Monson: Utah Jazz’s future path runs through hope and hopelessness
By Gordon Monson
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 05 2013 09:49AM
The word frequently associated with the Jazz’s younger players and their future is one of the most vexing in all of basketball, in all of sports, in all of everything.
The vague and sometimes stretched boundaries of that concept, with all its attendant expectations, have both inspired and killed a lot of promising athletes and teams through the years. And it may yet inspire or kill the Jazz.
What will it do to ticket-buying Jazz fans?
Make no mistake, we’re going to find out. No matter how resistant to playing the youngsters Tyrone Corbin has been over the past two seasons, short of injury to the veterans, his hand soon will be forced in that regard.
No less than William Shakespeare wrote: "Lord, we may know what we are, but know not what we may be." On the other hand, Margaret Deland wrote: "A pint can’t hold a quart. If it holds a pint, it is doing all that can be expected of it."
So … what can be expected of the Jazz?
Before we get to that, look at what is likely to happen over the next few months.
The Jazz will finish this season either just outside the playoffs or just in them. It doesn’t really matter, although some insist the experience of getting beat in the first round is somehow vital to the younger players’ development. Not sure how helpful or tutorial, though, getting their heads thumped in four straight defeats by the Spurs last postseason was for the Jazz’s youngsters.
And, if the Jazz outlast the Rockets and the Lakers this time around, they’ll get beat again in the first round. Should they qualify, they’ll face Oklahoma City or San Antonio, or best case, the Clippers or the Grizzlies. That means the way to bet is EnergySolutions Arena will be dark by early May.
Still, what happens as the club rolls into the offseason might surprise those who think automatic signings and deals will be made.
Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap might be re-upped by the Jazz, but only under one condition: if they come cheap. If either or both of those free agents find a lucrative offer elsewhere, and that’s what they’re looking for, they might as well pack up and move on. The Jazz won’t re-sign them. The team has taken care to build financial flexibility heading into the early stages of the latest collective bargaining agreement, dodging punitive measures for big, clumsy spending, and there’s no way the Jazz want to blow a decent portion of that bank on preserving what they’ve already been — a borderline playoff team.
They’re more likely to let a few of their veterans — including Jefferson and Millsap — and their expense go, waiting for a better way to spend in the future. Meantime, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks will get a lot of time on the floor.
All of those who Monday night were wondering why Favors, after scoring 23 points on 11-of-20 shooting and hauling 15 boards in 30 minutes, was buried on the bench in the fourth quarter and overtime in a road loss to the Bucks will get their wish to see more of the former No. 3 pick. He and another No. 3, Kanter, the 20-year-old big who finally broke free from Corbin’s jail cell when Jefferson sprained his ankle, and went on to score 41 points and grab 32 rebounds in two games, will see nothing but green lights and open road next season.
Potential will either be emboldened or disappointed.
In the short term, the Jazz will save cash, searching for that better time to spend, waiting for taxpayers to feel the squeeze of those increasing penalties and shed not just bad players with bad deals, but good players, too, all while the Jazz lean heavily on their Core Four. They’ll try to re-sign the likes of Randy Foye and DeMarre Carroll, but, from there, unless a free agent is, in their view, a difference-maker, they won’t drop big coin.
Everybody knows the Jazz need a point guard. No clue here who that is or how they will acquire him. But they’ll scour the landscape, use their draft picks and let a freshly pruned tree grow. Get comfortable with the idea of watching Favors, Kanter, Hayward and Burks on the floor — a lot. There will be nights when they shine and nights when they look ridiculous — especially against some of the better teams in the West. They might well finish with a losing record next year.
It will be up to Jazz fans to decide how to react to the bumps and skids along the way. They can take pints for pints or they can find hope, hope that that Billy Shakespeare fella knew what he was talking about and was speaking to them.
Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.