(Dis)Respect the Jazz
If you’re looking for a statistically based piece proving through advanced metrics that the Jazz are legitimate, then look elsewhere. Actually, look here or here. However, if you want thorough analysis explaining why no one in the basketball media is willing to give the Jazz any credit for the 9-4 record, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you already know this, and you just want to read someone rip on the patronizing analysts who withhold their approval of our team until we beat someone legit (Denver AT Denver anyone?). If this is true, again, you’ve come to the right place.
The Jazz are 9-4, and everyone who cares about the NBA one month into the season (admittedly a small group) is utterly baffled. Though perhaps to the majority of the NBA analysts, the Jazz’s success has been confusing, the nature of those analysts’ confusion is not very complex. It breaks down to three major factors:
1) The Jazz have no bona fide stars. Sure, Paul Millsap deserves to be in the all-star game, and Al Jefferson might be the most dangerous low-post scoring threat in the conference, but those guys aren’t stars. At least not to the mainstream media, who comprise the group of people who make the final decisions on subjective and arbitrary matters like “stardom”. Of course these are the same people who have rewarded Kobe Bryant only one MVP trophy, so they can’t be trusted.
Teams without true superstars are always disrespected by the media. This is why Memphis’s playoff run last year was so shocking to so many. Everybody had totally overlooked the team for a variety of reasons: Rudy Gay was injured, Zach Randolph had been written off after his tumultuous tenure with the Jail Blazers, Tony Allen had character problems, and Marc Gasol was just Pau’s beefier, less-skilled little brother. ZERO star power. For a league whose popularity and revenue are based almost solely around marketable stars, the most common fallacy in basketball analysis is connecting that star power to actual basketball production. This is why last year Jeff Van Gundy predicted the Miami Heat would win 72 games and the Finals. This is why he was wrong. This is also why the Knicks have been virtually unwatchable this season.
2) No one cares about chemistry and team defense. There’s nothing sexy about a team with a different hero every single night, and as multiple Jazz writers have mentioned, people have pigeonholed Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as offensively gifted players without any defensive prowess. Of course, as any devoted Jazz fan has probably noticed, that’s what makes this team great. One night, Big Al puts up 25 points and leads us to victory, and the next night, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap combine for 45 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. The Jazz win games, but not because our aging shooting guard is jacking up 30 shots a game and average 40 points (I’m looking at you Kobe). For Jazz fans, this is immensely entertaining. Even as C.J. is throwing up bricks one night, he’s coming back for 19 points on 54% shooting the next night. In fact, the only consistent producer for the team has been Millsap. Everyone else has had at least three atrocious games this season. The mainstream media can’t sell this to non-Jazz fans. People like superstars. People like to see one player gunning for a win all on his own. The proverbial “team on his back” guy–that’s what people like. The Jazz don’t win like that. The Jazz win like, imagine this, a team.
3) We’re still the Utah Jazz. Even when we were running all over the Western Conference in the D-Will and Boozer days, no one cared. No one cared that we were virtually unbeatable at home. No one cared that we were a legitimate title threat. The Utah Jazz were and are still located in Utah.
Fortunately, none of those three reasons are legitimate. Sure the Jazz are getting disrespected, but not because the team is deeply or irrevocably flawed. This is only good for us. We get to root for the team that, despite being geniunely solid and well-balanced, everyone else overlooks. No one circles the Utah Jazz on the schedule (except for maybe the Nets, who stink). The Jazz will continue to be underestimated by the rest of the league and that can only be a good thing. Every single game, the Miami Heat get their opponent’s best effort. The Jazz get the luxury of playing teams at their worst, and it will pay dividends. This Jazz team is at least one of the eight best teams in the Western Conference, and if nobody knows that until the regular season is over, all the better.