The End Of The Diet Jordan Era

Yesterday I experienced a joy from an NBA game that I had not felt since seeing Paul Millsap drop 46 points on the Miami Heat In November.  I watched Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers get torched by the Dallas Mavericks, effectively ending the Kobe Bryant, a/k/a Diet Jordan, era in the NBA.  The first joy was in seeing the Lakers lose badly.  If we cannot see video of Seal Team 6 invading Bin Laden’s compound, then I suppose seeing Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovich and Dirk Nowitzki (“an international coalition of the willing” if you will) destroy Kobe and Company is a good second best.  But the other part of the defeat that was so great was seeing the increasingly dirty and frustrated play of the Lakers as the game wound down.  First was Lamar Odom’s cheap shot on Dirk Nowitzki, a clear boiling over of the frustration of being the third Laker married to the third Kardashian (oddly, psychologists say that bronze medalists are often happier than silver medalists, but that wannabe Christian Bale, Scott, who is married to Kourtney, seems happier than Lamar).  Then there was Andrew Bynum’s mid air takedown of JJ Barea that will earn Bynum a suspension next season and a prescription of P90X, based on his jersey removal while leaving the court.  I was actually convinced that the game would end with Ron Artest running down the court on a fast break shooting Dallas Mavericks with a handgun like the opening scene in The Last Boy Scout.

Before analyzing the Kobe Era, a moment to reflect on Phil Jackson, the greatest coach of all time in professional sports (to never coach without 2 of the top 5 players in the NBA).  Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen never won without Phil Jackson.  They also entered their prime as basketball players as Phil Jackson showed up.  Ditto for LA.  Shaq, from 2000-2003, was the most dominant physical presence since Wilt Chamberlain and by the third title, Kobe had emerged as the best wing player in the NBA.  They also had Robert Horry, the most clutch role player in NBA history.   But by sheer volume of winning he has to be considered one of the greats.

But now onto the eulogy for the Kobe Bryant era because make no mistake, he is done being the top dog on a title team.  So if in the 2012-2013 season Kobe Bryant is playing with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard or some combination of star power like that, Michael Jordan’s legacy as the single greatest player/winner (all due respect to Bill Russell) is under no threat.  If Michael Jordan had joined the San Antonio Spurs instead of the Washington Wizards in his third career, those would have still been Tim Duncan-led titles.  But let’s not talk about Kobe’s inevitable and impossible quest to pass Michael Jordan.  Let us examine the Kobe era, which Kobe fans would have you believe spanned from 1999 until the day Kobe Bryant dies.  I would argue that, if I were generous, the Kobe Era int he NBA was from 2003 to 2009.  But whether you agree on these years or not, a reasonable person should agree that it is over now.

Kobe – The Early Years

Everyone knows about Lebron’s “Decision” but have people forgotten how Kobe refused to go to Charlotte and said he would only play for the LA Lakers?  Kobe fans like to mythologize or lie and pretend that teams “passed” on Kobe, but most teams were scared off by the threat of a petulant 18 year old to not sign with anyone besides the Lakers.  Lebron told Cleveland to fu*k off after 7 seasons.  Kobe told Charlotte to fu*k off on day 1.

Kobe – The Shaq Years

One of the keys to making the Shaq-Kobe alliance was Phil Jackson’s admission that he needed to handle Kobe with kid gloves for the early stage of his career.  That nursery school treatment of his fragile ego (ahem, I mean competitive fire) plus playing alongside the most physically dominant player since Wilt Chamberlain allowed Kobe to get three titles.  Shaq collected three Finals MVP trophies, deservingly so, but I will admit, that by the third title they had gone from 1, 2 to 1A, 1B.  But Kobe, like any Shakespearean or Disney villain, decided that after 4 straight trips to the NBA Finals it was time to make the Lakers decide between Shaq and Kobe (team first, right?).  So the Lakers picked wisely in the long run (I will admit) by sticking with the younger player less likely to pack on pounds.

The Kobe Only Years (a/k/a What Lebron took the Cavs to the Finals with in 2007)

2004-05 – 37-45 (missed playoffs, but beat a rape charge)

2005-06 45-37 (1st round loss to the Phoenix Suns)

Let’s not forget that the series against the Suns went 7 games and Kobe quit during the second half against the Suns (taking 3 shots the entire second half, apparently to prove that a shi*ty team would lose without it’s best player – very Jordan-esque).

