Utah Jazz

Tue, 10 Feb 2009 19:02

History of Utah Jazz

Information about the NBA team Utah Jazz.

The Utah Jazz is considered one of the most successful NBA teams. Although the squad has never won a championship, they have been perennial contenders in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz began in the city of New Orleans in 1974. During their first years, the New Orleans Jazz had difficulties winning. To get stronger and to attract more fan support, the team traded for “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Their new star player would win the scoring title in 1977 but Maravich would be hampered by injuries. As the team encountered problems with their home stadium, the Jazz would be forced to move to another city.

In 1979, the Jazz would move to Utah. The area was not known as a jazz hub but they would retain the name. The Utah Jazz would have mediocre success in the following years but in 1984, the team would get a key player to their franchise. With the 16th pick, the Utah Jazz selected John Stockton from Gonzaga University. The following year, the team got Karl Malone from Louisiana Tech. The combination of Stockton and Malone became well-known throughout the league. During their first few years together, they would have good support from Mark Eaton, a strong defensive-minded center.

Stockton to Malone

The Utah Jazz became an efficient team thanks to Stockton and Malone’s pick-and-roll plays. The team would continue to become playoff contenders but they would always lose in the first or second round. By the 1988-1989 season, Utah Jazz head coach would step down from his position and would turn over the coaching duties to his assistant Jerry Sloan. Under his leadership, the Utah Jazz would have their first 50-win season. However, in the 1989 NBA Playoffs, the Utah Jazz would be eliminated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. They would also reach next year’s playoffs but would bow out to the Phoenix Suns, also in the first round.

Trying to add better talents to complement Stockton and Malone, the Utah Jazz got Jeff Malone. However, the Utah Jazz would continue to lose in the playoffs. They were only able to reach the Western Conference Finals by 1992. Here, they would be beaten by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Utah Jazz hoped to change their luck but they were eliminated in the 1993 NBA Playoffs by the Seattle Supersonics. Jeff Malone would eventually be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers to get Jeff Hornacek. With the trio of Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek, the Utah Jazz became one of the strongest teams in the Western Conference. In the 1994 NBA Playoffs, the Utah Jazz eliminated the San Antonio Spurs and the Denver Nuggets to reach the conference finals. Here they would be defeated by the eventual champions, the Houston Rockets.

The Utah Jazz needed a few more talents to become serious contenders to the championship. In the 1995 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz picked Greg Ostertag, a solid big man that would help Karl Malone in blocking and rebounding. The team would reach the Western Conference Finals once again but they were beaten by the Seattle Supersonics, who moved on to play the Chicago Bulls in the 1995 NBA Finals. The Utah Jazz knew that they must step up their game to get into the Finals. Their efforts paid off in the 1996-1997 season as they managed their way to the championship game, thanks to a last second buzzer-beater by John Stockton.

Utah versus Chicago

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were waiting for the Utah Jazz during the 1997 NBA Finals. The series was evenly matched as Karl Malone and John Stockton faced another sensational duo in Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Bulls finished the series 4-2 to win their 5th championship. Although the Utah Jazz lost to the Bulls, their season was not a complete waste as Karl Malone won his first MVP award. By that time, John Stockton was also establishing himself into greatness as he continued to pile up his assists and steals numbers. By the end of his career, Stockton held the most assists and steals in the NBA.

With their very successful season, the Utah Jazz did not make big changes in their lineup. They would reach the Finals again during the 1997-1998 season. Before they played in the Finals, the Utah Jazz faced off against tough teams such as the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Utah Jazz would face the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, setting the tone for a rematch. Although the Utah Jazz had homecourt advantage during their series, the team lost once again to the Chicago Bulls. The highlight of the series was Michael Jordan’s last shot as a Chicago Bulls player and his extra pass to Steve Kerr to win the final game.

The NBA had a lockout in the 1998-1999 season and each team’s total games were shortened to 50. The Utah Jazz had a 37-13 record and was tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best in the league. The team easily won against the Sacramento Kings in the first round but they would bow out in the next round against the Portland Trail Blazers. Karl Malone won another MVP title that year but he was unable to carry his team to another appearance in the Finals. The Utah Jazz had another remarkable year in the 1999-2000 season but they were again eliminated in the playoffs.

Retiring and rebuilding

Before the start of the 2000-2001 season, Jeff Hornacek retired. Losing a solid contributor, the Utah Jazz made a four-team trade that got them Donyell Marshall. They would also get DeShawn Stevenson in that year’s draft. The Utah Jazz would post another winning record but they would be beaten in the first round of the playoffs by a surging Dallas Mavericks team. In next year’s draft, the Utah Jazz selected Andrei Kirilenko from Russia. He would become a key player in the Utah Jazz rotation. However, the team lost again in the playoffs. During the off-season, Utah Jazz players Donyell Marshall and Bryon Russell would sign with other teams.

John Stockton retired after the 2002-2003 season while Karl Malone would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers for one year to pursue a championship ring. However, Malone did not get his ring as the Lakers fell to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. Malone then retired after his short stint as a Lakers player. Without Stockton and Malone, the Utah Jazz started rebuilding for the new age. They would get new talents to surround Andrei Kirilenko. Notable players who joined the Utah Jazz during this phase include Raja Bell, Matt Harpring and Carlos Arroyo.

In 2004, the Utah Jazz would spend most of their salary cap space to get Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. The following year, the Utah Jazz traded three draft picks just to get the 3rd overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. They would choose Deron Williams from the University of Illinois. Since then, the tandem of Boozer and Williams became known as the second coming of Stockton and Malone. The duo perfected the pick-and-roll play of Jerry Sloan, who had already coached the Utah Jazz for more than 20 years.