So much for the Jazz standing fat and firm, falling foolishly in love with their recent success.
A seven-game win streak was not going to lull general manager Dennis Lindsey into believing his team was whole enough — for the time being or for the seasons ahead. His immediate plan just found the on-ramp toward a more steady, secure route to the playoffs, all as he looked in his rearview at achieving something he missed on last summer.
It is one more positive step on an unfinished journey.
Obtaining Jae Crowder had been attempted via sign-and-trade in the Gordon Hayward fiasco with Boston in July. Just before the trade deadline on Thursday, Lindsey got his man while dealing skittish Rodney Hood to Cleveland, where the former Jazz wing can see what it’s like to play and live and try to stay healthy and find a consistent stroke in the long shadow of the king. And in the swirl that the Cavs have become.
As a side note, the Jazz also got Derrick Rose in the swap, and sent Joe Johnson, who wanted out, to Sacramento, from where the savvy vet will only be able to satisfy his desire to boost a team toward contention after being bought out, which is exactly what will happen.
Crowder is a rugged small forward who you’d want on your side in a back-alley fistfight. At 6-foot-6, he can also play the four. He’s an offensive threat who has shown at times a propensity for making deep shots and for finishing at the basket, but who also is effective at setting screens and playing defense. He was much better with the Celtics, averaging 14 points in recent seasons under Brad Stevens, than he was over his short stay in Cleveland. Last season, he shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. This season, he’s made just 33 percent. Expect him to revert back to his Boston usages and performances under Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
That potential, along with his on-ball defense, stirs the Jazz’s collective soul. He also fits their age-frame roll at 27 years old, fitting in nicely with 21-year-old Donovan Mitchell and 25-year-old Rudy Gobert.
Moreover, he’s under contract for the next two seasons at just over $15 million, an attractive price.
What the Jazz do with Rose remains unknown, though he, too, is a candidate for release.
As for Hood, the Jazz gave him his shot — a lot of shots — and the results were mixed. He was enjoying career highs this season in a number of offensive categories, but the same afflictions that had plagued him in past seasons were apparent again — an inability to avoid injury and his swings of inconsistency. He had games when he flat could not miss — as was the case against New Orleans the other night, when he scored 30 points on just 14 shots — and games when his shot looked as though he were wearing oven mitts, no touch at all.
Beyond useful he was on those good nights, but on the bad ones, he was brutal. And the trouble for the Jazz was, they never knew on any given occasion what they were going to get. If Hood can smooth that rough ride, he’ll be a nice pickup for the Cavs. If he can’t, he’ll be the same enigma he was here. Let’s say it all plain: He was soft, and at times played with his own agenda, for his own purposes.
Also, he would be a restricted free agent at season’s end, and the Jazz weren’t keen on matching what Hood might get from some other, more desperate suitor. They have flexibility without paying him.
An overriding reveal with the trade-deadline deals is that Lindsey is neither satisfied, nor wearing concrete boots. While his moves are more evolutionary than revolutionary, they are being executed step by step, not necessarily for right now, but for a steady climb toward sooner-not-later contention, alongside the development of Gobert and Mitchell, each of whom was acquired through the draft.
Lindsey made Thursday’s swap without losing any draft picks, and with the way his group spots talent and the way his coaching staff develops it, those picks are important, and lead to the cheapest useful labor to be found on the NBA landscape. Additionally, helpful cost-effective free agents, driven by a tight market, will be yet available.
The fact that the Jazz recently have been lighting up opponents with offensive efficiency rarely seen since the Stockton and Malone years, crushing some of the league’s best teams, including the Warriors at Vivint Arena and the Raptors, the NBA’s best home team, as well as the Spurs, the league’s second-best home team, on the road is a huge bonus.
They’ve been shooting the ball with remarkable accuracy, and then, when everybody knew that kind of perimeter net-dusting wasn’t sustainable, they went out and plowed through the Grizzlies at FedEx Forum in a game that featured all things sour, nothing sweet.
In the last five games, Ricky Rubio has shot 55 percent overall, 59 percent from deep, averaging 24 points and nine assists. Derrick Favors has hit 58 percent of his shots, grabbed a fraction more than eight boards, scored 13 points and played stellar defense. Joe Ingles has made 58 percent of his shots overall, 61 percent from beyond the arc, and Royce O’Neale — 62 and 50 percent.
For most of the season, experts have been predicting the Jazz would not qualify for the playoffs, as have those complicated mathematical formulas that essentially take Einsteinian equations and mix them with Goncharov polylogarithms to determine what the Jazz’s final record will be.
The latest one of any repute put them at 44-38.
For the 26-28 Jazz to accomplish that, they will have to win 18 of their final 28 games, which, given their current win streak, would have them winning 25 of their final 35 games.
If the Jazz do that, and gaining Crowder will hurt them not at all, they will have proved themselves worthy of being called a playoff team, with more. promise to come.
And Lindsey will be looked at as an oracle for having seen it. Snyder will be a maestro for having conducted it.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.