The Pau Gasol Years (2006-2009)

Kobe finally got an All Star big man to compliment him again (but fortunately not to overshadow him).  Three trips to the finals (with another memorable quit performance when Paul Pierce took Kobe’s will and the decisive Game 5 in 2008.  By the way that same year Lebron led Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao 7 games against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals).  But then Kobe took the title in 2009 and 2010, but taken in the context of 2011 there are a couple of reasons why I think the Kobe era (as individual best player) cannot be reasonably extended beyond the 2009 victory (even though I personally think it ended the year LeBron won his first MVP in 2008-09).

First, look at the box scores of the 2010 Finals.  Kobe averaged 28 pts per game on 40.5% FG shooting.  Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who led the Lakers in minutes that series and had to do battle with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins inside led the series in rebounding, blocked shots, was second on the Lakers in scoring and shot 48% from the field.  Not to mention that Kobe shot 6-24 from the field in the decisive Game 7.  Meanwhile Lebron, who was leading the squad of diabetically-fat Shaq & Co. had just had back-to-back Jordan-prime level seasons.  (Yes he got blasted from the playoffs by the Celtics and yes he appeared to quit on his team in the final game – making Kobe the 2-1 split decision winner in games quit), but based on many trips to Cleveland there really appeared to have been truth to the “Delonte West, or one of his personalities, fu*ked Lebron’s crazy mom” rumors.  Imagine Karl Malone had fu*ked Kobe’s wife in 2004 when he was “hunting little Mexican girls.”  I bet Kobe would have more than 2 quits under his belt.

But the Mavericks series that just ended really exposed the end of the Kobe era.  Admittedly his supporting cast played terribly.  But there was not even a fight.  The lesson – when Kobe has the supporting cast he can be a champion – this is true of any champion, so this is not a shot at Kobe.  But when Kobe has had underperforming supporting casts (2004-05, 05-06, 10-11) he lies down with the rest of his team.  He may get his stats, but unlike Magic Johnson or LeBron James, or obviously Michael Jordan, his stats do not necessarily make those around him better.

2009-Present – The Lebron James Era

I believe LeBron James is the most dominant player in the NBA and has been for the last three years.  The same way from 2000-2003 Shaq may not have been the “most skilled” player on his tea or the league, he was the single best player in the league during that span based on the simple criteria “no one can guard him or stop him.”  It cannot be understated how awful LeBron’s supporting cast was.  He took the equivalent of Kobe’s 2004-06 team (yes Smush Parker and Chris Mihm, but also Lamar Odom was on the team too) to an NBA Finals appearance and twice had the best regular season record in the league.  He left Cleveland ringless and in a poor fashion to say the least, but remove Kobe from the 2009/09 Lakers you have a 50 win playoff team (in case you doubt me from 2004 to 2006 Pau Gasol won between 45 and 50 games each year as the star for the Memphis Grizzlies).  Remove LeBron from a 66 win Cleveland Cavaliers team and you have… well you have the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, probably for two reasons.  One is that many people refused to acknowledge his greatness without the currency of championships.  Fair enough I suppose.  The other is he wanted to play with his friends.  Sort of lame in the Michael Jordan model of champions.  But neither of these things stop LeBron from being the single most impressive force in the NBA today.  And for the next several years it will be his league, no matter who they give MVP trophies to.

To put it into James Bond terms – Michael Jordan is Sean Connery, Kobe Is Roger Moore and LeBron James is Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig (in Casino Royale only) combined.  And yes, I think we need to acknowledge Tim Duncan here as a 4 time champion so he is George Lazenby.

