I guess this is what it felt like for Jekyll to have Hyde. That has been the story of the Utah Jazz this season. One night they look unstoppable, but on another night, they can be susceptible to losing to the Knicks.
Towards the beginning of the year, I really didn't believe that I would be able to sit on this emotional roller coaster with the team for an entire season. I couldn't take the getting excited followed by the drop off in enthusiasm and then the repeat. But lately, something has changed. There has been something different in the Jazz camp the past couple of weeks, a new virus or bug that seems to spreading.
When I stop and think about what it is, it makes me hope that this new specimen is actually a disease and not just some fickle, few week long infection. And that is because this new ingredient that seems to exist in Utah, at least for the time being, is actually a combination of two things, that although separate entities, seem to go hand in hand.
What are they, you ask?
The answer is simple, hustle, and defense.
Defense? The Jazz don't play defense, at least not since the days of Stockton and Malone! This is the cry that has long been echoed about the team over the last few years, but it now seems that the Jazz are finally willing to shut up the critics and fans, stop the talking, and do the playing.
With the exception of a lackluster performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the past few weeks, the Jazz have been incorporating these things more and more into the product that they are giving us on the court, and it seems to be working. Since starting off the season a disappointing 4-6, the Jazz have won six of their last seven, and look like a completely different team.
What is the reasoning for the new look though? Well, call me crazy, but I think that the two game absence of Deron Williams helped a lot. Now, I am not saying that he was a hindrance to the team at all, because he wasn't, but while he was out, it gave us, and coach Sloan, a chance to see what rookie point guard Eric Maynor could do. Virginia Commonwealth grad Maynor more than lived up to the expectations and delivered with his high energy style of play. His presence on the court has become infectious to all of the other players, even getting notorious defensive slouch Carlos Boozer to play some 'd.'
We can't forget about the undrafted rookie from Marquette, Wesley Mathews, either. He has also brought a lot of defensive energy to the floor which has, in turn, helped everyone else out on the defensive end.
These are obviously only some of the reasons for Utah's new found success, but if they continue to play at this level, the Jazz could be one of the scariest teams come later this season, especially with the soon anticipated returns of swingman C.J. Miles and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
This might very well be the first time I have ever prayed for someone to have a disease.