A Very Jazzy Journal

A personal diary from a 2017-2018 Utah Jazz season ticket holder.

October 18, 2017. Oh baby, that new season smell. You know what I’m talking about: a tingling whiff of excitement, the slow burn of inevitable disappointment, all mixed by the long, slender hands of Matt Harpring. If it were a car freshener, people would pay $140 for the scent, dying for the opportunity to asphyxiate on the tangy fumes of Karl Malone’s sweat and John Stockton’s neon-white sneakers. Welcome to a new season of Jazz basketball.

Opening night: Jazz-Nuggets. My expectations for the next 82 games could not be lower and I assume Utah’s lone chance for success rests upon turning every game into a rock fight, winning 71-69. I know the Jazz can defend as long as Rudy Gobert is on the roster — it pays to have a post presence with arms long enough to reach into the sky and blot out the sun — but fret about their ability to find baskets minus Gordon Hayward. Pre-game, I consumed two large plates of fish and hummus, and pondered the age-old, existential question of life: how will the Utah Jazz score buckets?

The Jazz won 106-96 on the strength of a fourth quarter barrage and these three things stood out:

  1. The Jazz scoring over 100 points in a game, obliterating my opening night expectations.
  2. Donovan Mitchell looking quickkkkkkkkk.
  3. Mason Plumlee looking the exact opposite.

October 28. The Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 96-81 to move to 3-3 on the season but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Donovan Mitchell. I want to talk about his athleticism jumping off the court and overwhelming everyone in attendance, leaving the entire crowd weeping, soaked in joyful tears. I want to talk about his putback dunk in all its beautiful violence, conducted in front of a slack-jawed Lonzo Ball. I want to talk about a Utah Jazzman playing above the rim and looking at every opponent like they’re a dunk contest prop put on earth for the sole purpose of being humiliated in front of friends, family, and God.

To date, this might have been the most jarring moment in the history of Jazz fandom. We’re talking about a base that loves fundamentals, Jazz fans give standing ovations to players who maximize the use of their pivot foot. The flashiest Jazz move of the last 30 years was Karl Malone putting his hand behind his head when he dunked. The Mailman looked around the league, saw Jordan and Wilkins flying and destroying like B-52 bombers, and thought, “People think that’s cool? Wait until they see the hammer dunk.” His move was to literally put a hand behind his head as he dunked, which is neither cool nor increases the difficulty of a dunk. But Jazz fans were so starved for anything resembling flash, they lapped up hammer dunks like the world was ending and the only sustenance left was Malone cocking his hand behind his head and throwing down. Even I was sucked into this craze, there was a month straight where I refused to perform any task — take a test, ride my bike, hug my mom — without my left hand tucked neatly behind an ear. It was insanity and everyone who lived in Utah during the 80’s, 90’s, or 00’s was guilty. I was guilty. We were all guilty. It’s time to come clean. The hammer dunk wasn’t cool. It was just a dunk from a guy who loves farming with his hand behind his head.

My whole childhood was a lie.

Alright, where was I? Ah yes, Donovan Mitchell. Athleticism. Real, honest-to-God, put-back dunkery. I was watching this courtside, the sheer force of his dunk knocked me out of my seat and put me in concussion protocol. Watching a Jazz player attack the rim without fear of self or foe was unlike anything a Jazz home crowd has ever witnessed. On a scale of 1-10 Mitchell’s tomahawk resonated somewhere in the space between “nuclear” and “apocalypse.” It was destructive beauty, molecules rearranged a split-second before vaporization — a faraway mushroom cloud we watched bloom in silence, waiting for the sonic boom.

December 1. For the 11th straight game, Rudy Gobert was absent due to injury. And for the first of many times on the season, we watched Donovan Mitchell and indulged in some pretty weird fantasies.

