After joking that D-Will pulled an MJ/Magic/LeBron by running his coach out of the job like an epic superstar does has come the real inner conflict of my honest feelings toward him. Fans with whom I've spoken pretty much sympathize with this (h/t: Matt McHale):
It's not Bulls and my second post on the matter, but with two days of no Bulls games and being a highly emotional person (yes, emotional people can be stat geeks, too.), there's just too much to get off my chest regarding a couple of events in the NBA on Thursday that were near to my heart.
The NBA world of fans and media will never know all of the significant nuances of the conflict between Jerry Sloan and players on the current Jazz roster. Sloan resigned yesterday after what might be overblown as a "blowup" in the locker room with Deron Williams during halftime of the their Wednesday loss to the Bulls that nearly regressed to Neanderthal degrees of physicality.
I say overblown not in that I question the reports of what happened at halftime, but the degree of significance given to the 'final straw' narrative. I could be wrong, but it deserves scrutiny, nonetheless.
Point guards and coaches getting into heated arguments is almost axiomatic in basketball. The earliest conflict that shocked me was recently reading of Red Auerbach not wanting or ever liking Bob Cousy in The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History. Let's get this out of the way: there's nothing "new school" about a point guard going rogue and mouthing off with coaches.
Let's also get this out of the way: I'm a huge fan of Sloan and D-Will, so I'm making a concerted effort to separate facts of the situations from hyperbole. This is no easy task as a fan watching and reading about a situation about human conflict over their professional and personal relationship. Journalists are limited to admit this conflict because they have to maintain extreme standards of integrity and objectivity.
Adrian Wojnarowski probably wrote the most enlightening piece on the ordeal at Yahoo! Sports on Friday. I suggest reading the whole article. I'm only cherry-picking this excerpt because it helped to bring my emotional state back to a point where I could look at this situation fairly:
"The player isn't always wrong," one respected GM said Thursday.
No one wants to hear that with Sloan, one of the greatest ever, but
no one thinks stars are dying to play for him anymore. Everyone
respects, admires Sloan, and has a hard time thinking about an NBA
without him. Yet, it is hard to coach without a partnership with your
best players, and Sloan hasn't had that in a long, long time. Everyone
can make Williams the scapegoat because of some ideal that Sloan
represents - and he does represent the best ideals of basketball.
Everyone starts with the inmates-run-the-asylum hysteria now, but the
players aren't prisoners, the coaches aren't wardens and the
relationships between Sloan and his stars have always been complex.
Sloan never changed, but the times did. Players are different now. Maybe
he isn't, but coaches and general managers are different too. Values
have changed. Blame the players all you want, but there's as much
petulance and selfishness in the coaching profession as there is in the
Sloan was always insulated, and never had to deal with the realities
that coaches do. He didn't take the calls of player agents or take
meetings with them. He always had the support of late owner Larry
Miller, but Miller's son, Greg, has never had the passion for basketball
his father did. Larry could get between Malone and Sloan, get things
Williams' frustration has been with management and the coach. Lately,
he's watched more talent leave than talent arrive. He has tremendous
character, a will to win that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Sloan.
He's one of the two or three best point guards in the world, and he had
an idea of expanding the playbook, making the rotations less predictable
and never could make that resonate with Sloan.
I'm still conflicted, but my knee-jerk reaction to turn my love for D-Will into hate was halted by a lot of these points as I had discussions with people at the local dive over a beer. I wasn't playing devil's advocate with people deifying Sloan and demonizing Williams. It was hearing this false dichotomy out of others' mouths with such passion that made me realize how ridiculous it is and Wojnarowski articulated some of the points I was making in a much better way without hyperbole.
What I cannot shake is the feeling that D-Will's days in Utah are numbered. Chicago people love Sloan and I don't think it's a microcosm of the love in Salt Lake City; it made me wonder exactly how nasty the hate for Williams will grow.
What's most difficult when I get objective wit' it is the realization that this was a lose-lose for the Jazz organization.
This close to the trade deadline, putting Williams on the block will result in a bidding war, but with other organizations all looking to steal him. Then, the Jazz suck for the rest of the year and Sloan likely doesn't return next season.
Accept Sloan's resignation over trading Williams and the fans run Williams out of town some time between the offseason of 2011 and that of 2012.
On another note: I have no mixed feelings on one of my favorite players ever taking the all-time three-point record from one of my most-hated players on Thursday. Ray Allen entered the Celtics matchup with 2,559 career three-pointers, one behind Reggie Miller's then-record 2,560. Allen needed two to break it and hit them both in five tries in the first quarter:
Unfortunately, I could have this great moment of my 20-plus-year history as a basketball negate my sadness of Sloan being gone because the damn Lakers won the game because the Celtics decided to use Don Nelson's defensive playbook. And to ice the game, Kobe Bryant -- another man I loathe -- took his jealousy out on Allen. He went out of his way to wave off the play, isolate one of my heroes, and straight-up make the hero of the night look silly at the TD Garden and steal the show:
Kobe takes a lot of pride in his shooting and the long-time response to Kobe fans arguing he's better than LeBron because he's a better shooter has been: "Well, yeah, but he's no Ray Allen."
That said, if you put money on the Lakers crashing and burning in the playoffs and Kobe's downswing carrying a large significance, those corssovers have to scare the crap out of you.
After a long, emotional day as a basketball fan, I decided to end my basketball portion of Thursday with this: