As most of those who know this writer would attest, the Utah Jazz are one of the National Basketball Association teams I take fancy to for much of the 20 or so years I have been a fan of the league.
From the John Stockton and Karl Malone-led Jazz teams of the 1990s to the Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer days in the mid- to late-2000s to now when the team is virtually a “United Nations” lot with a number of international players, the Jazz have been one of the teams that never fail to get my nod to follow every season.
While others, quite understandably, are staunch supporters of the Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets and Celtics, and the other top-echelon teams right now, the Jazz have me as a fan.
Maybe it is because of the “low-key” aura, vis-à-vis the other teams, that the team exudes throughout the years or maybe their style of play of just going all-out each time even when the odds were against them. The Jazz just have a captive supporter in me.
In the ongoing season, my admiration for the Jazz team was further fueled by the way they handled themselves.
When All-Star forward Gordon Hayward left the team for Boston in the offseason, a lot of cloud of uncertainty hovered over it.
And sure enough Utah had it rough at the start of the season, no thanks as well to injuries to some of its key cogs.
But as the tournament progressed, the Jazz started to come along in their familiar grit and determination-induced thrust.
As of this writing, Utah (47-33) is already assured of a playoff spot, and could potentially wound in the top four in the very tough Western Conference and earn a homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Not bad for a team sans any All-Star player and was ruled out as a playoff-bound team at season’s start.
Credit definitely must be given to coach Quin Snyder for making the Jazz team click. He has crafted a system that makes full use of the personnel he has and everyone buys in.
There are still loopholes here and there in their attack but these are being compensated for by the willingness of the players to make things happen, particularly on the defensive end where the Jazz have earned their mark under Snyder.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell, too, has been a great add-on to the squad and has made a strong case for himself as the next cornerstone of the team.
He is leading the squad in scoring (20.5 points) to complement the defense of center Rudy Gobert and the floor general play of Ricky Rubio to give the Jazz balance.
In between you have guys like Jae Crowder, Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles who are very comfortable of the roles they have in the team and, more importantly, delivering.
Now in the playoffs, the verdict is still out on how far the Jazz would go. But throughout the season they have shown able capacity to overcome odds and I would not be surprised if they continue to do so in the postseason.
But at any rate, the Jazz, for all they embody as a group, have a firm supporter in this space.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.