Everyone waited on Thursday. Hour by hour, minute by minute.
Waited and waited and waited to see what the Jazz were going to do about a team that has shown through an ample sample size now that it is not good enough to authentically contend in the West.
The Jazz decided to wait some more, pushing off authenticity for a while longer.
As indications — OK, rumors — swirled that they might add to the strength of the team, giving up some value in players to get better ones, the Jazz figured some combination of the asking price/taking price/contract price was too steep to consummate a deal.
It takes, after all, at least two willing, semi-reasonable partners to make a trade, although they may be coming from completely different corners of the competitive spectrum. Some teams want to unload talent and money to rebuild. The Jazz are the opposite. They’ve already rebuilt. They now need to commit resources to either edge or leap forward toward the goal they’ve articulated a thousand times as theirs — a championship.
But, crassly put, the Jazz will not win a title as presently constituted.
The concept of them not making any major moves last offseason, to grow the team from within, was understandable at the time they did it. There seemed to be yet more extension in those young, early growth plates, more than has been realized, more than can be realized in that group.
It needs help.
It needs more firepower.
It needs an additional shooter and it needs another player who can create, take and make shots.
Donovan Mitchell cannot do it alone. The burden on him has been — and is — too heavy.
And while there’s no desire on the part of the Jazz to dramatically tear apart their core, they continue to have the financial flexibility to mold it, to commit those aforementioned resources to an expensive difference-maker who can join in with Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to form a triangular base for fulfillment of their stated goal.
Some observers did not believe Grizzlies’ guard Mike Conley was worth what it would cost the Jazz to get him and to pay him. Others thought he was. The Jazz were said to be offering or considering to offer, among other assets, Ricky Rubio and his expiring contract and Derrick Favors, and a draft pick or two. Conley would have been paid more than $30 million over the next couple of years.
The deal did not happen.
Instead, Memphis traded everyone except Conley.
And the Jazz added nothing.
Meanwhile, other teams serious about contending, such as Toronto, Milwaukee and Philly, all improved themselves via trades and additions.
The worst thing that can happen to a franchise is not a lack of talent with money left in the coffers. It is an empty vault with not quite enough talent. The latter destines a team to that dreaded position of being in the NBA’s no-man’s land — a filled-up salary structure and a team that can, at best, finish hard against the bottom of playoff qualification.
Remember the days when Andrei Kirilenko’s contract hamstrung the Jazz to the point where they were stuck? They couldn’t win a title, and they couldn’t or wouldn’t spend more money. Their reach for a championship and their flexibility were gone.
On the other hand, how long can the Jazz now wait to reach for something better? Mitchell is pretty much contractually under wraps for the next five-and-a-half seasons. Gobert is under contract. Unless one or both of them pull an Anthony Davis, they aren’t flying over the cuckoo’s nest anytime soon.
Dennis Lindsey isn’t exactly Nurse Ratched. But he does have to make the asylum more sane, more inhabitable, more competitive by bringing in proper help for the cause.
Financial flexibility never dunked a ball or hit a bomb or D’ed up or spaced the floor. It never grabbed a rebound or dove for a loose ball or blocked a shot or won a game.
The Jazz can continue to play on, continue to play it safe, leaning on caution, as their team remains about the same, nobly doing battle in the tough, tough West. Lindsey has done a rock-solid job putting the Jazz in their current position, weathering the loss of Gordon Hayward in free agency, and continuing the march to winning records and possible midlevel playoff qualification. Quin Snyder has continued to make the most of what he’s got. They can continue to be … good.
To be great, they need a significant move or two.
Nobody’s saying it’s easy. With proper nerve and acumen, it’s just worth it.
It’s risky business, like a scratch golfer changing his heretofore reliable swing to further lower his score to win tournaments. But sometimes taking no risk is the riskiest move of all.
The Jazz need more.
They made nary a move last offseason. They made no move before this trade deadline, other than adding 37-year-old Kyle Korver a couple of months ago. That leaves this coming offseason.
Everyone is waiting. Fans are waiting. Mitchell and Gobert are waiting. Ownership is waiting. Snyder is waiting. Lindsey is waiting, too.
The question that remains is, for how much longer?
When will the Jazz see or create or kick the door in for a truly meaningful deal and … you know, actually make it real?
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.