The Utah Jazz organization has a few problems.
The Jazz are one of the smallest market teams in the NBA; however, they have the third highest payroll (after the luxury tax) this season.
The Jazz weren’t a strong defensive team last season. This season they brought back all of the same players, and they are still a terrible defensive team!
The Jazz organization has tried to sell the league and Jazz fans on the idea that Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap can co-exist on the same team. The production for both Boozer and Millsap is way down compared to last year.
The major excuse given by Jazz management is that once the team is healthy, then the team will start to compete at a top level. Last year when the team was healthy they played their worst basketball. This season, while Korver and Miles are injured, the rest of the team is healthy, and the team is now playing the same level of basketball they played to end last season. Awful selfish basketball!
This style of basketball isn’t going unnoticed by the Jazz fan base. Salt Lake City has always been one of the strongest basketball cities in the nation. Yet, anyone watching the Jazz’s first two home games against the Clippers and Rockets could see a noticeable absence of fans in the arena.
Traditionally the Jazz don’t start drawing large crowds until after the end of the college football regular season. Traditionally though this affects the upper-bowl more than the lower-bowl of Energy Solutions Arena. This season the lower-bowl just isn’t filling up. There are a lot of patches of empty green seats in the lower-bowl, and that is not good news for the Jazz organization.
The downturn in the economy has slowed ticket sales for the Jazz. Yet, last year the team was able to weather the economic downturn better than this season. So what has changed? Nothing and that is the problem.
Larry H. Miller was able to build the Jazz on a base of comfort and trust. He exemplified the slogan, “You know this guy!” Larry H. Miller was willing to shake hands with fans, and even come on the radio to talk about the team with the fans once a week.
Through this interaction the fans knew that Larry H. Miller was devoted to putting a winning team on the court, and keeping the Jazz in Utah.
Greg Miller who took over for Larry H. Miller after his father started suffering from serious illnesses and eventually passed away doesn’t have that trust with the fans.
There are many reasons Jazz fans are wary of Greg Miller. Greg was has been in charge of running the car dealership arm of the Miller corporation, and too many customers have been burned by shady business practices at those dealerships. Greg never claimed to be a fan of the game like Larry, and that means he will look at the Jazz organization much more like a business trying to make money first.
Some changes which reflected this business first approach to the Jazz: The decision not to televise preseason games, the move away from televising any games on KJZZ, not accommodating long time season ticket holders during last season’s playoffs to try and make a quick buck, and resorting to gimmicks instead of relationships of trust for selling tickets.
The opening speech Greg gave before the start of the season reflected the tension between the fans and the new head of ownership. Greg gave an awkward speech in which he somewhat threatened fans. He stated the team would stay in Utah as long as there was proper fan support. While some might say his intentions was to complement fans for supporting the team in the past. The message was very clear; the team with the third largest payroll needs to sell some tickets— or else!
A good example of the disconnect between fans and management is the hiring of David Locke to take over the radio play-by-play duties for the Jazz. When the announcement was made there was a large outcry over the hiring of Locke. Many locally remember him from his days of calling WNBA basketball games were worried about the direction the team wanted to go.
Management and Locke supporters made the claim that Locke was one of the best hires the Jazz could make. This is the same man who was fired after a single season in Seattle doing the same play-by-play job. The arguments that the Sonic fans used for firing him were similar to the complaints of Jazz fans before he took over the radio job.
Locke doesn’t have a play-by-play voice. He focuses too much on the stats and not enough on the game. He just turns the broadcast into an extension of his show. He forces his opinions down the throats of the listeners to the radio broadcast, instead of telling the facts of the game.
I wanted to give Locke a chance to prove his doubters wrong. I wanted to give him a listen during a game. I made it five minutes or so of actual game time before I turned it off (it might have been longer or shorter I wouldn’t know with Locke giving the call). I had no idea what was going on in the game!
Locke wasn’t giving a live description of the game; rather it was more like listening to him carrying on a conversation while the game just happened to be going on in the background. You could hear the crowd react to something in the background, but Locke would continue his thought and then fill in the three or four plays which had occurred.
I ended up calling my sister to know what was going on in the game. In a single sentence from my sister I knew the score, who was playing well, and what was going on in the game. She started to give me actual play-by-play, while she is no master wordsmith she was an instant improvement over David Locke.
I wanted to give Locke the benefit of the doubt.
No one is instantly great at a new job. Yet, according to Locke’s own website he has been doing radio play-by-play since 1998. This is not new to him. He is just terrible!
It just seems as if David Locke doesn’t understand that we as a radio audience cannot see the game. We are relying on him to describe the game like a storyteller. Giving us a detail description of how the players move on the court so we can imagine the court in our mind. Locke seems to think a description of the game would take away from his analysis.
So what are the Jazz fans left to do about the Locke situation?
There are only thirty or so NBA radio play-by-play jobs. This means that there are a lot of people who would try to get a limited number of jobs. According to simple economic principles the Jazz should have had a lot of great possible hiring options, due to the scarcity of quality radio jobs. The Jazz organization made a bad hire.
The organization has to defend its hire, instead of just finding a better solution. The team will tell fans to support Locke because he is part of the Jazz organization now. This builds more distrust with the fans, and will drive more away from the team.
Jazz fans are not dumb. The fans in Utah are very basketball savvy and they know good basketball and bad basketball when they see it. They also know when management isn’t being straight with them.
Locke is a terrible play-by-play guy. Boozer is having a terrible affect on the Jazz and Millsap while he is on the court. The defense of the Jazz will not be fixed when everyone “gets healthy.” Boozer and Millsap are both undersized and it is hurting Utah’s point production in the paint. The status quo will not be good enough to compete in the Western Conference, and might not be good enough to even make the playoffs.
Greg Miller needs to learn a lesson from his late Father. Larry H. was always upfront with the fans. He didn’t try to sell anything that wasn’t there. If the Jazz weren’t performing on the court he was the first to admit it. Larry H. proved he was on the side of the fans. He was concerned about putting a quality product on the court, and knew if he treated the fans right the fans would do their part.
It is time for the organization to be more upfront with the fans. Stop trying to sell us on the team, and just talk to the fans about the team. There is huge support for the Jazz in the community; we are already sold on supporting the Jazz. The only thing the Jazz are doing is destroying the trust they have with their fans, and ruining another season by taking no action.
The problem with the Jazz is doing nothing. Unless the Jazz do something, nothing is all which come of this season.