It’s one thing to have a goal to win an NBA championship, it’s another to make it an intention.
That’s exactly what the Jazz have done in recent years, with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and others fully aboard, not just transitioning from the former to the latter, but openly talking about it. Past majority owner Gail Miller embraced that approach, as will current majority owner Ryan Smith, as has vice president of basketball ops Dennis Lindsey.
They haven’t whispered it, they’ve shouted it.
Whether that sounds like a call of desperation — a pipe dream, like a marketing tool to keep fans interested, to keep them spinning the turnstiles and buying gear and watching on television — to those who have waited 40-plus years to see it happen here in Utah, or it seems like something that could actually be realized is up to those doing the interpreting.
Everybody remembers, at least those old enough to have enjoyed/suffered through the interim, the seasons when winning it all was an authentic possibility for the Jazz, back when Karl Malone and John Stockton were plying their trades, making it to the NBA Finals, but that was a couple of decades ago.
Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer had their lesser shot some 13 seasons back, but those chances were less of the genuine article, more of a if-every-planet-in-the-freaking-universe-along-with-the-moon-and-Mother-Earth-and-the-sun-aligned kind of scenario.
It could happen, but it wasn’t going to happen.
The NBA is a tough league to crack-and-conquer, one of the toughest in all of sports. Over the past 15 years in Major League Baseball, there have been title winners from 10 franchises. In the NFL, there have been 11. In the NHL, 11.
In the NBA, there have been just eight. And if you look further back through the history books, the winning and the winnowing have been even more exclusive.
There are all kinds of reasons for that. And that’s a discussion for another day.
The matter at hand here is: Can it happen in Utah?
More to the point: Can it happen in Utah this year?
To answer that question, let’s turn to those who know all — the Vegas betting wizards. At this writing, the Jazz have been elevated to the favorite to win the Western Conference playoffs. That’s right, they are the frontrunner in the West to make the NBA Finals. And the only team that has better odds of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy is Brooklyn.
There are skeptics out there, as there have been for a long, long time.
But Mitchell and Gobert, among other Jazz players, are believers, so many of them having said so, at one time or another.
“You prove something by winning championships,” Gobert said. “Why not here? It’s on us, being who we are.”
“My expectation is to go out and take it all,” Georges Niang said. “We want to make it to the Finals, and win.”
“The biggest thing, it’s about winning,” Mitchell said. “Winning a championship.”
And then, there’s this from the individual who paid for everything the Jazz now are and have done to make their intention 100 percent real.
“You play to win the game,” said Gail Miller. “You play to win a championship.”
She added: “I think we’ve built up to it, we understand what it takes, we’ve put everything in place for it, we’ve given them all the tools they need, brought in the players who I think can do it. There’s no reason why we can’t have that expectation.”
To be clear, you think the Jazz can win an NBA title?
“Absolutely,” she said.
Nobody’s planning a parade at this juncture, not with so many hurdles and so much history to overcome. Goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: There’s a whole stack of work to be done and good fortune to have before such a thing could happen, but there are other favorable circumstances flowing the Jazz’s way.
The road through the playoffs in the West looks a bit meandering but wide open, still, the Jazz as dominant as any other outfit. Are they good enough to win it all?
Are they great?”
But they did finish the regular season with the NBA’s best record. They were a top five-rated offense and defense, the only team in the league to do so. They have a collection of shooters that compliment Gobert’s presence at the rim, and three players who can play-make and create their own shots, complicating shifting defenses attempting to jam all of the above.
There’s no prediction here.
The point is that the Jazz seem to have set a prediction in their own minds, an expectation of reach and of work, not a boast or an assumption, regarding an achievement that has never happened here, not in those four decades of watching and waiting … and waiting … and waiting … and waiting.
If it happens, the Jazz will have earned it. If it doesn’t, they will not.
“Good intentions are not enough,” the poet said. “They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet.”
No, for and by themselves, only the Jazz can do that.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.