"Not like this. Not like this."
Those were my thoughts in the closing seconds of Game 4 of the Lakers series, when I saw Sundianatello Gaines, Othyus "Johnny Highpants" Jeffers, and Kosta Hufflepuff Koufos stripping off their warm-ups to get into the game. Thus would end Utah's 2009-2010 campaign.
Not like this.
That's not how I wanted the team to go down. Before the start of the game I wanted to be hopeful. I wanted to think they could at least give the home fans one victory before ultimately falling to the Lakers. My hopes were realistic. I didn't have any fantasies of the 2004 Red Sox. I knew that the Jazz weren't coming out of the series. Going into Game 4 I looked at the Jazz like a sick ol' hound settin' by the fire, each breath a wheez, each movement a symphony of creaky bones. You don't want that old dog to go, but you know that it's his time.
Jim Rome said it after Game 1. To paraphrase: "The Jazz are going to work. They're going to battle. They're going to give you toughness, and heart, and they're going to play as hard as they can for the full 48 minutes. But in the end, they just don't match up. They don't have what it takes to beat the Lakers." I knew, deep down inside, that Rome was right. I wasn't without hope, but my expectations were realistic.
Still... not like this.
But what's done is done. Despite my plea, yes, in fact, exactly like this. And now it's over, and it's time to move on.
The 2009-2010 season was a special one for me. Oddly enough I actually missed the first game of the season, choosing instead to honor an ill-timed commitment to a group of new friends. Those people have since become much better friends and I'm actually glad I hung out with them that night. The Jazz lost badly to the Denver Nuggets. Lee texted me early on to tell me of an awesome jam by Memo (or could it have been Fes?) and I was bummed that I missed it. But after hearing of the final score I was confused... the Jazz are supposed to be great this season. How did they lose the opener to Denver? Denver's window is closed, right?
I mentioned that first game, hanging out with new friends. But from that point forward I was there every step of the way with my two best friends and Jazz viewing companions. Together we watched, I dunno, 80% of the games this season? I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. This season had some great moments. Some of the greatest in Jazz history, and they just wouldn't have been the same if I was only watching the nightly highlights or reading about the games in the paper. To me, the essence of the Jazz are Jerry Sloan, Ron Boone, and my crew. Wouldn't have it any other way.
What moments this season had!
- Eric Maynor and Wesley Matthews getting minutes early in the season - when the season looked like it may turn out to be a disaster - and showing that yes, those kids can play.
- Inexplicably, Eric Maynor was traded early in the season. I thought it was a joke at first. A prank. I was so angry. Devastated even. I considered boycotting the Jazz for the rest of the season. I felt betrayed. Worked out in the end, I suppose.
- Things turning around in December, the Jazz playing with fire, with passion, with fluid skill.
- Early on, they beat San Antonio. Then they beat San Antonio again. They beat San Antonio at home. They beat San Antonio FOUR TIMES.
- The green retro unis, debuting in an otherwise nondescript game against Indiana. Those uniforms. Oh those uniforms. When I see them I'm still stunned by their beauty, their classic simplicity. Those were easily the best uniforms in basketball this season.
- Phoenix is maybe the best team in the NBA at the moments, and they gave us a drubbing in the last regular season game that remains my personal worst live sporting experience of all time. But we had dramatic come from behind wins against them twice this season, wins that made you believe anything was possible.
- A late Sunday night, double-overtime win against the Trailblazers, another improbable come from behind win. The best game of the season, I dare say.
- Other great things about this season:
- Wesley Matthews, obviously.
- David Locke doing the radio play-by-play. He's not trying to fill Hot Rod's shoes, which is the wise move. He can make any game sound like a thriller, and maybe sometimes goes too far with the excitement but hey, it's radio. You gotta make it more exciting to make up for the lack of movin' pic-a-tures.
- speaking of, I listened to 1320 k-fan practically all day for the entire season. I'd turn it on in the morning at work and let it go all day long. 1320 has a really strong line-up right now.
- This season, more than any in recent memory, showed us why Jerry Sloan is a great coach. Suffer no delusions: he IS a great coach. Any of the tired old arguments against him don't mean a thing. "He doesn't play young players," "He doesn't let the team have fun," "He doesn't allow slam dunks," "He's never won a championship." The only one of those that's even true is the last one, but you know, a lot of great coaches and players have never won a championship. It's hard and rare to win a championship. That's why it's called a championship. There was a game where David Locke pointed to the players on the floor, during a game in which the Jazz were winning handily, and pointed out: "2nd round, 2nd round, 2nd round, undrafted, undrafted." Can you think of any other coach that could accomplish so much with that kind of roster?
- CJ Miles's tweets. I love this man. His twitter comments can sometimes be inexplicable, baffling, ridiculous, but more than anything they remind that he's a human, he's a kid, he's doing what he loves.
- Speaking of, CJ Miles played so well in the playoffs. His potential is finally becoming true skill. I'm proud of my boy.
- Gotta give a shout-out to number 1 Jazz fan and Sloan'd Blog's official mascot, Pail Millsap aka my brother Mikey. I enjoyed our late night Jazz talks, even when they went on for way to long. Follow him on twitter at @realmsampson.
- Seriously, those green uniforms.
- Oh yeah, this too.
This season I got more enjoyment out of the Jazz than I can ever remember. I cared more about the team than I ever have in my whole life (and I've always cared about the Jazz) and I suffered the heartache with the rest of you, but I'm glad I was there for it. I'm thankful for my Utah Jazz.
Now I'm exhausted. Wake me for the draft.