Mitchell dropped 41 on the Pelicans as the Jazz won 114-108 and improved to 12-11 despite Rudy’s absence. Jazz fans went bonkers during the fourth, chanting Mitchell’s name as he eviscerated every Pelican on earth in a flurry of feathers, flesh, and Boogie’s tears. There was so much carnage I half-expected someone from PETA to show up and hurl a bucket of blood on Donovan, screaming about extinction and cradling the lifeless remnants of E’Twaun Moore.

After the game, Quin Snyder rated Mitchell’s ability with an all-time dad quote (“One of the things about Donovan, he's got his head on straight”) and Mitchell began churning out statements that made even the most conservative Jazz fan swoon: "The fans are incredible. Just like Louisville. I'm speechless, but it was great to have that ovation. I'm pretty sure I was smiling for about the last six points I scored. Still smiling now."

The Donovan/Utah love affair has begun.

December 7. I’ve lived in the Beehive State for many years and I’ve heard rumors of Utah’s Bronco Mendenhall-inspired priority list:

  1. Faith
  2. Family
  3. Desserts
  4. Jazz basketball
  5. App building

I assumed these were strictly rumors until tonight, where I observed the Rockets running circles around the Jazz and watched in horror as my co-workers consumed approximately 300 combined ounces of ice cream (I have four co-workers). They got up at halftime, returned with wide grins and wider ice cream cups, basking in the revelation that Iceberg only serves one size that’s equivalent in mass to the body of Mark Eaton. It was a disgusting yet admirable feat that I respected both for its fearlessness and complete lack of self-control. Or maybe there was too much self-control, these brave souls embraced the filthiest form of dessert-love and refused to rest until the last meltings of ice cream had been licked from the arena floor. I thought Mitchell’s put-back against LAL would be the most impressive feat of 2017, only to see it superseded by four humans braced with iron wills and plastic spoons. I stand here humbly to confirm the rumors: Utah’s dessert love is real and it is spectacular.

From a basketball perspective, tonight was a bit of a bummer for Jazz fans (112-101 loss) but an intriguing watch for hoops enthusiasts, offering my first up-close glimpse of the Rockets’ math experiment of threes, dunks, and free throws. Chris Paul and James Harden combined their most lethal traits (baller ability and pissy attitudes) into a molotov cocktail and threw it directly at the feet of Joe Ingles, who kept getting in verbal altercations about who the most valuable left hander on the floor was. Unfortunately for Ingles, Harden won this battle though in actuality, anyone who left Vivint Smart Home Arena with more than 50 ounces of ice cream in their belly was the night’s true winner.

December 30. Whenever Lebron is in town, it’s a sight to behold. People (myself included) arrived hours in advance, watching his shootaround with gasps of dreamy adoration. When Lebron canned four treys in a row, I murmured dirty things to myself and fanned my face with both hands. Lebron swooped in for a rim-rattler, I licked my lips seductively with eyes rolled to the back of my head. I probably drank 14 glasses of water just during pregame warmups, seeking to replenish the buckets of sweat squeezing from every pore. And after finding out it was Lebron’s birthday, I ate an entire cake and threw up in the bathroom just so I could eat more.

Then the game began and once again, Donovan Mitchell stole the show. I swear he’s fearless, the dude could show up at Swig, survey the lineup of 1,000 drinks and 10,000 mix-ins, and order a 52-piece dirty soda that would perfectly toe the line between pleasure and pain. One of the greatest athletes in sports history was on the court and Mitchell decided he didn’t care — he would seek and destroy, Lebron would spectate. The stats were great (29 points, 10/17 shooting, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block) as was the outcome (104-101 Jazz win), but the most eye-opening part was Mitchell’s belief that he was the best player on the court. Most rookies submit and defer, Mitchell told everyone to get the hell out of the way and would have dunked on Gail Miller if given the chance. FEEL THE FURY.

