The Discovery of Phosphorus
The New Jazz have the best record in the league through the first 8 games and something needs to be said. All I know is that I attended the season opener in the Delta Center and enjoyed every minute of the game, something that couldn't be said for many Jazz games in the post-Stockton to Malone Era. So here we are with an exciting team of castaways, revunated vets, solid rookies, and the emergence of the not-so-catchy Williams-to-Boozer connection. (And the emergence of Matt Harpring using terms of endearment like "D.Willy" in reference to his 2nd year teammate.)
So what is to be made of Jerry Sloan not only playing but praising a handful of rookies? Or letting Deron Williams convince the team to wear black shoes and socks for the first time in franchise history (starting with Friday's game at Seattle)? And all this success on the heels of a terrible start by Kirilenko, who looks even more Drago-esque when he mopes around the court, missing shots and feeling sorry for himself because of lack of touches on the offensive end.
The character of the New Jazz can be summarized with this quote by Jerry Sloan speaking of rookie rebounding machine Paul Millsap:
His coach, who clearly likes his team more every day, sure did.
"There are very few guys who play that way because they've been told all their lives they're supposed to score. Moms, dads, everybody told them to score," Sloan said. "I don't know who told him what. . . . But you could make a living in this league and not score a point."
He means Millsap's way, not Kaman's. The Clipper center, signed to a five-year, $52 million contract over the summer, was shredded by Okur, who outscored him 27-3 and sent him to the bench with six fouls after only 19 minutes.
First of all, I'll admit to giggling as I read the line "shredded by Okur," but there's no better way to say it. Okur has been handing people their lunch on the court and then heading home to his wife, the former Miss Turkey Yeliz Caliska [link not only safe for work, but CRUCIAL as well] and 50 million dollars. Certainly it's his world and the rest of us just live in it. Millsap may not have the millions but he has an uncanny ability to clean the glass and get his hands in passing lanes, and like Sloan says, if he keeps it up he'll be cashing checks for a long time.
Besides an appropriate dose of Right Way play and Hustle, this year's New Jazz are just fun to watch. Millsap flexing after rejecting Corey Maggette in the midst of holding the Clip Joint without a field goal for almost 11 minutes. D. Williams and Derek Fisher surgically emasculating the Rockets on opening night. The Jazz-Pistons tilt from last week was one of the most enjoyable games I've watched in a long time. And maybe that's a bit of "I know it when I see it" logic, but that's what makes me care. (Aside: Rasheed Wallace is some kind of player. He's an unstoppable force in an alternative universe where he doesn't bore himself out of taking what the defense gives him.)
When trying to come up with the reasons for the success of the New Jazz my initial gut feeling was to chalk it all up to Chemistry. But the truth could be closer to Alchemy. In the mystical jazz laboratory, the combination of boring parts has unexpectedly sublimated into an exciting team that seems to root for each other's success and actually enjoy playing together. They have a nice mix of veteran leadership and young legs. They've got a legendary coach who seems to have a newfound soft side along with a new wife. And certainly the indeterminate ethnicity of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer is the logical conclusion of an unholy Stockton-to-Malone Hybrid.
Now, the resultant gold was on display Wednesday night. Not only did the New Jazz make quick work of the of Clippers, but one of their finest made a guest appearance at a John Legend show in Park City later that night. I was checking scores from the game periodically, and after the show as I was walking out I bumped into this guy standing in a VIP section working it with a girl who couldn't be described as Park City's finest. And as I watched him awkwardly get his game on, I realized it was Gordon Giricek, still wearing his suit from the game earlier in the evening, but all undone and disheveled. I tried to take a picture with my phone but it was too dark and it didn't save anyway. My question, of course, is how he got there so fast after the game, and how that Achilles he's been babying with a walking boot at the games is holding up after standing at a concert for 3 hours. But hey, when you're 7-1 you do whatever you want.