Nearing the close of a difficult 2013-14 NBA season for many Utah Jazz fans, a rising cacophony of discontent growls deep from a few throats. Discord rears it’s head in many guises, the echoing din often deafening to those who frequent some social Jazz circles.
Attendance has plummeted to all new lows, relatively speaking, for the current concrete enclosure the franchise calls home — yet this was not unexpected to those who keep a steady hand and unblinking eye on the prize. Fans proclaimed en masse last season that if only the brass would abandon “boring veterans” and turn the team over to the young guys they would still come to games.
Armed with spreadsheets and advanced stats we heard, “Heck, get rid of that Al Jefferson isolation offense and more people will come. Promise! Trust us. Listen, the young guys are so good the Jazz will probably be even better if you just give them a chance to prove it!” all while conveniently forgetting the inevitable tick of time, the time it takes to realize real potential; that nothing outside of cleaning house — metaphorically or literally — happens in a vacuum.
Jazz brass headed your words, cleaning house and leaving staff with little choice in the matter of playing time. More than half of last year’s maximum allowed NBA roster, eight players, are no longer on this one. And players aged 23 years or younger occupy the top four minutes per game places — five of the top six — all lottery picks from 2010 to the present.
Sports fans are fickle. They like to feel empowered, listened to. Armed with a fresh sense of empowerment after last season’s wish was granted, the growls grew to roars of disapproval in various places. After all, if one goal or agenda can be accomplished by gathering a vocal mob of internet group-think, why not the next?
“We are the voice! Without our support and money you cannot survive! WE are the fan. Hear us. Heed us. We will not continue to support the mediocrity of NBA draft no-man’s land!”
Mo Williams, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Al Jefferson moved on to teams that will most likely make the postseason, the goal of NBA players in their prime, while the Utah Jazz pursued their own inevitable future — one independent of the proclamations, if we’re truly honest with ourselves.
You see, the Utah Jazz are run not by hobbyists, but by professionals who meet daily to make goals, determine direction. What the Miller Group has on the line is literally a multi-billion dollar conglomeration that was birthed by sweat, a single car dealership and a dream of community.
The Jazz can’t push the delete button on bad math and start over. They can’t just deactivate their account and walk away back into the real world with nothing more than a bruised ego. What they deal in is reality already. And thousands of real time lives depend on their decision-making ability.
The Jazz aren’t living and dying by a few turnovers or excel spreadsheets on playing time. They can’t afford to. And neither can those who depend on them to feed their families, to keep them healthy and happy, and if they’re lucky and work hard, be able to afford a few luxuries and sometimes more.
Those who are charged with the well-being of so many see themselves as stewards of something much larger, feel a responsibility to them, and as such sometimes have to make difficult decisions within the framework of the big picture in order to expand the palette. They don’t count page views or forum members, rather assets and employees, many of each who in turn become akin to family within the fold of the Miller Group.
Already, some have decided that Gordon Hayward, still on a rookie contract, is now a veteran, and as such have begun to repeat a vicious vocal cycle popularized in recent years: “We already know who he is, give his minutes to an unproven player so we can see what he has.” Being a veteran on the Utah Jazz roster has become a four-letter word to many fans, an abomination to be discarded like so much trash as soon as possible.
“Veterans are for coming off of the bench. If Ty Corbin had listened to us and realized it sooner…” where would the Jazz be now?
Maybe — maybe — where the Phoenix Suns now sit, fighting for the right to sneak into the Western Conference playoffs, where they very likely get bounced in the first round and very likely miss out on the top tier of an amazing crop of incoming draftees, one of whom could change a franchise forever for the better.
Or, the exact same spot in the West the Utah Jazz have occupied for the last two seasons. The exact same spot these very same fans said they were tired of occupying.