The opening alley-oop from Ricky Rubio set the tone and from there, it was all downhill. He packed D-Wade at the rim, canned threes, split double-teams, and punctuated the fourth quarter with another nasty throwdown. Even Lebron tipped his cap: "He's a player. The kid had a lot of game and they've been riding that wave all season since they realized what they actually got. He's not afraid of the moment.” If Lebron gives you his blessing, you’ve arrived. He’s the closest thing we have to a biblical figure in the NBA — Lebron raised his own hairline from the dead and when the next flood happens, there’s room for Mitchell on his ark.

January 30. Okay, are the Jazz good or bad? One week ago they sunk to 19-28 with a road loss to the lowly Hawks, now they’re showing up at home and clowning the Warriors by 30 points. It helps that Rudy Gobert has returned from his second extended injury absence of the season, but the Jazz couldn’t look like a more polarizing team at this point — equal parts brilliance and ineptitude, depending on the night. Tonight was all brilliance. Ricky Rubio became the first man in NBA history to sport a man-bun and have 23 points/11 assists, when his shot falls it’s hard to express how tantalizing his game is. He defends, passes, and has cool tattoos which is a prerequisite for NBA stardom. He is also a spokesman for 5 For The Fight, a global fundraising campaign started by Qualtrics to eradicate cancer, and that’s cooler than anything he does on a basketball court.

I also dig a healthy, engaged starting five. Rubio/Mitchell/Ingles/Favors/Gobert looked the part of an elite unit, crushing a Warriors starting lineup of four superstars and one Zaza. The Jazz broke out a new floor/jersey combination, the “city edition” design inspired by the warm deserts of Southern Utah. Deserts, not desserts. I know everyone read that quickly and started salivating for deep gullies filled with Graham Canyon, I forgive you. Deserts are things that exist around places like Moab or St. George, young people ride ATVs and climb beautiful red rocks, old people crawl out from under those rocks when the sun goes down or Golden Corral offers an early-bird special. I dig the Jazz effort to recognize our southern counterparts, as most Utah-based design work concentrates on snow/inversion with little room for anything else. We are a state of diverse weather and it’s time to start recognizing sun over cold — one brings warmth and happiness, the other pain and suffering. With the Jazz as our guide, let us walk towards the sun and feel its fire.

February 14. Yeah, so the Jazz are good. They’ve drubbed the Suns by 10 and enter the All-Star break on an 11-game winning streak, at this point even Elfrid Payton’s hair couldn’t cause Utah to slip and fall. Rudy Gobert grabbed every rebound (17 total) and patrolled the paint with his usual fervor, telling every Suns player, “No sir, you are not welcome here, we will not even serve you bread or water, please be on your way and never return to the premise, I am not a restaurant, none of us are restaurants.” I left the Jazz for dead at 19-28, now they’ve returned to haunt me — every time I try to sleep, Jonas Jerebko’s voice whispers in my ear and calls me unbeliever. Even in the darkest nights I see his ghostly frame wandering the bedroom, stopping every so often to mime a three-point stroke.

While we’re on the topic of unbelievers, let’s talk the Favors/Gobert frontline. The NBA has embraced small-ball and most teams have turned the page on lineups that feature two non-stretch bigs (I know Favors tries to shoot threes now but he’s not a stretch big, don’t @ me). I love the individual skill sets of each player, though I’ve been skeptical of their ability to play together...but it’s working. The rest of the NBA is playing interchangeable wings and killing opponents with switches and threes, the Jazz are embracing Goliath-mode with two gigantic humans grabbing rebounds and squashing attempts to score at the rim. I want more of it. NBA strategy works in cycles, I can’t wait for the upcoming overcorrection where only big men play and every NBA game is a battle between 10 Greg Ostertags. That is a dream scenario, who needs the Warriors lineup of death, give me the plodders who know how to grab a basketball, tuck their elbows in, and pivot until the shot clock expires. Real NBA basketball played by real men, where brawn is valued and brains ridiculed, with no room for fidget-spinning millennials in the future.

March 17. I’ll admit, I’ve cracked Joe Ingles jokes. He came into the league and I snickered behind my hand, compared his game to various role players on the Mapleton Third Ward team. I marveled that a man so slow could stay afloat in NBA waters, full classrooms of students could take the SAT in the time it takes to lock and load his jumpshot.

