Utah Jazz: Go out there and act like you own it

Jeff Swinger / USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Swinger / USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, you need a wily experienced individual to come in and teach you to take what is rightfully yours. It’s not that you didn’t have the cajones to do it before. You can be damn sure it isn’t because you don’t have the talent, abilities or presence of mind to do so.

You know your craft. You’ve developed, honed your skills and worked yourself hard enough to make do with what you have. Quite frankly, it just hasn’t been enough.

Along comes a journeyman who’s been there. He’s learned to assert his craft in a way that has earned him respect and success. He’s here, not to steal the spotlight or hold you back. No, he’s here to slap you on the back, point and tell you to step out there and own it. Own it. Take what’s rightfully yours and don’t back down from anyone who challenges you for it.

Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and others have honed their skills. They’ve worked hard and fought hard to defend their craft.

Then Dennis Lindsey, the ever creative maestro, orchestrated key moves to bring in the journeymen. George Hill, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson arrived on scene. They didn’t come to take charge of a young Utah Jazz squad and make it their own. Nor did they arrive to assert themselves as self-proclaimed leaders or saviors.

The wily veterans arrived and simply looked on the young leaders and urged them to take what belongs to them.

Jan 5, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Utah Jazz forward Joe Johnson (6) fends off Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) in the first half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Johnson, in a recent postgame interview, remarked about how confident he was they’d win the game, even though they had trailed early.

“I remember when we were down by double digits, I turned to Shelvin [Mack] on the bench and told him that we were going to win,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know how we were going to win. I didn’t know what manner, but I always thought we were going to be fine.” – Joe Johnson

Call it confidence or swagger. Either way, it’s rubbing off on other players. Whether a 15 time NBA All-Star, NBA champion or a perennial playoff player, the veterans have influential power.

The Jazz have found themselves in deficits at times in recent games. Each time, they’ve forged on with patience and perseverance. They’ve weathered the storms of adversity and calmly taken control when the game is on the line. That’s due, in large part, to the veteran additions.

They don’t panic. There’s no need to. They play with a sense of urgency, purpose and focus without apprehension. They portray moxie and savvy.

When the game is on the line, Rudy steps up to block a shot or Joe Ingles jumps a passing lane and drives the length of the floor for an uncontested layup. No lead is insurmountable. At least that appears to be the attitude on display. So far, it’s working. They continue to ride the wave of confidence.

Sure, there have been losses, some that shouldn’t have happened. However, every team deals with those same losses. It’s the NBA, a league of really good professional ball players. Those really good players know how to win games too. As the saying goes – you can’t win them all. But you can win consistently.

They’ve won in the face of adversity. When moments come that are likely to break the confidence of a young inexperienced team, they have found ways to gut out a win.

20 November 2016: Utah Jazz center Boris Diaw (33) talks to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the Denver Nuggets 105-91 victory over the Utah Jazz, at the Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado, USA.

That is what veteran additions can do. That’s why Johnson, Hill and Diaw are here. They didn’t come to steal the spotlight from Hayward or Gobert. They didn’t come to assert themselves as kings of the mountain. Their ship has already sailed. They’ve been there and back. They’ve already had their shining moment.

No, their job is simple. Teach the young stars to step onto the court like they own it. They teach the power of assertive force. They are teaching the young stars to make the rest of the NBA take notice. Take note and make room.

Own it. That’s exactly what the Utah Jazz are doing.

 

About the author

Alan "Jedi" Zaugg

Alan “Jedi” Zaugg is managing editor of TornBySports and host of the Jedi & Jerms podcast. He’s an avid NBA fan and basketball junkie and passionate sports enthusiast. He enjoys writing and illustrating. He hosts a Star Wars podcast and writes for The Cantina Cast in addition to a myriad of other projects. He also writes fantasy and science fiction in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter: @jedizaugg

  • John Jenkins

    Alan, fun and insightful article. Loved how you have given felling to how the veterans have contributed to the x’s and o’s. But often it is how together a team is, how the team integrate the individuals into the Whole. This is why I watch sports to see a group play the game the right way.

    • Thank you, as always, John. It definitely has been fun to watch. The team gels so well and the chemistry is crazy good.