By Lorenzo Tanos
This shall be the second to the last of our series on NBA teams, and in here we take a look at the Utah Jazz, whose rather peculiar team name can be explained by the fact they started out in New Orleans in 1974. The team shall be playing its 40th season in 2013-14, and while they got left out of the playoff hunt in 2012-13, a return to the postseason shouldn't be farfetched provided the Jazz make the right moves.
1. How many future Hall of Famers did the New Orleans Jazz select in the 1974 Expansion Draft?
Only one, and his name wasn't Pete Maravich – the Pistol was acquired via trade prior to the 1974-75 season in exchange for a plethora of veterans and future draft picks, but was not among those picked in the 1974 Expansion Draft. Walt Bellamy, the 1961-62 NBA Rookie of the Year and at the tail-end of his brilliant, yet inconsistent career, played just one game for the Jazz in 1974-75, his final season in the league. The center spot was then filled by the likes of journeymen Mel Counts, Neal Walk, and later on, Otto Moore.
2. What was the Jazz's best record in the Pete Maravich era?
With Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor as head coach, the Jazz went 39-43 in 1977-78 and came quite close to making the 1978 Playoffs. At that time, Maravich (27 ppg, 6.7 apg) was ably assisted by power forward Truck Robinson (22.7 ppg, 15.7 rpg) and young center Rich Kelley (10.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg), but the team also had an aging Gail Goodrich and not much else aside from those guys. Also contributing to the underwhelming performance was the fact that Maravich played just 50 games due to injury.
3. And what season marked the Jazz's first in the Playoffs?
As of 1983-84, the Jazz were still two years away from Karl Malone's debut, but the team had some phenomenal scoring talent in the form of small forward Adrian Dantley (30.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg), a top-flight backcourt featuring Darrell Griffith and Rickey Green, defensive-oriented 7'4” giant Mark Eaton at center and super sixth man John Drew (17.7 ppg in just 22.2 mpg). Frank Layden would also win Coach of the Year as the Jazz went 45-37 in 1983-84 and onto the Western Conference Semifinals, where they lost against the Phoenix Suns.
4. True or False – Karl Malone and John Stockton were immediate starters for the Jazz as rookies.
False. Malone started off the 1985-86 season with eight points off the bench, as Thurl Bailey was currently Utah's starting power forward. And John Stockton, then in his second year, wasn't a starter either – yes, he was posting huge assist numbers off the bench, but it would only be in 1987-88 when he would take over the starting point guard job from Rickey Green. The rest, as they say, is history.
5. True or False – The Jazz made the postseason every year in the '90s without any exception.
True. The Jazz were indeed postseason staples in the ‘90s, making the Playoffs without fail behind the Stockton-to-Malone combo and head coach Jerry Sloan. Utah's best season ever came in 1996-97, when they finished 64-18 with a lineup that featured Stockton, Malone, Jeff Hornacek and the defensive-oriented small forward platoon of Bryon Russell and Shandon Anderson. Oh, and they also had Greg Ostertag at center – he was capable, but far from being the next Mark Eaton.
6. With John Stockton retired and Karl Malone with the Lakers, who was the Jazz's top scorer in their "rebuilding" 2003-04 season?
The Jazz missed the Playoffs for the first time in 21 years in 2003-04 despite finishing 42-40. Yet that was actually considered an accomplishment considering their sheer lack of star power. Only Andrei Kirilenko (16.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.1apg, 1.9 spg, 2.8 bpg) could be considered a star, as he was joined in the starting lineup by DeShawn Stevenson (still more of an inside player instead of the threes-and-defense guy he is now), Ostertag, Matt Harpring and Carlos Arroyo. Not necessarily the team you'd expect to see in the postseason.
7. And how many consecutive years did the Jazz miss the Playoffs immediately following Stockton's retirement?
Three years. The Jazz went 42-40, 26-56 and 41-41 respectively in 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06.
8. What was the Jazz's home record in the 2007-08 NBA season?
The Jazz were nearly unbeatable at home in 2007-08, going 37-4 at the EnergySolutions Arena, yet faltered on the road, where they finished with a mere 17-27 record. Still, it was quite a successful season by recent standards, as the Jazz continued relying on Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer as their point guard-power forward combo.
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