Then last year, I was sitting courtside during an extended Jinglin’ Joe stretch and everything clicked. It was like somebody had reached their fingers deep into my brain and probed the parts tied to Ingles enlightenment. I understood. This was a man who grasps the geometry of basketball, who substituted the knowledge of space and angles for otherworldly athleticism. I watched nine players operate on one plane comprised of speed, quickness, and flight — Ingles drifted from end to end measuring how much room was needed for an entry pass, the exact space between defender and corner three, the time it takes Quinn Synder’s F-bombs to travel from bench to basket. I understood his power. He could be the slowest yet still-competent operator of the pick-and-roll, he could defend opposing stars solely with body position and length, because on a base level basketball is just mathematics and Joe Ingles aced calculus without even using a calculator.

Here’s math everyone can understand: the Jazz are scorching hot and Joe Ingles has turned into a bright ball of flame that passes, defends, and hits threes,. Utah is now 40-30 after beating Sacramento 103-97, they are on another winning streak (currently nine games), and Joe Ingles has set a new Jazz single-season mark for threes made (179, breaking the old record set by Randy Foye). WHAT A WORLD. One second I’m sitting there dispensing Ingles jokes with no abandon, the next I’ve formed a religion that gathers twice per week and rubs the curly hair of a golden Ingles statue. Golden Joe, we call it. The statue was created in a secret room of Vivint Smart Home Area, we gathered all of Overstock’s hidden gold and had Thurl Bailey sing to it in a voice so low, it had no choice but to coalesce into the divine shape of the holiest Jazzman. Every time Ingles cans a three, Golden Joe opens its eyes and smiles. Every time Ingles deflects an entry pass, Golden Joe kisses the nearest baby. It’s beautiful and everyone is invited to our bi-weekly meetings, we assemble Tuesdays and Fridays in our finest Ingles jerseys, speaking only in Australian accents. All are welcome at the Church of Golden Joe.

March 20. The Jazz have lost twice in the same season to the Atlanta Hawks, I don’t know how that’s possible. It’s the world’s worst magic trick, Rudy Gobert gathered 20,000 fans and attempted to pull a rabbit from a hat, forgetting he left the rabbit and the hat at home. Dennis Schroder scored 41 points. That’s all you need to know. The dude who fights unsuspecting citizens outside hookah bars treated the Utah Jazz like his own personal playground — he crossed their monkey bars, rode their teeter-totter, shoved Raul Neto in the gravel. He got so hot in the fourth quarter that his blonde spot turned a brilliant white and blinded all in attendance, every time I close my eyes I still see a photo negative of Schroder’s grinning face. Let’s just move on from this night and never speak of it again. This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened.

March 30. People are always theorizing on the decline of morals in America, never realizing it’s a big drag to hear why skinny jeans and smartphones are the root sources of evil. I’m sure they are, I just don’t care to hear about it. I like wearing skinny jeans, they display my shapely figure for all to see, and I like my smartphone even though it’s given me carpal tunnel.

But tonight I’ve witnessed a true decline in morals. I saw it with my own eyes and like Lot’s wife, was immediately zapped into a pillar of salt. Luckily I was able to counter the spell and return to human form, but now that I’m here I can remember the entire night’s events — honestly, I wish I was still salt. It’s not that bad. People sprinkle you on things they love, the only ones who hate you are older women that don’t want their husbands’ blood pressure to rise. Everyone else thinks you’re awesome and most of your day is spent napping in cool cupboards. It’s the dream life. We should all be lucky enough to spend our days as salt, I hope the Buddhists are right and after death, our souls are reincarnated as blessed white granules housed in matching shakers. But for now, let us concentrate on our worldly decline and talk about the horse we rode to its very depths: free Chick-fil-A.

