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News » Monson: Jazz now an afterthought in division race


Monson: Jazz now an afterthought in division race


Monson: Jazz now an afterthought in division race
Troubled as this season has been for the Jazz, vexed by injuries and stupid statements made by a star player and a losing record on the road and already four losses at home, the same total as they lost at EnergySolutions all of last year, now comes another ignominy.

They are in third place in the Northwest Division, which is a little like being in third place in the Shamrock Meats Industrial League.

The Northwest Division is the Western Conference's Poor Boy Division, rounded out by the T-wolves and the Thunder, who have just a handful of wins between them. As the Eagles sang it, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

What a nice surprise, bring your alibis.

It was a realm the Jazz were supposed to dominate this season, all to their benefit in positioning for the playoffs. Everybody picked them to win it -- by a mile. By a mile high over Denver. And by a decent margin over a young Portland team that is on the rise, but presumably not yet ready to present a major challenge.

Not that taking the division would guarantee anything.

Look at the Southwest and the Pacific.

The Southwest has the Spurs, the Hornets, the improved Rockets, and the Mavericks. That's a fantastic four. The Pacific has the Lakers and the Suns.

Beating out either of those groups puts a division champ squarely in the race for an NBA title.

Winning the Northwest is a nice little bennie that's good for who it's for.

The problem is, the Jazz might not even do that, not if they don't find a way to overcome their difficulties and regain the form that placed them atop their division the past two seasons. It never made the NBA Finals a sure shot, but it was at least something on which to hang a hat, a small pack of prosperity to pat when the season ended.

As it is now, the Jazz have nothing but a lampshade on their head, and their pants around their ankles.

Injuries have slapped them silly. Carlos Boozer's ongoing saga will not end. His knee will supposedly undergo an MRI, oh, who knows, maybe a week or two or three from Monday or Wednesday or Friday. We've all lost count. Sometimes, you can't help but wonder if the MRI should be done on his heart, not his knee. Certainly not on his wallet, because that's one thing that everybody knows, no matter what, is healthy, and bound to get healthier.

The notion of Boozer getting an MRI on his heart is reminiscent of the old quote by Dizzy Dean: "They x-rayed my head, and found nothing."

Meanwhile the Nuggets and Blazers are making hay.

Denver was boosted in double-dose by acquiring Chauncey Billups and unloading Allen Iverson. That has helped them float to the top of the Northwest. Portland has a load of yet-to-be-fully-refined talent, led by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as Greg Oden, who has, at times, struggled as he's taken his NBA graduate-school lessons.

It was notable the other day, when the Blazers played the Nuggets in the second of consecutive home-and-home games, splitting them, the intensity and the significance the players put on the mini-series.

Following a Blazers win in Game 2, Joel Przybilla said the following: "After last night, where they kind of took it to us and beat us up, this is a really big win for us. We're going to be battling with this team all season for the division."

The Jazz have to love that.

A division, such as it is, that they've owned the past two years is now going to be sliced and diced and divvied up between Portland and Denver.

That's ignominy.

"We knew these two games would be playoff-type games," said Billups. "They cracked up to be just that."

It is left to the Jazz, then, to boil up their own playoff intensity, and to see if they can make it a table for three. Or, the way they want it, a table for one.

The Northwest may not be the best table in the joint, but running it has been the Jazz's call in trips to the Western Conference finals two postseasons back and into the second round last year. If they don't win it this season, the outlook for the playoffs is dim and grim.

If you can't win the Shamrock Meats League, no way you're going to beat the Lakers or Spurs.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Monson and Graham Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at gmonson@sltrib.com


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 28, 2008

 

 
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