Everyone here at Purple and Blues is pretty pumped for the upcoming season. We’re so pumped that it’s quite surprising to me how many Jazz fans do not share in our enthusiasm. The amount of cynicism and sarcasm regarding the moves by the Jazz this summer is quite shocking and to me shows a lack of understanding that this is the beginning of achieving long term goals that Dennis Lindsey has put in place for this franchise. I get the fact that we as fans become attached to players. Stockton and Malone were my favorite players from when I was 6 until Stockton retired when I was 22. Andrei Kirilenko was my favorite player of the new look Jazz and I still miss rooting for him on this team but I understand why it was time for him to go. Even though many of you grew fond of many players over the past few years, the fact of the matter is they were all expendable. Most were solid players that would contribute for a contending team, but we didn’t have a contending team. They were replaceable, and it was time to move on. Here is a list of what the Utah Jazz has accomplished this offseason:
1. Dennis Lindsey’s Clean Slate - The Miller family gave Dennis Lindsey their blessing to orchestrate a full rebuild of this team. No more will we have to hear about things like “well even John Stockton didn’t start until his 4th season.” That way of doing things is old hat. Dennis is bringing the Jazz to the 21st century and it is refreshing. Young, talented players like the Jazz have need to play and grow together. Lindsey has also acquired numerous draft picks over the next 4 years so that he can continue to add young talent to complement the core players that will have full reign of the team this year. With all his offseason moves, he’s also retained the coveted cap space the Jazz wanted to have going in to the summer of 2014.
2. Youth Movement - I touched on this a little in the previous paragraph but it was painfully obvious last season that change was needed. You can’t acquire young talented players like the Jazz have and keep them on the bench forever. It was time to give these young players a chance to show what they can do on a full-time basis. Adding Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert to Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter was a master stroke by Lindsey. Burke is a playmaker and pass first point guard but he is being added to Burks and Hayward who are also unselfish playmakers on the wings. The idea of Favors and Gobert protecting the rim together makes me almost drool at the thought. Kanter learned quickly from Big Al and has quite the offensive arsenal for a young big man. I expect to be thoroughly entertained by these young players this year despite the ups and downs their inexperience may bring.
3. Supporting Cast - These are the types of veterans these young players needed. Guys that know their roles and are not going to step on anyone’s toes. Richard Jefferson is going to get a chance to show he can still play but he is 33 and will be splitting time with Marvin Williams once he is healthy. John Lucas III was signed for the specific purpose of mentoring Trey Burke. He knows it and said as much in his interview on 1280 The Zone yesterday. It was a great interview and everyone should go check it out. He is going to be a great voice and help for the young point guard. You have to love it when he says he wants to take Trey down to Houston to work out with him and his father. Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins have a chance to be big time contributors off the bench this year. If he is fully recovered from his injuries as all indications are, Brandon Rush will make everyone forget about Foye’s 3 point shooting last year and will add even more defense at the wing. Biedrins is a very good rebounder and defender and will be a good example to Gobert. The Jazz brought these two players in for an up close tryout this year and if they perform well, I expect the Jazz will try to sign each of them to a long term deal. At 28 and 27 years old, Rush and Biedrins have the right ages to stick around with this young team for a while and I hope they do. I think their games are great complements to our young core.
4. Long Term Success - The Jazz have been playing band-aid basketball the past few seasons. The team was full of veterans that knew how to play but they were either very one dimensional or they were undersized for their position. They were not good enough to get past the first round or even into the playoffs. The Jazz made too many short term decisions for fear of losing their fan base. Well this idea of “if we don’t make the playoffs or we’ll lose fans” was in fact the exact opposite of what the fans wanted and what the team needed. Short term sacrifices must be made in order to achieve long term success. By getting rid of the team of the veterans Corbin trusted and forcing him to play the young guys is a short term sacrifice. The playing time and experience the young guys will gain this year is what will lead to long term success. It is necessary towards building a contending team. The Jazz need to know what they have in order to make the proper decisions in the summer of 2014. The free agency class is deep and the draft is rich with talent. The Jazz need to know if they’re going to go free agent chasing, giving max extensions to Hayward and Favors, and who they’re drafting. Yes this year is only the beginning.
I’ve been saying for a while now that I think these young guys are ready. They want to show what they can do and they are very motivated. Their talent is ready to shine and I think they are going to surprise some people. I just don’t want Jazz fans to be the people that are surprised. Remember, these are the players you all wanted to have play last year anyway. They are ready for this challenge and are going to play some fun exciting basketball. The Jazz are building for the future, that’s what they did this offseason. It just so happens they may turn a lot of heads this season and the talent they already have may allow them to skip a step or two.