You Don’t Actually Have to Feel Bad for Jazz Fans

A really weird low-quality image of Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder.

Stop pretending like we have to feel bad for Jazz fans because Gordon Hayward left.

The Jazz didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t screw up and drive him out of town like the Cavs did to LeBron. They didn’t even get historically unlucky like the Thunder did. They built a really good team in a reasonable amount of time, and they did it in the “right” way, though I reject the idea that there is a morally right and wrong way to build a good team.

It’s a shame Hayward decided to leave. It’s a shame his college coach happens to be in charge of the second or third best team in the miserably weak Eastern Conference. It’s a shame the Warriors exist.

Ever since The Decision, when everyone decided to hate LeBron because of some toxic combination of racism, boredom, and disappointment, we have acted like fans abandoned by their best player deserve some sort of legitimate sympathy just because they get all bent out of shape and burn jerseys and overreact and shit. It’s dumb.

I feel bad for kids who get obsessed with a player on their favorite team only to see them bail, because I know what that is like and it sucks. Kids don’t understand context and probably don’t fully understand that their favorite athletes are real people who have lives off of the court or field or ice or the pitch or whatever. Adults should be able to understand that and put it in perspective.

Here’s some reasons why I don’t feel bad about your favorite player leaving you and why you should get over it.

It’s Just Sports

Anybody who knows me knows that I get way too emotionally invested in sports. If I listed the top ten moments of my life, around six of them are sports-related. Probably the same for my top ten worst moments.

I have embarrassed myself, alienated people, and genuinely harmed myself during sporting events. It’s part of the culture. After the Warriors blew a 3–1 lead in the most embarrassing and shameful collapse in the history of sports, I went into an existential depression for somewhere between two weeks and six months.

But I didn’t expect people to feel sympathy for me. Because it’s just sports. It’s stupid, and I’m stupid for caring so much about it. It’s no different for Jazz fans, Thunder fans, Cavs fans(2010), or Cavs fans(2018). I won’t expect you to be happy about your favorite player leaving, but you can’t expect me to actually care.

Gordon Hayward Never Chose to Play for the Jazz

The draft is a broken and unfair system that is meant to benefit a group that is perceived to be powerless — owners of small market teams — but ultimately only hurts players. As we know, all NBA owners are scumbags, and the league and the world will always be better when the players have the power.

If owners of small market teams want to compete with big market teams, they can spend the money. If they don’t, they can sell the team, or just continue making the profit they will always make as long as they run the team with at least semi-competence.

Gordon Hayward didn’t choose to play for the Jazz, and therefore he owes them nothing — despite any embarrassing opinions to the contrary. The Jazz didn’t do shit for Hayward. They attempted to put him in the best basketball situation possible and I’m sure they did a lot of stuff to help him develop into the excellent NBA talent he is today…. Because that directly leads to more profit for them. It wasn’t charitable. It was business.

We have no idea if Hayward ever wanted to play for the Jazz. He played out his rookie contract, signed an offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets, then was forced to return to the Jazz due to the rules of restricted free agency. NBA contracts are designed to essentially force you to play for the team that drafted you for eight years, unless you’re willing to take on significant financial risk.

Hayward served his time in Utah. If he didn’t want to be there, it never showed. He did everything he could for the franchise who had no right to him and for the fans who he owed nothing. The same thing goes for LeBron James(2010), Kevin Durant, and LeBron James(2018).

There was even a time this season when I thought Steph Curry was going to leave in free agency for Charlotte, the team he grew up watching his dad play for. It wasn’t based on anything, to be honest — it was just a gut feeling. I was really happy to be wrong! But I also would have been happy for him if he made that decision.

It’s important to remember that the Jazz or the Warriors or the Thunder are just some team you chose to root for, whether it’s because you live near them, your dad likes them, or because you liked the color of their jerseys as a kid — it was just a choice. For these guys, this is their actual life. If Steph wants to play in Charlotte, that’s where he belongs. Gordon wants to play in Boston, so he’s there now. These guys’ lives are a lot more real than our fandom, and even though they’re very well-paid, the system is still set up to screw them. So in the rare times they can take control, that’s what they should do.

The Jazz Are Going to be Fine!

Okay, negativity time is over. If you are a Jazz fan and you made it through my lecture, I will now reward you with this.

The Jazz are in good shape! They aren’t the Thunder — I don’t expect a Rudy Gobert revenge tour that ends with him winning MVP this year — but they’re definitely closer to Thunder(2016) than they are to the Cavs(2010), or the Cavs(2018).

They have a great front office, a really good coach, and a decent roster! They’re going to remain a top-ten defense next year, and have a lot of young interesting talent, and flexibility. They aren’t going to win a championship this decade, but they weren’t going to if Hayward stayed either, so that’s okay.

They might miss the playoffs this year. The Western Conference is tough. There are four teams that are a lock to make the playoffs, five if the Grizzlies re-sign Jamychal Green, and then the Jazz will be dueling it out with the Clippers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Mavericks for three or four playoff spots. I think they have a pretty good shot at being better than two of those teams, which doesn’t look good for them.

But they’re built to last. They’ve got a core of seven young dudes that they can keep for the next few years if they want to. But they’re also ready to plug in a high-scoring wing if they want to return to somewhere near the level they were at last year as soon as possible. Because Carmelo Anthony would never agree to this:

I have put together the trade the Jazz need to make at the deadline in order to put their squad right back on track. You’re welcome. Here we go:

The Jazz would include a top-ten protected 2018 first round pick, and the teams would swap first round picks in 2020 so whichever team gets the short end of the stick injury-wise can get a little relief. This is also based on Jabari playing at a high-level for the first half of next year and looking like he is healthy. That’s the key really.

The Bucks would throw a 2019 second rounder in here, and we would keep the 2020 pick swap just because I like the sound of it.

Jabari was good in the 51 games he played last year, and showed the potential to get better. But he is an awful fit with Giannis: the Bucks had a minus-2.5 net rating with Jabari on the court, compared to a plus-1.6 when he was on the bench. He does a lot of the things the Jazz need now that Hayward has fled, and a lot of the things he does are useless to the Bucks because they already have Giannis.

Overall, the Jazz have a bright future. Their elite defense should keep them right in the mix for the eighth seed this year, with the potential to get better soon.

My advice to Jazz fans: Do Not Despair, Just Enjoy Gobert.