I got a chance to catch the Utah Jazz yesterday in their heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. If you're a Warriors fan, that game made you want to tear your insides out. Not only were you witnessing Chris Paul, all six feet of him, single-handedly put away a scratching and clawing -- otherwise deserving -- young team like the Jazz, but the Jazz were looking pretty solid.
Not bad for a franchise that once squelched the magic of "We Believe" on the backs of superstars Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, both of whom eventually made controversial departures.
Let's discuss (and help me out in the comments) how the Warriors and the Jazz got to where they are now...
At 12-8, the Jazz are currently the sixth-best team in the Western Conference, surprisingly ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Memphis Grizzlies, among others. Look at this over-achieving lineup...
- pg: Devin Harris
- sg/sf: Gordon Hayward
- sg/sf: Josh Howard
- pf: Paul Millsap
- c: Al Jefferson
- Bench big men: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter
- Bench guards: Earl Watson, C.J. Miles, Alec Burks
How the heck did they get here, when their lineup (click the link to see the boxscore from Game 3 of the We Believe era, UTA-GSW) was this back in 2007?...
- pg: D-Will
- sg: Gordon Giricek
- sf: Andrei Kirilenko
- pf: Boozer
- c: Mehmet Okur
- Bench: Matt Harpring, Millsap, Ronnie Brewer
Well, I'll let you guys do the specific analysis and tell us the path of each slot on this roster, but I'll tell you what it is: balls. Having the balls to ship out the star of your team, or to make the maneuvers necessary to recover from a free agent walking away. It's as simple as that.
On that note, let me go on the record about CP3. Not acquiring a bonafide MVP-level superstar who can change the game all by himself (as he did last night), even if he for sure is going to leave after one season, means you still do not have access to the "club".
CP3 was a potential Warriors' ticket into the exclusive club. In this club, general managers take you seriously, offer you realistic deals, and play with the big chips. This is where guys like Mark Cuban watch talent like Tyson Chandler walk out and, in response, acquire same-level talent like Lamar Odom. And guess what, until you show you've got the balls, the guys in the "club" don't let guys who are not in the club in. It's not like there's a set of rules or anything. It's all unsaid, on the subconscious level. It's very basic, human animal instinct, street-cred stuff. I could try to explain it, but frankly it's not explainable. You know, "swag". Or lions and their prides in the African safari. Or Austin Powers "mojo". Or inner game then outer game. You either have it or you don't, and it's not something you acquire easily.
I like to make references to rec leagues, and there's one that's appropriate here. If you've entered enough teams in rec leagues, you eventually figure out the "swag" needed to pickup good players and win championships. Sure, there are costs. It could involve money. It could involve having unique rapport with certain players. It could involve having access to a pipeline of talent that others don't have or don't know about. It could have to do with something else non-basketball-related that's of value to guys you can pickup, that other team managers can't offer. It's probably a combination of all of these.
And pretty soon, you get used to the turnover. Toying around with various high levels of talent becomes the norm. Like the Sopranos, new guys come in, some guys are buried, some guys just exit the limelight, one or two become heroes, and only one or two of the deserving get to stay, but you know those guys can be replaced if you really wanted to. Basicaly, life goes on and you never let things get stale. It really is glorious when it all comes together, like it did for Cuban last year.
And it's not like it always has to come together. Really, you just want to know that you always had the chance for it to all come together.
The Warriors are seriously lacking in all of the above. And it doesn't get solved with other teams making you an offer that's fair.
So it's interesting when people come up with these trade scenarios for guys like Millsap or Favors. Utah loves them, but this franchise is looking to move up too, and knows that while this roster is good, it's not going to get you a championship and there's a limited timeframe for maximizing its potential before it becomes stagnant. Maybe they won't deal now, but perhaps later depending on how the playoff picture looks. And if you offer it, you better have the balls to offer them major value, like Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry.
I guess I'm saying the Warriors have little chance of rebuilding and improving by keeping Steph or Monta. One or both must go. Many fans have the same problem that Chris Cohan had, and others in the business of managing teams aren't aware of. They are afraid to deal. This can actually be seen in many other aspects of life. You don't want to lose status quo, so you don't escalate or try something new or take that leap of faith.
That can become very boring. How does that saying go? "It's better to fail miserably", or something like that. Pretty soon you do get better at it. And then all of a sudden you're The Man. Cuban and his early episode with Dennis Rodman comes to mind.
Please help me out here in the comments and fill in the details of how each franchise got to the roster it has right now. I think any Utah Jazz fan on the planet would have been happy with the loss of D-Will and Boozer, then becoming a team with an incredibly bright future, with amazing young talent and 12-8 in today's Western Conference.
Check out these Utah Jazz. They are truly an impressive franchise.
I'll be at the game tonight in the press box. Hit me up on Twitter in case you want me to try asking various players a quick question or two.