SALT LAKE CITY — It’s remarkable how quickly a once-promising NBA dream can get doused.
For example, it took the Jazz a total of 145 days to complete the best regular season in the history of the franchise. Then again, only a week to see that accomplishment appear meaningless from a fan’s standpoint.
To add perspective, it’s not the first time Jazz fans have had their hearts ripped from their chests in the month of June. Rewind the clock 23 years when back-to-back NBA Finals losses was a tough, draining, emotional grind. Then again, what do you expect when your team is forced to size up the best of all-time?
But last week’s opponent was certainly not Michael Jordan, nor the Bulls of the nineties. It wasn’t the NBA finals — not even the Western Conference Finals. More like the Western Conference Semi-finals, with the best player on the Clippers not even in uniform.
To cough up four straight, capped by a 25-point collapse in L.A. will certainly gnaw at those who saw "what could have been" once this belated season comes to a close sometime next month.
Gone was Lebron. Gone was Kyrie, and potentially even Chris Paul. This was a title for the take for the Jazz — until the 3-point shot suddenly wasn’t enough anymore. Health and defense became Utah’s Achilles heel, and it caught up with them at the worst time.
But what now? A summer of painful reflection and what-ifs can only last so long.
Donovan Mitchell, for one, will take some time to get healthy again, and in time, will. But the emotional side is always harder to recover from.
Finishing with a 52-20 record, only to get bounced early will hang over Don’s head for the foreseeable future — and unless he can quickly change the narrative with some future post season success — perhaps it will forever.
As I've said before, months of achievement can be destroyed by literally one week of mediocrity, and that’s a stigma the Jazz franchise (not just the 2021 version) will continue to live with for the time being.
First year majority owner Ryan Smith will have an interesting summer, full of his own reflection. Does he take the Miller family approach of patience, loyalty and second chances? Or does he move forward with bold action and change. The odds are better he goes with the first strategy, hoping the group currently in place can learn, grow and ultimately figure things out.
Bottom line, not winning a title is not the problem. Only one out of thirty, in fact, will on any given season. But sometimes choking becomes a pattern. Fans had hoped some growth had occurred following the 3-1 collapse inside the bubble, only to watch them bow out like this again.
Could great things finally happen in 2022? Of course they could. But for the time being, this bitter taste could take a long while to finally get out.