Why Kobe is Diet Jordan

With the passing of the Kobe Era I feel it is time for me to acknowledge something out of Kobe’s control.  He grew up in the shadow of the NBA’s greatest player, playing the same position as MJ.  If he played small forward, or point guard or power forward there would have been room for him to carve out his own image and transform the position.  But playing shooting guard he just played out as the greatest Michale Jordan cover band of all time.  For example, if someone was a Whitney Houston impersonator in Las Vegas, they would have to have incredible vocal talent.  But they would still not quite be Whitney Houston.  That is how I look at Kobe.  He is better than almost anyone in NBA history (but I would have him behind both Jordan and Lebron), but his comparison is to the greatest and he is wanting.  Fewer titles, fewer Finals MVPs, fewer regular season MVPs (I am making this comparison because they have had equal career totals – comparisons with LeBron on career statistical measures is not realistic yet) more games quit and lower career averages.  Plus, all his copycatting of MJ and most awfully the “Jaw Face” is far inferior to “the tongue.”

So Kobe had a great career and was the closest thing we had to Jordan since Jordan.   But LeBron is a new mold of player – a sort of genetic hybrid, evolutionary step forward of Karl Malone and Magic Johnson.  Kobe was a descendant of Jordan and a worthy heir, but not quite as good as the original.  That said, if Kobe’s Hall of Fame speech is a list of people he didn’t like I will start booing and chanting “MJ!”

But in case you forgot, there is one other reason Kobe can never be as great as Michael Jordan…


Requiem for the 2010 Utah Jazz

Being a Utah Jazz fan is starting to feel like being one of those monks that lit themselves on fire to protest Vietnam (isn’t that what’s on the cover of Rage Against The machine’s first album? – well one of those); it is a painful exercise that feels righteous.  The Jazz are on the eve of destruction – a possible sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, an excellent (I won’t say great) team led by Kobe Bryant (Diet MJ) and Pau Gasol (the principle in the single biggest case of collusion I have ever seen in the NBA – as a recap The Lakers obtained Pau Gasol, a/k/a “The Big Llama” (my nickname) – a top 20 NBA player and one of the two most skilled low post scorers in the league – after Tim Duncan, from former Laker great Jerry West, then GM of the Memphis Grizzlies, who passed on basically getting every good player in the Chicago Bulls’ possession at the time, to accept, essentially, Kwame Brown’s expiring contract and Javaris Crittendon – now known as the Wyatt Earp to Gilbert Arenas’ Doc Holliday.).

But I digress.

This post is about the bittersweet joy of rooting for the Jazz.  The truth is the Jazz should lose to the LA Lakers.  The Lakers have the second best player on Earth right now, and terrific big men, which is the weakness for the Jazz defensively (with the exception of Michael Jordan it always has been).  The Jazz counter with one lottery pick on their roster, two other first rounders (one of which, Kosta Koufus, is  a project) and then a boatload of second round picks and NBDL refugees.

But that is the greatness of the Utah Jazz franchise.  People snicker and try to insult the Jazz franchise by making derogatory comments about Mormonism or the politics of the state of Utah, but to me there is no more inspiring and “only in America” embodying franchise in sports than the Utah Jazz.

Their legends are Karl Malone and John Stockton, two somewhat overlooked players when they entered the league, became Hall of Famers through sheer work ethic and basketball intelligence (and large hands in Stockton’s case and broad shoulders in Malone’s case).  The almost never missed games, they played hard and they excelled at the game.  The fact that they never won a championship is very bittersweet, but unlike other franchises, they never really gave Jazz fans reason to lose interest.  They provided great basketball and great effort for almost two decades.

After Stockton and Malone’s departures for retirement the Jazz endured a short dark period.  In fact the most remarkable season as a Jazz fan for me may have been when the Jazz missed the playoffs by a game or two with a record of 42-40 in the 2003-04 season with a starting lineup of… brace yourself…

Andrei Kirlienko

Carlos Arroyo

Greg Ostertag

Matt Harpring

DeShawn Stevenson

And the player with the next highest number of starts was Jarron Collins

In other words, in what should have been the dark days for the Utah Jazz with a starting lineup of one versatile, non-scoring all star (Kirilenko), a solid 6th man type player (Harpring), a serviceable point guard (Arroyo), an underachieving soon-to-be journeyman (Stephenson) and two big men who had no business in the NBA (especially the atrocious Collins) the Jazz still delivered a season that came down to the last game of the season.  And in traditional Jazz style, it ended with a loss.

