Jazz trades lead to more questions than answersSep 15, 2022 02:11PM ● By Bryan Gray
In our society, entertainment rules. Several weeks ago, I expected that many Utahns would be discussing the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate. Some were, of course. But when I entered the first two offices that morning, there was not mention of classified documents; instead, employees were singing Olivia Newton John songs.
“You’re the One that I Want” had more interest than “Secret Agent Man.”
Last week Utahns were murmuring about the record high temperatures, but even more chatter was on the dismantling of the Utah Jazz roster. It is easier to spout conclusions about Danny Ainge’s trades than it is to figure the warring components of global warming. Science will always lose to entertainment. Ice floes lack the personality of Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz trades have split the team’s fan base. As for me, I’m personally skeptical of the “tear down” plan. In baseball, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox were both sad sack teams in the 1960s and 70s, but you didn’t see the owners booting out Ernie Banks or Carl Yastrzemski to start a youth movement. Similarly, in football, the Green Bay Packers made their budding superstar Aaron Rodgers sit on the bench for several years rather than toss aside legendary Brett Favre.
Sports fans relate to players, especially productive players who become part of the community. Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek may not have won an NBA championship, but they were “ours,” respected and emulated not only by the fan base, but also by Larry Miller who, though competitive, put a premium on loyalty.
The new Jazz owner and front office management think differently. Some may call it ego, others see it as wise. To me, if Larry was a rock, Ainge and new owner Ryan Smith are simply riverboat gamblers.
With Rudy Gobert and Mitchell, the Jazz matched every other team for the number of All-Star players. The Jazz were competitive. Sure, it was doubtful the current cast could win a championship, but neither would they embarrass the fans as in Sacramento or Orlando. Also, both players represented Utah well, and Gobert seemed happy to live in Utah. With a previous Sixth Man of the Year award-winner and a muscular European shooter accompanying them, the Jazz were not a squad any team could take lightly. They had the opportunity to win every single night, bolstering the faith of their fans who opened up their wallets for tickets and $15 sodas.
Granted, Mitchell signaled that he would hopefully don a New York Knicks uniform someday. And if the Jazz management were certain he wouldn’t re-sign a new contract, a trade isn’t to be criticized. But trading Gobert and, presumably, other popular and contributing Jazz players, paints a dim picture for another three to five years.
Draft picks are paper assets. They don’t necessarily win championships and neither do they embrace the community, its values, nor the desire to play at the Vivint long term.
The Ainge scenario may work, but we won’t really know until the 2027 season. In contrast, the team is expected to be a bottom-feeder for at least several years in which I doubt the price and tickets, beer, and popcorn will be reduced for fans watching a 25-win season.
With a competitive team, it was easy for fans to say “Just wait for next year.” Sorry, Jazz fans, but you’ll be waiting a lot longer.
Bryan Gray, a longtime Davis County resident, is a former school teacher and has been a columnist for more than 26 years in newspapers along the Wasatch Front.λ