The Utah Jazz received’t seem on this season’s slate of Christmas Day video games despite the fact that they completely deserved to play in what would have been an ideal slot.
Now that we’re within the month of August, we shouldn’t be far faraway from the discharge of the complete 2019-20 NBA schedule. That turned much more evident as a number of marquee video games had been introduced on Friday by the likes of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Among the video games they made recognized to the general public had been a number of key ‘return’ video games the place gamers will return to take on their former groups as a member of a brand new squad.
This included Kawhi Leonard in Toronto on December 11, Anthony Davis in New Orleans on November 27, Kyrie Irving in Boston additionally on November 27 and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City on January 9, to call a number of. While Westbrook is sort of sure to be obtained with a tribute video and overwhelming reward, and Leonard may as effectively to some extent (although his return will be awkward), Irving and Davis are positive to be showered with boos.
On the Utah Jazz entrance, it was additionally introduced that Mike Conley will return to Memphis to take on his former Grizzlies staff early within the season on November 15th. Like Westbrook, he’s positive to obtain a heat welcome. But the opposite introduced return sport – Kristaps Porzingis in opposition to the New York Knicks on November 14th – may not be so fairly.
Perhaps much more thrilling than the announcement of this group of video games was the leak of the groups who will be taking part in on Christmas Day, which is all the time an thrilling slate to be a component of on a day that has develop into synonymous with thrilling NBA basketball. Last season, the Utah Jazz bought their first Christmas Day nod since 1997. It was an thrilling contest in opposition to the Portland Trail Blazers that resulted in a big-time Jazz win.
Due to Utah’s efficiency a 12 months in the past coupled with the truth that they beefed up their roster in an enormous approach this summer time to the extent that many imagine they’ll be championship contenders in 2019-20, a number of followers had been optimistic that we may but once more see the Jazz play on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, based on Friday’s leaks, such received’t be the case.
Instead, the next 5 matchups will be going down:
- Los Angeles Lakers vs. LA Clippers
- Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
- Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
- Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Now, quite a bit of these matchups are going to be extraordinarily enjoyable to observe. And let me simply say hallelujah to the truth that lastly the hapless New York Knicks received’t be featured on Christmas Day as we’ve needed to endure by means of for a number of consecutive seasons. Clippers-Lakers will be the battle of Staples Center that many followers have been ready for. Bucks-Sixers will be a conflict between the 2 favorites within the East. And Warriors-Rockets will be Houston’s probability at slightly revenge albeit with each groups’ statuses within the convention wanting a lot completely different than we’re used to.
The different two contests have me much less excited. I suppose that it’s cheap for the defending champion Toronto Raptors to get a Christmas Day nod after their thrilling postseason run final season. But with out Kawhi Leonard, they really feel much less interesting than most Christmas Day groups are likely to. Factor in as effectively that they’re going up in opposition to a Boston Celtics staff that absolutely isn’t going through the identical expectations as final 12 months (although they may wind up higher because of enhanced chemistry) and it’s simply not as thrilling as I’d hope.
Nevertheless, each groups determine to be playoff groups, so it should nonetheless be thrilling. The one that actually irks me is the matchup between the Denver Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Now, earlier than you bounce to conclusions, permit me to elucidate. I’m really very enthusiastic about each of these groups this upcoming season. The Nuggets made an unbelievable leap final 12 months and determine to proceed to be one of the most effective groups within the NBA as they’re working again an almost equivalent staff and anticipating vital inner enhancements alongside the best way.
The Pelicans, in the meantime, characteristic primary general decide Zion Williamson, who’s arguably probably the most hyped participant to enter the league since LeBron James. With a tantalizing younger core surrounded by sturdy vets akin to Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors (it nonetheless hurts), whereas I wouldn’t say it is a staff that’s favored to make the playoffs, they positively have a shot. And even when they don’t, there’s no denying that they’ll be an entertaining staff.
In that vein, I can see why they bought a Christmas Day spot. However, I strongly imagine that the Utah Jazz would have been a significantly better choice in that slot, taking on the Denver Nuggets for some first-class Yuletide leisure.