But the dark times gave the rare opportunity to the Jazz for a franchise-changing pick, with which they took Deron Williams, who has blossomed into the best point guard in the NBA (which I have been mocked for claiming for the last 3 years because I thought unlike most point guards he was both a playmaker and a system manager and thus I found the completeness of his game, not necessarily his stats, made him the best).  Along with him came the rare free agent coup for the Jazz in Carlos Boozer (though like any omen in good fiction, the fact that Boozer screwed over the blind former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has come back to bite them in Greek tragedy form since Boozer is exceptional against every team in the league except the one team that prevents them from chasing a championship – the Lakers).

Well now the Jazz have found themselves down 3-0 to the defending champion Lakers, but no one will confuse this with an Atlanta Hawks/Orlando Magic 3-0 series.  The Jazz have played tough, made adjustments and had late game leads in two of the three games. Unlike previous seasons, at least one of these games should have been a blowout.  And watching guys like Paul Millsap and Wesley Matthews, the former a second round pick, the latter an undrafted rookie, play so balls out tough that it almost feels like it really is “how they play the game” that makes it a joy to watch.

The bottom line is the Jazz will not win this series with the Lakers. If they get swept then it will be the most competitivve sweep in NBA history.  But I will have no problem tuning in to watch the Jazz next year because as a basketball fan I love the way the Jazz play.  Throughout my life I have had people tell me that the Jazz are “boring.” Those have to be people who enjoy the dunks and the flash of the NBA, but do not love the sport of basketball.  To watch the Jazz play the game is like watching a hoops symphony.  The execution, the timing, the effort and the way players who play for the Jazz accept roles and work hard at them are all beautiful to watch.  And the architect of all this is Coach Jerry Sloan.

In 1998 when the Jazz lost their second consecutive finals to the Chicago Bulls I was crushed.  The guy who made me feel better was Jerry Sloan.  When he came to the press conference after Michael Jordan’s game winning shot he had such a matter of fact, “we’ll be back next year and don’t expect me to cry over this” attitude that I figured if Sloan could bounce back, I surely could.  And watching the Jazz play for Sloan’s tenure (over two decades – the most tenured coach in pro sports) has been a pleasure.  He takes players with high effort and high basketball intelligence and toughness and makes them good NBA players.  Watching Williams or Boozer blossom is not as big a thrill as seeing guys like Millsap. Matthews, Ronnie Price and Kyle Korver reach their max with Utah.  The Utah Jazz is the ultimate American meritocracy – if you can play the game and you work hard, you can have a successful career for Jerry Sloan and be appreciated by the fans.

But Jerry Sloan has not won a Coach of the Year (seriously 2003-04 should have been his) and the Jazz have not won a title.  Therefore the franchise and its players do not get the respect they deserve.  And every year I get to hear from my friends who either shift loyalties from week to week or, in the case of Knick fans, sit quietly waiting for their team to purchase big name talent (looks like their wait is finally over this Summer).

I obviously want the Jazz to win a title, but the truth is they have made my life as a fan really enjoyable.  They always put a good product, not just in talent, but in work ethic and execution out on the court.  I am honestly scared of the day Jerry Sloan decides to retire because I think that he may be the most valuable player of all to the Utah Jazz.  His system and his culture may be a bigger imprint on the Jazz franchise than any one player they’ve ever had.  A championship would be great, in fact it is part of my top two things I would like to see (along with a Guns N Roses reunion) in popular culture, but the kind of sustained excellence of the Utah Jazz, and the character in which they achieved such sustained quality may be even rarer than a championship.

But since I still want them to win a title and I don’t want to end this on too sentimental or gushy a moment – here are some things the Jazz must do.

1) Get a bona fide 6’10″+ center who can be a shot blocking and defensive force.  Cole Aldridge may be the only player in the draft who may be able do this (and he may be right around where the Jazz draft).  I’d avoid Greg Monroe if I’m the Jazz because his passing skills make him an enticing big man for the Jazz, but he will not be a defensive force and the beating his Georgetown team took from Ohio U makes me think he won’t help bring additional winning intensity to the Jazz.  As far as free agents Brendan Haywood is a free agent this season and I think the Jazz would be wise to see if he is the kind of character that could thrive in Utah.  However, if the Jazz have a chance at Evan Turner then you take him.  That is the only way I change this approach.

