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Kragthorpe: Bulls' success makes Jazz fans feel worse

Published April 12, 2011 7:23 pm

Chicago's success rankles Jazz fans
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This will be a rough spring in Jazzland, thanks to a 60-win team that's entering the playoffs with a No. 1 seed.

What could be worse than the Jazz's missing postseason play? Having to watch Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer compete for an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls, considering they were playing together for the Jazz as of February 2010.

After the Los Angeles Lakers knocked the Jazz out of the playoffs for three straight years and won two titles with Derek Fisher as their point guard, here comes the latest batch of regrets, courtesy of the Bulls.

Luckily, the Jazz traded Deron Williams to lottery-bound New Jersey, or the 2011 playoffs would be more unbearable.

Even fans who like Korver and Brewer are suffering from the Bulls' success. That's because of Raja Bell's struggles in his effort to replace them and Wesley Matthews, another ex-Jazz wing player who will be in the playoffs with Portland.

And then there's Boozer, the most-vilified great player in Jazz history. Hate him all you want and laugh about how he will have missed 28 percent of Chicago's regular season with injuries — almost exactly his absentee rate during six seasons with the Jazz — but Boozer is delivering for the Bulls.

Chicago has gone 51-14 since he debuted in December, and he exceeded his averages of 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds during the long stretch when center Joakim Noah was injured.

In trading Brewer to Memphis last season (he later signed with Chicago) and losing Boozer and Korver via free agency, the Jazz gained a first-round draft pick and a trade exception. They used those to land Al Jefferson, which seems almost reasonable, except for the little detail of the Jazz's enduring their second losing season in 28 years.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are thriving with this unprecedented convergence of former Jazzmen. Derrick Rose may deserve the league's MVP award, but he was there when Chicago finished 41-41 each of the previous two seasons. The team's improvement makes Tom Thibodeau a strong contender for Coach of the Year in his first season, and part of his success is an ability to maximize Boozer, Korver and Brewer.

Thibodeau even borrowed some plays from the Jazz's offense. Nice to know they're working somewhere, right? He also likes to play the three of them together in stretches, recognizing how they blend well — never mind that Korver and Brewer rarely were on the floor at the same time here.

By beating New York and New Jersey this week, the Bulls can finish 62-20, matching their record in 1997-98 with Michael Jordan and friends. That season, Chicago defeated the Jazz for the second time in the NBA Finals, before the franchise's long rebuilding process started.

In 2010-11, the Bulls' big push began at EnergySolutions Arena. Chicago stood 34-16 and the Jazz were 31-22 as of Feb. 9, when Williams and the Jazz fell apart on critical possessions in a 91-86 defeat.

That's the night when whatever happened in Jerry Sloan's office ultimately resulted in Sloan's departure, followed two weeks later by the trade of Williams. Who knows how history would have changed if the Jazz had won that game?

As it is, the loss launched the Jazz's 7-21 skid, while the Bulls have gone 26-4.

As the playoffs begin this weekend, the Jazz will be well-represented — on other teams. From their roster of 14 months ago, they've supplied three Bulls and a Trail Blazer, all playing key roles. Regardless of how fondly or not those guys are remembered around here, they will be hard to watch.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com