The Jazz, battling for a playoff spot, are locked in a four point struggle with the Memphis Grizzlies at the midway point of the fourth quarter. Grizzlies guard Marquis Teague, a randomly-generated player on NBA2K, goes to the line for two free throws. The crowd is suddenly vocal. They scream and shout, everyone with those annoying sound sticks smacks them together like the secret to life is locked inside. All in attendance know the stakes: two consecutive missed free throws by the opponent, one free Chick-fil-A sandwich for each person in the crowd. Teague misses the first and fans rejoice, I can feel the emotional current rise. Chick-fil-A is one missed free throw away, there’s nothing these fans wouldn’t do for the taste of warm, $3 chicken. We’re talking about 20,000 people who would cut off numerous parts of their bodies just for the chance that a random passerby saw the gory act and bought them one Chick-fil-A sandwich to ease their suffering. I’ve traveled far and wide, I’ve never seen anything like the eyes of a person in the throes of free Chick-Fil-A fever. Their pupils dilate to nothing and their screams carry the weight of one thousand chopped pickles, it’s terrifying. When Teague’s second free throw was in the air and the entire crowd held its breath, I knew we had sunk to a low level. When Teague’s free throw clanked around the rim and fell out, there was an explosion of sound that caused small earthquakes at each Chick-Fil-A location in Utah. Complete strangers hugged and wept on each other’s shoulders, promising to reconvene tomorrow and share their free sandwiches as newfound friends. The wave of joy was so strong I got swept away, one second I was watching Teague at the charity stripe, the next I woke up in a Chick-Fil-A with one sandwich worth of crumbs on my shirt and two Jazz fans rubbing my feet. I’m ashamed to admit that we lost ourselves in the madness. I’ve regretted many nights and actions in life but none more than this, I showed up for an important Jazz game and ended the night wallowing in $3 of sin. I dare anyone to find a life event — wedding, graduation, childbirth — that causes more outpouring of raw emotion than free Chick-fil-A, our morals have declined as a society and we have embraced the tastiest of false gods.

Before I succumbed to my darkest desires, I watched basketball. The Jazz ended up winning by 10 (107-97) and the standout was Dante Exum (21 points in 27 minutes), who kept flashing all the skills/athleticism that make Jazz fans dream he’s the missing piece of the Gobert-Mitchell-(blank) threesome. Please stay healthy, Dante. Let us see you grow and develop into a basketball terror. Let your knees be blessed the same way we bless our free Chick-fil-A sandwiches before eating, seeking forgiveness for past transgressions and believing in the limitless power of change.

April 5. The Jazz creamed LAC tonight by 22, but who cares? David Stockton came in, drained a three-pointer in garbage time, and it was quite an emotional moment. He checked in with under three minutes to a standing ovation and swirled home a triple wearing shorts that were disappointingly modest. Come on, young David. Your family has a tradition. Show off those spindly white legs, be proud of your heritage. There’s no need to give into peer pressure and wear shorts to the knee, let’s take it back to a time when men weren’t afraid of the repercussions of minimal cloth. Let your body be free, young David. Let your upper thigh breathe like a newborn calf, untouched by sunlight, untarnished by the world’s wicked ways. Let us ride your innocence back to a simpler time, when we didn’t worry about keto diets or telling everybody about our keto diets or telling our friends that we hate hearing about their keto diets. Just take us away from keto diets. That’s all I ask. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t listen to one more person talk about carbs or glucose. I blame you, kind David. Bring us to the light of a Stockton’s legs, white in their brilliance and all-encompassing in their kindness. Let us bathe in the warmth and calm our spiking sugar levels caused by wheat, corn, and rice. Let your divine light pierce the dark night as we count our calories of fat and protein. Let our bodies grow heavy with peace, our dreams of fruit and bread illuminated by your rays. Save us, oh David. Save us from ourselves, from keto, from assured destruction. Save us.