The first purpose is that whereas the Pelicans could be a fringe playoff staff, they face an uphill battle in the event that they suppose their younger squad will make it into the postseason within the first 12 months of their new look post-Anthony Davis. Even in the event that they do make the playoffs, there’s merely no approach that they undertaking to be higher than a Jazz staff that had an unbelievable offseason and is anticipated to be within the higher echelon of the convention.
Simply put, the Jazz are set to be the higher staff. And if the NBA needs to show prime expertise on Christmas Day, inserting the Utah Jazz would have been a extremely logical selection.
But not solely would I wish to see Utah over the Pelicans in a vacuum, however the matchup the Jazz may have had in opposition to the Denver Nuggets would have been unbelievable for the Christmas slate. Not solely do the Jazz and Nuggets determine to be two of the highest groups within the West as related small-market over-achievers, however the two squads are division rivals with a prolonged historical past of disdain for each other.
Perhaps it has to do with their proximity geographically, their similarity in market measurement and good however by no means nice success, or their familiarity from taking part in in the identical division for thus a few years. Whatever the case, it’s all the time a battle when the Jazz and Nuggets get collectively. Add in the truth that the Jazz managed to swindle Denver in trades for each Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell – Utah’s two finest gamers – and it simply provides additional gasoline to the hearth.
Last season, we noticed the Jazz-Nuggets video games get extremely scrappy, together with one which featured a battle which broke out between Derrick Favors and Mason Plumlee. The Jazz received the common season collection Three-1 final 12 months, with every contest being an thrilling battle.
The depth that might have prevailed between two groups with unhealthy blood, excessive stakes as they duke it out for a prime seed within the convention, a historical past of hard-fought video games, and an opportunity to compete on a marquee stage would have been excellent for Christmas Day. Instead, we’ll get an entertaining Pelicans staff in Denver, however one which doubtless will be over-matched by a sure-fire playoff staff within the Nuggets who’re extraordinarily daunting on their house court docket.
Last of all, per ESPN, final season the Jazz-Blazers sport drew the best ranking for a Christmas sport within the late slot (eight:30 PM MT) since 2015. For a pair of groups that many informal followers have a tendency to contemplate small market and unexciting, that was an incredible mark to hit. I imagine that the new-look Jazz and constantly sturdy Nuggets would have generated much more buzz and enchantment.
But, alas, it was a shock that the Jazz bought an opportunity to play final 12 months, and seeing them seem on December 25th two years in a row would have been practically unheard of for the oft-overlooked small-market squad.
Donovan Mitchell reacted to the information with a really becoming set of emojis, reminding the NBA world that the Jazz proceed to be slept on:
Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert had maybe the most effective response of all. Rather than bemoan the truth that his staff wouldn’t be featured on Christmas Day, he merely maintained that his focus instead was on a championship. Indeed, as Rudy acknowledged, it will be extra riveting to play in June than on December 25th by an extended shot.
Unfortunately, the truth that the Jazz weren’t slated on Christmas in all probability may be very telling about how the Jazz’s championship odds are considered by most of the people. As good as their offseason was and as aggressive as they seem on paper, they’ll face an uphill battle as they give the impression of being to beat the onslaught of giants within the West to achieve the final word prize.
But it is a staff that has carried out effectively once they’ve been doubted and neglected. And I think about that this Christmas Day snub will solely serve to supply extra gasoline to their hearth, creating an extra chip on their shoulders shifting ahead. Regardless of public notion, this Jazz staff is completely constructed such that it might compete with any staff for a championship. They don’t want a Christmas Day sport to show that.
Instead, they’ll have a complete 2019-20 NBA season to show that they belong within the dialog among the many league’s finest. As enjoyable as it will be to see the Jazz and Nuggets play beneath the intense lights of December 25th, Rudy Gobert is completely proper. A Finals look would be a way more spectacular and exhilarating Christmas current, even when it arrives six months late.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.