Columns, Sports

Shaw ’13: Should the Utah Jazz make it into NBA playoffs?

By
Sports Columnist

With the NBA regular season winding down and the MLB still in the “there’s 150 more games” phase, this weekend’s biggest story was Kobe Bryant tearing his Achilles tendon in a much-needed win against the Golden State Warriors. The Lakers are barely ahead of the Utah Jazz in the race for the eighth seed in the Western conference and the loss of Bean only makes that task infinitely harder. (Good thing Bill Murray will be able to absorb his minutes on the Space Jam All-Stars.) Worlds will collide when Kobe, while traveling to China in search of a revolutionary new treatment, will bump into recent 14-year-old pop sensation Tianlang Guan, who made a splash at the Masters by carding the lowest amateur score and finishing 12 over for the tournament. Tianlang, upon meeting his childhood idol, will then proceed to wake up the next morning reeking of whiskey and without his Achilles tendon while Mamba strolls out the room.

A slightly more likely scenario has the Lakers blowing their remaining games due to Dwight “Clown Face” Howard spending all of his playing time coming up with gags for his TV interview and Steve “Eh?” Nash slipping into senility. Utah is deadly and would easily be a playoff team in the much weaker Eastern conference and actually belongs in the playoffs. In an age when teams are moving toward small-ball (the Boshtrich is not a true center), the Jazz have decided to go ultra-big. Whether it’s because of another basketball revolution or a product of their extreme depth at the forward and center positions, Utah is playing a brand of basketball that isn’t really seen outside of the YMCA, based on the philosophy of “Let’s just get five really tall guys.” While it probably makes Gregg Popovich’s head explode seeing Utah solve its logjam at the big positions by simply playing all its big men at the same time, I’ve noticed other teams eschewing traditional positions and playing ultra-big or -small. In a recent Celtics game, Avery Bradley shared the floor with four forwards, later rotating off the ball with three other guards and the man-beast named Brandon Bass. These kinds of units play vastly different styles of basketball, and while Miami has clearly proven that going small works, the jury is still out on colossus ball. Simply put, it’s impossible to know if its current effectiveness is a result of smart coaching or simply a lack of game planning. For this reason, Utah deserves a spot in this year’s playoffs, if only to see how mashing Big Al, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap into the paint works in a seven-game series against the best in the NBA.

Utah’s fortunes would also highlight the Laker’s severe misfortune moving forward. At first heralded as an absolute steal, last summer’s trade for Steve Nash leaves the Lakers without their first round draft pick. Normally, this transaction would be fine, but the value of a cheap rookie deal is especially high for a Lakers team far above the cap. The Lakers are on the hook for almost $40 million between just Kobe and Nash next year, two players that are likely to spend just as much time in suits as on the court, and Dwight will likely seek at least another $18 to 20 million per year to return. Add in the remaining contracts, and the Lakers could be paying more in luxury taxes than to players’ salaries. They do have enough television revenue that fielding a competitive team would be worth it, but the new collective bargaining agreement  has repeat luxury tax offenders facing much harsher tax penalties — moving forward to the point that if the trend continues, the Lakers could be paying upwards of $300 million in taxes alone. Money issues aside, the Lakers missing the playoffs gives us the opportunity to see Dwight cry in a dark corner, turn around to see Kobe glaring from across the room and resume crying. Seriously, this year’s Lakers team is the biggest waste of talent since Dodgeball’s Globo Gym.

The playoffs begin Saturday, and anything can happen between now and then. You could be unconventional like Utah: Stay in to read the paper and watch some games. Or be a normal person, come outside, enjoy Spring Week and get the die high.

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  • LAkers

    HAter!!

  • chris

    this is a shit article

  • doogie

    Love the article, man. My thoughts exactly. Go Jazz!

  • Berp

    Someone really has it out for the Lakers, but he does make some good points.