April 21. Ricky Rubio has lost his gosh damn mind. There’s no other way to put it. On a court with much brighter stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert — Rubio was alpha and omega, seeker and destroyer. His triple-double (26/11/10) barely tells the story of Utah’s 115-102 Game 3 win. It got to the point where Rubio took a running, one-legged three-pointer to end quarter three and everyone in attendance knew the result as ball left fingertips. It swished and closed an incredible 1.5 quarters from Rubio, who I’m assuming blacked out and thought he was Lebron James. Fans chanted Ricky’s name all night, drunk on adrenaline, wearing XL t-shirts of red, orange, and yellow. There was a moment — shortly after baiting a Thunder defender into a three-point foul, capping a personal 10-point run — when Ricky turned to the crowd, motioned for more, we rose like Lazarus waking from four days of death and starved for Spanish flair. We ascended to a higher plane on Rubio’s tattooed arms. The night was so improbable I might have been the one who blacked out and hallucinated the whole thing. This actually seems likely. For all I know, I ate too much Iceberg and it caused a 97% shutdown of my brain, with the remaining 3% tied to positive memories of Rubio’s long flowing hair and frozen rope jumper. I’m probably imagining all of this from a hospital bed, any second now I will slip from coma to death and my soul will dissolve into nothingness, leaving behind friends, family, and Rubio.

But until then, we really should talk about this game. I owe the Jazz crowd an apology: there is one thing they love more than free Chick-fil-A and it’s playoff basketball. From the opening tip, it was electric. Every Jazz play was met with roars, every Thunder play with jeers — we screamed together like it was Christmas morning and every present had Chick-fil-A inside. We booed George and Westbrook. We cheered every Melo shot attempt and high-fived when each shot cracked backboard. We stayed dead silent on Adams, mainly because we worried about him climbing into the crowd and crushing us all between thumb and forefinger. And at the closing buzzer, we left in jubilation and scoured the streets of SLC for alcohol, ice cream, or any other vice that could prolong our high.

April 23. A guy in a button-up shirt and personalized Jazz jersey clowned Russell Westbrook and that’s all you need to know about Game 4. That’s it. Westbrook picked up his fourth foul and was sent to the bench by a jeering, four-fingered-flashing politician, I can’t imagine anything worse. At least his demolition by Rubio in Game 3 was by another NBA player, the standout highlight of Game 4 was Westbrook being sent to timeout by Utah’s most notorious hot-dog-loving grandpa.

Actually, I take that back. The standout highlight of Game 4 was anything Joe Ingles did: his threes, his slithering drives, his incessant trash talk, his constant smirks. Ingles replicated Rubio’s second quarter performance from Game 3, spending the last six minutes strutting around like the world’s gangliest lion, treating OKC’s players in the most abusive and profane ways. Ingles lived the entire game rent-free inside Paul George’s head, making coffee and humming Australian tunes while completing the slowest three-point plays known to man. It was excellent theater and I commend Joe for his performance. Imagine OKC trying to comprehend their fortunes through four playoff games, fresh off back-to-back dustings at the hands of Ingles and Rubio. That’s not even a real duo, though it is the most famous Aussie/Spaniard combination I can think of. So maybe it is a real duo? Maybe the Thunder shouldn’t feel bad? Maybe they should just start saying nice things in postgame interviews about Rubio — like complimenting his bun or saying his mustache looks great — so he will have mercy, look at this guy and tell me he wouldn’t be a kind and just overlord:

rubiogif

Donovan Mitchell was fire tonight. He dropped 33 and reached scoring heights through four playoff games of the NBA’s most wondrous rookies: MJ, Wilt, Kareem. The standing ovation he received during the postgame interview was an all-caps MOMENT, Jazz fans lost their marbles and screamed with the vigor of pioneer youth. Raymond Felton missed two free throws in the fourth and guaranteed free chicken sandwiches for everyone in the crowd, I saw multiple people faint when the second shot rimmed out. Emotional system overload. Tonight was every holiday rolled into one: the fireworks of July 4, the facepainting and questionable decisions of Halloween, the tipsy euphoria of New Year’s. We rode the salty wave of joy and fury and drowned in its depths.

