’s character in the movie) simply wants to get home to his wife. Just like the Jazz, skipping merrily through the opening weeks of 2012, winning two games for every loss and thoroughly enjoying the ride.
Meanwhile, all hell has broken loose down the street at Nakatomi Plaza where terrorists run amok while a barefoot hero tries to fight them off. You’ve got a Christmas party, people with guns, and a cop who says crazy things while throwing explosives down the elevator shaft. Sort of like the chaos playing out across the rest of the NBA in 2012. The Lakers trail the Clippers, the 76ers lead their division, Orlando scored 56 points in a game, and Oklahoma City lost to Washington.
Russell Westbrook is freaking out on Kevin Durant (which may actually be normal), Jimmer Fredette is shooting 35%, Flip Saunders is getting fired, and Kobe Bryant’s arm is about to fall off from chucking up so many shots while the NBA asks teams to play three nights in a row. But the Jazz? They’ve been splitting minutes and passing the basketball, following Ty Corbin’s steady lead, and sharing the love between veterans and young guys. All is well.
Until that call comes in from Nakatomi Plaza—or the seemingly toothless Raptors come to town. Following police protocol, you scope out the lobby and things seem okay—or you lead Toronto 32-14 in the first quarter, as expected. And then suddenly Bruce Willis throws the body of a terrorist out the window and onto the hood of your police car, yelling out the window, “Welcome to the party, pal!” Chaos—like the Raptors holding Utah to 15 fourth quarter points, sending the game to overtime with a Jose Calderon bomb, and then pulling out an improbable win in our building. Indeed, welcome to the party—to the madness—of the 2012 NBA season.
This happened before, back in 1999, when a lockout-shortened campaign ended with the 8th seeded New York Knicks playing in the NBA Finals. It was the first post-Jordan year and the season before Shaq and Kobe assumed the throne. Madness reigned. This year, we see a similar power vacuum with a multitude of teams vying to move into that coveted space. The Lakers aren’t the Lakers and the Celtics aren’t even good (playing sub-.500 ball). Dallas just looks tired; Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points exactly once in his last nine games and now sits with a bad knee.
Yes, the Thunder, Heat, and Bulls all have stellar records, but I mentioned OKC’s loss to Washington, the Heat fell to the Bucks last weekend, and now Luol Deng is out for Chicago. Anything can happen, perhaps more than in a typical NBA season. Jazz fans should buckle up, as Craig Bolerjack would say, because things could get wild. As they do, Ty Corbin will need to constantly readjust his grip on the reins.
Corbin has already passed two significant tests. The first came in establishing himself as his own man. Jerry Sloan is a legend, but Corbin isn’t trying to be Sloan. He’s developing his own relationships with players and laying down his own set of ground rules—like nailing guys to the bench if they come late on their defensive rotations (see: CJ Miles).
Within that larger trial of establishing himself, Corbin passed the test of getting his players to respond after a terrible start. Back on December 30th, a smattering of boos cascaded from the rafters in the second quarter as Utah fell behind Philadelphia by double digits after the Lakers and Nuggets had taken turns walloping the Jazz. Somehow, someway, Corbin stirred life deep within the soul of his struggling team. Even without Al Jefferson, the Jazz fought back and earned their first win of the season against what has proven to be a dangerous Philly bunch. From that point on, the Jazz have played great basketball, led by Paul Millsap but getting contributions from everyone, winning every game you’d expect (at home against Milwaukee for example) and even some you wouldn’t anticipate (at Denver). Until Wednesday night.
Now Ty Corbin must meet the next challenge—getting his team to respond after disappointing themselves and the home crowd with a lackluster effort against an awful Toronto squad that had lost 8 of 9 and played the night before.
The sky certainly isn’t falling. Rather, the Jazz now realize where they are—in the middle of a wacked-out, carnival of a season where anything goes. Truthfully, the Jazz have been as much a player in this as anyone. What do you think Nuggets and Sixers players said to themselves after falling to the upstart Jazz? Probably something to the effect of “Man, this is going to be a crazy season.”
The Jazz will bounce back, then stumble further, then pick themselves up yet again. In this unusual, condensed 2012 season, the Jazz just need to think like John McClane from Die Hard—keep fighting, take chances when you have to, but be smart. And you may just make it out alive.
Get at me on Twitter @JSeaman34_31
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