|2011-12 NBA Regular Season|
|January 2nd, 2011
|Energy Solutions Arena
|8:00 PM CST|
TV: CST, NBATV
|Trevor Ariza||>||Raja Bell
Your Pregame Moment of Zen
It's sobering to think back on the rivalry these two teams shared for the second half of the 2000s, a rivalry that started and ended at the point guard position. Utah drafted Deron Williams #3 overall in the 2005 NBA draft, mistakenly believing his size would give him the advantage over Chris Paul; New Orleans, of course, took Paul at #4, and CP3 went on to be the better player, forging a Hall of Fame path in his six years with the Hornets. But Utah consistently surrounded Williams with superior (and healthier) players, and it led to Williams' Jazz routinely dominating Paul's Hornets.
Thinking back on it now, I don't think there was a team I looked forward to facing less during Paul's heyday. The skill of Williams and Boozer, the shooting of Korver and Okur, the overall discipline of a Jerry Sloan coached team.. those were teams that honestly could have had more success than they ultimately achieved (Williams did indeed have a couple +6 teams in his time in Utah).
That the two teams are still closely linked now, in their respective post-Deron and post-CP3 eras, is no surprise. Utah pre-emptively moved Williams for a fantastic package to the New Jersey Nets, receiving Devin Harris, Derrick Favors (the 3rd pick of the '10 draft), the 3rd pick of the '11 draft (used on Enes Kanter), and a top-7 protected pick in the 2012 draft belonging to Golden State (one which they have a decent shot at receiving in a loaded draft). There's no player on the immediate verge of stardom like the Hornets got back in Eric Gordon, but Favors, at just age 20, projects to be one of the brightest front court players in years. He's outstanding. Add in Kanter and two possible lottery picks in the '12 draft (Golden State's and their own), and it's clearly the better package.
This isn't to say one GM did a better job than the other; the circumstances surrounding Paul and Williams were a bit different obviously. But Utah wrote the book on handling superstar (or in Williams' case, borderline superstar) departure, and because of it, they're set up for a damn bright future.
For now, Utah projects to be a lottery team, much like the Hornets. But that said, they've definitely got the stronger roster. Al Jefferson returned from injury on Saturday to start at center, Devin Harris, for all the critiques he's attracted in recent eyars, is definitely better than Jarrett Jack, Paul Millsap had an All-Star-level season a year ago, and Gordon Hayward's an interesting, athletic piece on the wing.
Basically, Utah is us, with more future assets and more assets in the present.
The last time we played the Jazz also happened to coincide with the above video and the last time we saw David West wear the creole blue. So tonight's going to be real bittersweet, regardless of how the game actually goes. The opposition for tonight can be found at SLC Dunk. Be nice to each other.
And Go Hornets.