Gordon Monson: The Utah Jazz are horrible, but relax, it’s all part of the plan

The rebuild is painful for fans, but still has a chance to pay off.

We all saw this coming. But the view was better, more tolerable in the abstract than in the actual, once it arrived all dressed out in defeat.

The Utah Jazz are horrible.

But a significant thing to remember is that the Jazz or rather the Jazz front office can’t let anyone know they care that they’re horrible. They can’t look like they care. More on that in a minute.

They’ve lost more than twice as many games this season as they’ve won. At present, they are 1-11 on the road, the place where real competitive character is defined. They infamously lost a recent game by 50 points. Sure, they were shorthanded, but, a few injuries or not, they supposedly have a roster filled out with … you know, verified professional basketball players, right?


They are not the Millcreek 3rd Ward Elders Quorum squad. The Mavs should not be sending them packing by 50. Ouch, they did.

But this was the plan all along. A blueprint for collapse en route to championships eventually being won. The vision for seeing a genuine ascent in that triumphant arc requires a whole lot of squinting and massive stretches of imagination, and maybe some self-deception.

Spotting an NBA title for the Jazz at present necessitates something along the lines of the Webb Space telescope, using powerful mirrors and lenses to dial in on something five galaxies away. It’s out there somewhere, billions of lightyears out.

When Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik decided to junk the Rudy Gobert-Donovan Mitchell-Mike Conley version of the Jazz, swapping bonafide NBA All-Stars for a couple of nice pickups and a bunch of draft picks, is this what they had in mind?

Of course it was. If not, that makes the team’s current sad-and-sorry state even worse.

The Jazz bosses didn’t like winning a load of regular-season games and then losing in the early-to-mid-rounds of the playoffs. They wanted more. And so, they disassembled, depending now on less. A whole lot less.

We can argue over whether that was a spectacular or stupid scheme.

Jazz fans, thus far, have been accommodating, supporting their team as best they can, boosting their players to at least a mediocre home record. (It’s not the players’ fault that their win-loss mark is subterranean. It’s not their fault they’re not talented enough. A few of them are young and developing.) The question is, how long will that accommodation, that support last?

Ticket-buying folks, who are extras in this narrative, just have to hang in and play along, if they want.

And does fresh-faced coach Will Hardy have the sturdy constitution needed to weather and withstand a wicked storm on a rugged road along a craggy cliff to competitive respectability?

He must have known this was the not-so-clear path to a foul descent before a theoretical climb to glory. There’s no way he couldn’t have seen it and agreed to it in advance. But, again, that view was better in the abstract than in the actual.

Defeat is one cruel toll to pay.

And the Jazz are paying it.

They have to at this juncture.

But a thousand draft picks are in a back vault, a vault the Jazz had best crack open at some point, while we’re young, using some of those picks not on future rookie prospects that may or may not be of substantial consequence, but instead bartering their perceived value with potential trade partners to gain already-realized talent.

That’s tricky business. And here’s where a look of desperation by Ainge and Zanik would fall somewhere between unhelpful and disastrous.

It was Felix Dennis, a somewhat raunchy poet and publisher and wealthy businessman, who said this about negotiating (in this case, pulling off trades): “You have to persuade yourself that you absolutely don’t care what happens. If you don’t care, you’ve won. I absolutely promise you, in every serious negotiation, the man or woman who doesn’t care is going to win.”

Moreover, a certain fellow named Trump once said: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”

That may be the most truthful thing the Donald has ever uttered.

As the Jazz skid into the nether regions of the Western Conference standings, then, keep two things at the forefront: 1) The worse the record is, the better the Jazz’s draft picks could be, and 2) The less the Jazz seem to care about their lousy team, the stronger their position is in making deals with their draft picks for better players.

So, don’t complain or worry if Ainge is out playing a hundred rounds of golf at Pebble Beach or Cyprus Point with Smith. That’s all part of the plan, too.

The Jazz may suck, but did you see that 240-yard approach shot Danny just stuck within five feet of the pin? It’s in the blueprint. Smith drains a 30-foot putt for bird on the 17th hole? Sweet lord, life in Jazzland is all good.

Be cool. Reach for the telescope. It’s all going to work out. Maybe. Everything will be fine with the Utah Jazz … someday.