P.S. I assume Felton misunderstood the promotion, thought two missed free throws guaranteed himself one free sandwich for everyone in attendance, did the quick math on arena capacity and how much Chick-fil-A could be consumed in one sitting, and didn’t even wait for the ref’s whistle before chucking ball at backboard. Sorry Raymond, you get nothing and we get everything. We won free Chick-fil-A and your team got pantsed by a math teacher.

April 27. I’m writing this at 3am and OKC is still attempting shots to tie the game. This is hell, people. Welcome to hell. I always thought we’d be assigned to a fiery furnace where slightly overweight devils prod us with pitchforks and tell us facts about keto, but no — hell is a very special place where the Jazz cannot grab a rebound and everyone in attendance must watch OKC brick game-tying threes for eternity. If anyone gets too excited and starts recording video on their phone, Russell Westbrook appears out of thin air and slaps them back to mortal existence, chiding them for disrespect. If anyone gets hungry and tries to eat an ice cream sundae, Steven Adams grabs cream, cup, cone and squashes it on the offender’s head. If anyone thinks that Jazz have finally obtained possession, three refs congregate at a video screen for 42 minutes before signaling possession OKC. It never ends. The nightmare never ends. I’ve sat through some intense defensive possessions in my life but nothing like tonight’s waning moments, OKC grabbed five consecutive offensive rebounds with a chance to tie and it was pure agony. Threes rattled in and out. The Jazz wandered around looking for rebounds like headless chickens. Paul George attempted to flop one final time. In the end, it was not enough and oh boy, the Jazz are moving onto the second round.

I’m running out of ways to compliment Donovan Mitchell. Rubio went out with injury midway through the first quarter and things looked bleak. The Jazz offense spent one full quarter refusing to entertain the notion of scoring buckets — it was grim, a distasteful experience for anyone who values a crisp chest pass or corner three. The Jazz limped to halftime, Mitchell decided enough is enough, he came out in the third quarter with 10 barrels of gasoline, a blowtorch, and burned the mf’er down. OKC had no answer. The crowd had no answer. Nobody on earth had any answers. We all just existed within the empty void of life, armed with endless questions and one simple truth: Donovan Mitchell has caught fire and there’s no extinguisher in sight.

May 7. This is it. The end. I thought it would be different, a tunnel of light I reach for in the darkness, an echo of sound from days bought and sold. But it’s all a lie. The end is much grimmer. James Harden hovers over your hospital bed and lets beard sweat drip directly into your mouth, you can’t do anything because as soon as you move, Clint Capela swats you into the night sky. It’s the worst way to go out. All I wanted was a little dignity, maybe dying in peaceful sleep like a normal person, but no. Chris Paul followed me around all night shouting curse words in my ears, it was humiliating and that’s before I found out my gravestone was being etched by Trevor Ariza: “Chris Rawle: A Bee Boy Loved By No One.”

The Jazz went out tonight with barely a whimper. I don’t blame them, really. It takes a toll on a team to play without guards, the absence of Rubio/Exum became the presence of Neto and it was not great, Bob. The Rockets slapped ‘em silly. Treated them like the melted mix at the bottom of a Sodalicious cup — slurped them up, spat them out, went and grabbed another 64oz refill. The Rockets take a 3-1 series lead back to Houston, where the inevitability of Game 5 awaits. The end. All I can see are memories of Mitchell dunking and Gobert swatting flash before my eyes, I can’t believe this is what life boils down to. Season over, never to return. It was great while it lasted, a miracle risen from the wake of Hayward’s departure. Mitchell jumped tall buildings in a single bound. Ingles worked inside one of those tall buildings as an accountant, crunching numbers and hustling over to Vivint Smart Home Arena when Quin Snyder called. Gobert was registered as a tall building by the United States government. Together they exceeded all expectations. Tears are streaming down my face as I write, falling onto keyboard with noiseless grace. There’s hope in another life, my friends.

(NBA Images/The Beehive Illustration)