Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wounded Mosquito Jazz Update #2: The Fish and Whine Festival


I was getting a little worried there for a second. After two lopsided losses and a quarter and a half of Wednesday night’s game against San Antonio, I thought the Jazz might be headed for one of those “rough stretches”. Losing to Golden State was just a pressure release from high expectations. Losing to Orlando was eyebrow-raising, but easier to take because they had Dwight Howard. (The “best record in the East” thing is a mirage…that’s like saying “Ernest Goes to Camp” is the best “Ernest” movie).

But when the Jazz got down ten to San Antonio in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game, and only had about thirty-odd points of their own at the time, I was worried that we might be in for a rude awakening.

Not so.

Thirty-two game time minutes later, we had beaten the one team in the league that we’d truly be judged by, the team that always seemed to have our number even when we were playing well. Thirty-two game time minutes later, I thought this thing might actually be real.

Of course, if you ask the right people, our 13-3 record is nothing more than evidence that league refs are conspiring to let the Jazz beat up on everyone else in the league. You know, because seeing Utah do well is such a boon to NBA marketing. I’m sure Boss Stern has been awake nights trying to figure out how he can keep the Jazz competitive.

Last week Zen Master Phil complained that the refs were too hard on Laker rookie Andrew Bynum, and that they let the game get too “roughhouse”. Funny coming from a guy who kicked back on the sidelines while Shaquille O’Neal’s butt and elbows brought him three titles. You’d think nine titles would put a guy beyond whining.

Then after Wednesday’s game, Tim Duncan complained about getting manhandled down low. I guess there had to be a reason he went from ten points in the first quarter to zip in the fourth. It couldn’t be that Carlos Boozer is playing with a chip on his shoulder this year. Of course, if you look at Duncan’s foul tally, you’d think he was standing still in the paint and just letting people float by him. The disappointing thing is that he whined at all. I expect it from the Zen Master. Not from Duncan.

According to Thursday morning stories in both the D-News and the Tribune, Derek Fisher flashed a little championship bling-bling at his teammates to motivate them before the game, and gave them a nice speech about how they need to beat teams like the Spurs if they want to be taken seriously. It just confirms what I’ve been suspecting for the last month or two: Fisher is the biggest pickup the Jazz have made in a long time. For the first time since Stockton-to-Malone, the Jazz have an honest-to-goodness leader that can stand on more than energy and enthusiasm. Fisher has no reason to be intimidated by anyone in the league, because he’s beaten them all…multiple times.

Now that the Jazz have beaten the Spurs, Lakers, Pistons, Clippers, and Rockets—plus the Suns twice—all within the first month of the season, it looks like his attitude is rubbing off.