In a season full of injuries and turmoil, the Utah Jazz finished the 2008-09 season with a loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers. While there is no shame in losing to the world champions, the Jazz shouldn’t have been forced into a battle with Kobe and the bunch until much later in the post season. However, due to injuries plaguing nearly every player donning a Jazz jersey, Utah limped down the stretch of the season finishing in the eighth spot, setting up a match with the unbeatable Lakers.
So, who’s to blame for a season that didn’t end as planned? The scapegoat is easily Carlos Boozer, right? Deron Williams was still on the shelf suffering from a severely sprained ankle and Boozer added insult to injury nursing a hurt knee. In Williams’ absence, Boozer was a double-double machine, keeping Utah afloat until the star point guard could return to action.
But the success of Boozer would be short-lived. Several games into the season, the star forward went down with a knee injury that would sideline him for much of the season. Mehmet Okur missed a road trip to attend to family business in Turkey and the Jazz began to lose – a lot. Constantly hovering near the bottom of the Western Conference, the Jazz appeared to be heading for the eventual demise they most certainly would face against L.A.
Then there was a glimmer of hope. Boozer began to recover, Paul Millsap continued his high level of play and D-Will continued to play like an All Star. The Jazz rattled off a long winning streak and even briefly moved ahead of the Nuggets for first place in the division. That glimmer of hope, however, took an inexplicable turn for the worse. The losses again began to mount. Gradually the Jazz began to slip and, though their lineup remained healthy, they appeared to be headed for a breakdown.
Rumors of lost team chemistry spread throughout the airwaves and through the print media. Millsap had proven worthy to take the role as starting power forward. Boozer, who seemed to alienate himself down the stretch, opted back into his contract, putting pressure on Utah’s payroll.
With the estranged Boozer back in Utah’s lineup, Millsap chomping at the bit after signing a new contract with the club and the team chemistry question still up in the air, the Jazz are back on the court with the new season just around the corner.
For Jazz fans, the major concern will be finding out which team will show up on game day. The bickering bunch that suffered through last season, or the team led by Williams and Boozer that went to the Western Conference Finals several years ago. The soap opera will continue to unfold as the season progresses, and for Utah fans, hopefully it will result in a playoff run.