This is not meant as a Jazz Doomsday post or a depressing farewell to this current Jazz list. It is rather a realistic look at Jazz, where they have come from, where they are now and where they are going – both in the next few weeks and beyond.
The Jazz are approaching their sixth NBA Playoffs appearance in a row, and they will be battling the Dallas Mavericks from Saturday morning. After finishing with the NBA’s best regular season last year, the Jazz struggled this year, especially in the fourth quarter. Their matches in the late game are a big reason why they ended up in the 5-seed and do not want home field advantages in this first round. Like all teams in the playoffs, the Jazz are currently only 4 losses away from elimination. An elimination to this year’s squad is likely to hit a bit differently than last year. After a rather scary end to their season last year in Los Angeles, the Jazz decided to run it back with pretty much the same list. They “upgraded” a few positions, picking up veterans Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, then adding Danuel House and Juancho Hernangomez for the season. The overall core of jazz remained intact, revolving around Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. This core of these three players is what most defines this era of “Championship Contending” Utah Jazz basketball. In the summer of 2019, the Jazz undoubtedly had the craziest offseason in franchise history. They parted ways with their “good vibes” players like Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder and Derrick Favors, replacing them with guys who were more built to chase a Utah championship. They brought in Mike Conley via swap, signed Bojan Bogdanovic and then swapped for Jordan Clarkson later in the season. Jazz took steps that year, and many, including myself, felt that the window to the championship was more open and achievable than ever before. Blink out three seasons later and it’s been a crazy ride. The 2019-20 season was hijacked by Covid-19 and some unforgettable drama between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. They were able to move past that, at least for the moment, and this era’s first playoff games came inside the bubble. The Jazz brought a 3-1 lead against the Nuggets in the first round after Donovan Mitchell put together one of the most inspiring individual playoff performances we had ever seen, as ever. That series ended with an insane sequence in game seven, where Mike Conley’s winning streaks somehow jumped out of the basket after it was already halfway down.
It blew the 3-1 lead and the way that match ended was heartbreaking. Little did Jazz fans know that the pain would only be part of what they would feel in next year’s playoffs. The Jazz came back stronger after that defeat and destroyed NBA teams in the following regular season. But once again, when the playoffs came, the heartache returned. After going up 2-0 and Kawhi Leonard being injured for the rest of the season, the Jazz lost four in a row in incredible fashion to be eliminated again.
Another playoff series, another heartache. That year hit particularly hard because the championship window stood wide open and screamed after being claimed by a team like the Jazz. But it just did not happen.
Many thought the Jazz would change things after last year’s season ended. But again, Jazz re-signed Mike Conley, bringing pretty much everyone back and even upgrading a bit.
Now we’re here, once again approaching an NBA Playoff series with our beloved Utah Jazz. This era of Utah Jazz basketball hangs in a balance. The last three years with this team have had ups and downs. The All-Star appearances, the DPOYs, the regular season records and fun moments. But its lows have been incredibly judgmental. It’s not only the fact that they still have not made it past the second round, but it is such that they have completely crumbled in the crucial moments and collapsed when it came. For myself personally, I see this upcoming playoff series as if it was the last time I saw this team play together. It’s really hard to imagine that if things go south in the playoffs, as they have done the last couple of seasons, things will not really get blown up. This jazz team has an opportunity to save some of their legacy and put together a race that is perhaps more memorable than anything else we have ever seen as jazz fans. The talent is there. The opportunity is there. Will they grab it? We find out, and for that reason the upcoming matches will be incredibly entertaining to watch unfold.