Posted by: Brian McCann on February 21st, 2011The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of the Utah Jazz.
Utah Jazz fans are a fiercely passionate bunch. It’s almost as if, with the Jazz being the real face of Utah professional sports, they represent the state nationally and on a world level much more than other franchises across the NBA do. We want others to know who we are as a state, and the Jazz are one of our only connections to rest of the world. When they win, it puts Utah on the map. There are several good things about this type of mentality, but one of the glaring faults associated with it is the way we reflect some of our insecurities in the face of adversity; the most recent of which has to do with the way Deron Williams is being unfairly attacked in the news, on the web, and in blogs with regard to the true reason Jerry Sloan stepped down. Jazz fans just need to let it go. Everything that we’ve heard is speculation, so there is no point in buying into any of it. We may never know exactly what Jerry was thinking when he finally hung ‘em up, but until we have conclusive evidence that Deron was at fault, it is not worth giving any serious thought to.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Jazz are struggling right now. Last year when everyone was calling for Carlos Boozer’s head, I wrote a post about how this team would not be better off without Boozer, and I caught a lot of flack for it. I argued that the only way the Jazz should let Boozer leave is if they found another player of equal or greater talent and leadership ability to fill the void he would leave when he was gone. If they didn’t, they would go into a mini rebuilding stage. The Jazz did do better than I expected by engineering a deal with Minnesota for Al Jefferson, but Al is not Boozer’s equal in many critical ways so far as our offense in concerned, and the Jazz have floundered offensively considerably because of it. Please don’t misinterpret me here; I am not saying Al won’t get better-in a lot of ways he already has. What I am saying is that Boozer was critically important to our offense, but his contributions were overshadowed by his lack of defensive ability and his seemingly shallow commitment. Personally, I think the Jazz would have done better to back Boozer up with a defensive powerhouse at center to cater to his faults. Regardless, the Jazz needed Boozer’s offensive reliability more than many realized, and, here we sit: We have a stagnating offense, with poor spacing, and very little reliability other than the output generated from our injured point guard.
So why did most of our fans vehemently proclaim that we were better off without Carlos? Personally, I think it had to do with the fact that many felt he secretly “wanted out” (although he never said that), and that offended them. Legions of our fans stated that the Jazz were better off without him. Unfortunately, we are not. In the long-run? Maybe, but not right now.
Jazz fans curiously had this same attitude toward Adrian Dantley and Karl Malone. Dantley was of course shipped out, and it ended up working to the Utah’s overall advantage. Malone on the other hand was hammered by fans for years. Karl’s public criticisms of management, teammates, and his own contract disputes with Larry Miller led fans to believe the Jazz would be better off without him too. I remember one fan calling into a radio show in SLC to sincerely suggest that the Jazz trade Karl for Keith Vanhorn in the mid-nineties. It was an irrational plea that was fairly or unfairly (depending on how you look at it) built out of frustration, but it was none-the-less irrational, not to mention stupid.
One of our biggest problems right now is that we have one A-list player surrounded by a whole bunch of B and C-list players. Teams do not win NBA titles with only one A-lister; it just doesn’t happen. Big Al could still make the leap into that upper-echelon of NBA talent-he is young enough, but it is definitely not a given, and no one else on our roster appears to have it in there blood. Boozer also was not an A-list player, but he was very close. He gave Deron a second voice in the locker room, and a reliable option on offense that knew all of the intricacies of the Flex. If the Jazz do not somehow land another A-lister, they will not seriously contend for a title.
On the other hand, if we are looking at the glass half full, they already have one A-lister in Deron Williams, so if they can convince him to stay, they can work to find him somebody else to share the leadership burden of the team. The problem is, right now, A-listers only want to play for five or six teams, and Utah isn’t one of them. We got our first glimpse of the rumor mill with regard to Deron’s upcoming free agency this weekend, as an apparently baseless report surfaced that he wanted to sign with New York in 2012. Unfortunately, this type of unjustified reporting will be the norm over the next year and a half, so we need to get use to it. In the end, Deron might leave, or he could stay, but we as fans need to realize his importance to this organization, and we cannot waiver. He needs to know how loved he is here. Fans can’t boo him at ESA over speculation. If they do, and he leaves, it might make their pride feel vindicated, but the Jazz certainly won’t be better off.
A-list players are hard to come by-each draft only produces one or two of them on average, so when you land them, you have to keep them. The Jazz need to keep Deron Williams, and we as fans need to recognize that. Deron is our franchise. He is the only reason we are even in playoff contention right now, and I for one do not want to go head first back into a full on rebuilding stage. So while we may never fully know what happened behind closed doors between Jerry and Deron, it is important to realize that it doesn’t matter. Jerry is gone and Deron is the face of this franchise, and we need to throw the full weight of our support behind him.
What we definitely don’t want to do is give him a reason to leave.
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