2) Try to keep Boozer, but not too hard.  The bad news – if we lose Boozer, Millsap fills in fine, but we lose Millsap off the bench so overall win total will be down 5-6.  The good news is that if that money goes to decent center play then we have a better chance against the Lakers.  Pick your poison – slightly worse against the rest of the league or better against the Lakers.

3) Re-sign Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver.  Hard working people and the women of Utah will not forgive you otherwise.

4) Play as well and as hard as in 2009-10 and good hings will probably happen.  Until you lose.  Then look forward to 2011-12.  You know the drill.


Updates – My Book, the Utah Jazz & Miami

1) 25,000 words into my book, which makes it the equivalent of one-third of a New Yorker article.  It is coming along nicely and I think I will reach my preliminary writing goal of having a first draft done by the end of the Summer.  The scorched earth sections of the book have not been written yet, but rest assured they will be in there.  I must say though, reliving deeply personal moments both in life and comedy is a pretty interesting experience.  Just remind me not to pop pills with any Olsen twins until it’s finished.

2) The Utah Jazz are in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.  I do not think they will win simply because the Lakers resemble a team of kids that has all the tall kids and no matter how good the little kids are they cannot compete with the height issue.  So my strategy is simple for the Jazz. In the first quarter of tomorrow’s game 1, when Kobe Bryant, or better yet, Ron Artest goes in for a layup – lay them out.  Playing basketball against Ron Artest, which I did once at a Summer camp when I was a high school senior, is a lot like prison – you find the baddest guy and you stab him in the throat.  Assuming there are no shanks on the Jazz bench I recommend getting someone either desperate enough or crazy enough to attack Artest and you lay him out.  The message is, we don’t fear you.  Real message – you should be scared playing basketball against us.  If he was not so old I could see Coach Jerry Sloan doing it himself.  I would like to see the Jazz win obviously, but the Lakers height is such a bad match-up.

And people who like the Lakers generally suck.  Celebrities, fans of glitz and fair-weather chumps are the main form of Laker support.  Anyone else in their fan base?

And the Pau Gasol trade is still the biggest theft/sweetheart arrangement in NBA history.  Shame on you NBA.

3) Going to Miami for a week on Monday.  I will try to write from there, but I will probably be too busy placing sunglasses on right before someone plays We Won’t Get Fooled Again.


Sports Tragedies

This week I was treated to not one, but two great cinematic experiences.  Up, the new film from Pixar, is incredibly touching and fun and, in my opinion, is only second to Finding Nemo in the Pixar universe.  I then, bolstered with confidence form strong reviews, went to see Drag Me To Hell, which like Crank 2, is a deceptively, but completely intentionally funny film, while at the same time delivering creepy and scary moments.  But apparently the entertainment gods believed me greedy because what the Movie Lord giveth, the Sports Lord taketh away.

First was the elimination of the Denver Nuggets Saturday.  I need to give the devil his due.  Kobe is immensely talented and clutch and he demonstrated both characteristics during the Denver series.   However, I cannot ever be a fan.  He and the Lakers are like Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees are in baseball – an obssessively and obviously media-savvy star on an unlikeable franchise.  The talent is great, but it is overshadowed, to anyone who is not a fan, by the need to look and act the part of the star.  And the way Kobe speaks sounds like he bought the Rosetta Stone “Michael Jordan” immersion program because his speech, along with his fadeaway jumpshot, have become more and more Jordan-esque as his career has gone on.   Kobe is the most Jordan-esque player since Jordan, which is one of the non-rape reasons why some people don’t like Kobe.  Dwayne Wade has adopted a more quiet persona that seems unique to him, while LeBron has been the more engaging superstar, Magic-esque, but clearly free of plagiarism of Magic.  Kobe seems to have attempted a re-make of Jordan, and like someone who dares re-make a classic (think Sheryl Crow doing Sweet Child O’ Mine for the Big Daddy soundtrack) it ends up being less likeable than it might have been if it was at least original.  So now I am forced to root for the Orlando Magic.   I actually think the Magic can win, but would not bet on it.  Here’s my matchup breakdown:

  1. Battle of Superstars – Kobe vs. Dwight.  Dwight Howard has proven to be unstoppable in these playoffs, due almost entirely because of his size 72 shoulders and sick vertical leap, because he still does not seem to have a discernible vertical leap.  Kobe has been better.  Edge – Kobe
  2. Eurotrash matchup – Hedo Turkoglu vs. Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic.  Because Pau will be marginalized by Dwight Howard and because Vujacic sucks the edge goes to Hedo “I push off every single time I dribble” Turkoglu.
  3. Tall, underachieving black guys who randomly show up and disappear: Lamar Odom vs. Rashard Lewis.  Odom tends to disappear like a pit bull at Michael Vick’s house.  Rashard Lewis can do the same thing, but has been playing with more and more confidence.  However, in his first trip to the finals I expect to see him piss down his leg at least once.  Edge – Odom.
  4. Coaches: Lurch versus Ron Jeremy.  Phil Jackson is “the Zen master,” which is enough of a reason to root against him, but Stan Van Gundy was screwed out of a title by Pat Riley and Shaq, but has still managed to come back with a vengeance with a new team, all while looking like a less athletic Ron Jeremy.  So in this one I have to give the edge to Stan.

So it looks like a draw, which means if the Lakers win I believe it will be because of a great effort by Kobe and I will have to acknowledge that.  But hopefully the Magic win.

But as if the Lakers win was not enough of a reason to step in front of a bus, Rafa Nadal lost yesterday in tennis.  Nadal-Federer has become my 2nd favorite sporting event after a Utah Jazz hoops game.  Mainly because I watch their matches in awe and I probably change who I am rooting for 3 or 4 times during the match.  Insult to injury for Nadal: the French were cheering on the challenger during the match which seemed a little doucheconsidering Nadal is one of the two greatest champions they’ve ever had.   I think I just heard Nadal order some Freedom Fries.

Well this week I have two more movies to consider and two NBA finals games.  The Hangover (sneak preview tonight), which along with Transformers 2 is my most anticipated film of the Summer, and Land of The Lost, which looks potentially funny, but also potentially awful.  Looks like odds are that The Finals will be 1-1 headed to Orlando by the end of this week.


Anyone But The Lakers

The Utah Jazz crush me for the 22nd consecutive year.

Last night I watched the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Utah Jazz in 5 games.  I wish it could have been to any team other than the Lakers.  And as the Jazz generally do, they did not give up and made a valiant comeback (down 22 in the 4th quarter, they cut the Lakers to 6 with 3 and a half minutes left).  But all that does is put crazy thoughts in my head like, “they may win!”

This is a franchising altering year for the Jazz – their owner has died, their longtime announcer has retired and Coach Jerry Sloan, the longest tenured Coach in professional sports is getting older and even crankier (although it was great seeing him go after the referee last night mouthing motherfu-ker as he got ejected – at least he still has some fire).

But this is about the need for someone other than the Lakers to win the NBA title.  I like Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom on the Lakers and that is it.  I am indifferent to Andrew Bynam.  I hate the rest of the team.  Let’s go through it:

Kobe Bryant – This blogger has a strong policy of not supporting anal rapists, regardless of how funny the reference of Kobe has made one of my jokes.

Pau Gasol– It is bad enough that he is missing an L on his first name, but he looks like a really tall homeless piece of Eurotrash.

Luke Walton – No one likes the rich kid who skates by on his father or parents’ wealth and/or Hall of Fame status and Luke Walton is no exception.  If his name was Luke Murphy he would be an assistant coach somewhere.

Trevor Ariza– Once again a firm blogger rule – can’t like people with neck tattoos.  And he is a former NY Knick, which, like herpes, is something that is never really gone.

Sasha Vujacic – Literally my least favorite person in the NBA.  I really think I would be tempted to sucker punch him if I ever saw him on the street.   Part of it is because he is a flopper and annoying, but part of it is that he has some unknown, but very unlikeable arua around him.

Laker fans  – I have a problem with Laker fans, especially those outside of LA.  I know I am a Jazz fan outside of Utah, but unlike Laker fans it would be difficult for someone to call me a fair-weather fan if my favorite team has never won a title and did not even make a finals appearance until my 10th year as a fan.

So now I must hope that someone, LeBron James most likely, can stop this team from claiming a title.  Good luck King James.

And yes I am very bitter about the Jazz losing.