This week is my son’s second birthday which means I was running around doing the last honey-dos to prepare for the big day. These errands brought me to Walmart. Hate it or love it, Walmart is close, convenient, and cheap. With those three qualities Walmart attracts some interesting people as many of you may know.
Well, as I was walking to the various areas of Walmart I was in a deep thought of the Utah Jazz, their home winning streak and the role of Raja Bell on the team. When heading to the office supplies section I turned a corner and saw one of the famous people of Walmart. I quickly learned how the people of Walmart and my deep thoughts of basketball could lead me to an epiphany.
As I turned that corner, my mind went to pickup basketball. I am sure many of you may still play or have played at one time pickup basketball. I personally still play basketball as much as my schedule allows. At the gym where I play there is always the few days where this guy (See picture) shows up (Maybe not this guy exactly, but you get the idea.). No matter how he looks you know this guy. He is some dude that doesn’t really fit. He has all this gear and acts like he has mad skills. Then he begins to play. This guy actually has some game called defense. He can hustle and play defense against people he has no reason to be playing defense against (This may or may not include a dose of heavy fouling). It is a sight to see but some how he stops these far superior players. However, his defense never leads to a winning team.
Have you heard the saying of defense winning championships? Well, in this situation defense doesn’t lead to a winning record. There is one massive flaw with having that guy on your team. He has no offensive game. His own team is afraid to pass it to him. The game might be 5-on-5 at the defensive end where that guy has some value, but on offense it is 5-on-4. That disadvantage leads to a formula of losing. Sure, the team with that guy might win a few, like a 3 game win streak at home, but in the end they do not have a winning record.
So how do the people of Walmart and pickup basketball lead to the Utah Jazz? One player, Raja Bell. Raja Bell unfortunately is playing the role of that guy. He is a defensive player. Coach Corbin said to the Salt Lake Tribune, “I thought he did a great job last night, especially on the defensive end of the floor.” Coach Corbin was referring to the Jazz game against Milwaukee on Tuesday night. In that game Bell shot 25% from the field. In the last five games, Raja has shot 18.8% from the field. Unfortunately, Raja Bell has turned into that guy, except Bell looks sharp with the Jazz colors on.
There is one thing that Raja Bell has and can provide to this young basketball team to lead them to a bright future Jazz team. He has an attribute that the guy in the pickup game doesn’t have. He’s a savvy veteran. All the Jazz fans that are in arms about Bell’s continued playing time are quick to forget that this is the guy who clotheslined Kobe Bryant who, last time I checked, Jazz fans hated. This is a guy who knows what toughness and hustle are. This is a guy who knows what Jazz basketball is.
I know it may be painful to watch Bell shoot it right now. It is reminiscent of the years where Jazz fans grimaced every time Andrei Kirilenko let it fly when it was any shot further than a layup. However, if these young players learn toughness and defense from Raja by watching/playing with him for 18.5 minutes a night, aren’t the Jazz better off?
The thing is the people of Walmart are not going to change. They are still going to wear some of the most ridiculous outfits for the entertainment of all. That guy playing pickup basketball, unless there is a miracle, is not going to change. But, what will happen to Raja Bell? He will be the same quality of shooter he has been his whole career. This season he will average around 37.5% from the 3 point line and around 43% from the field. If he can teach the youth of the Jazz what Jazz basketball has been all about. Then I am willing to ride out the low.
You can follow Grant on twitter @GrantTBS
Editors note: This piece was written before Bell’s outstanding defense against Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors, Saturday, January 7. Post was delayed by me for editing reasons.