When tensions came to a head two weeks ago between the two central figures in the Utah Jazz locker room, it looked pretty clear that one man had won out and the other had surrendered. The star, Deron Williams, had gotten his way, and the coach, Jerry Sloan, walked away after 23 years on the job.
Now it appears that it wasn't that simple.
Maybe they both lost.
In fact, maybe everyone lost — Williams, Sloan, the Jazz and the fans of Salt Lake City. Can anyone walk away from this wreckage with their heads held high?
Williams, a two-time All-Star point guard at age 26, was traded to the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday in a deal that brought in Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and a pair of first-round draft picks. Favors is 19 years old and has a ways to go; Harris is a decent scoring guard, but he's no D-Will. The move appears to be signaling a surrender on this season.
The Jazz are currently 31-26, on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff race. At the moment, they're in eighth. But you have to figure they'll slip now.
During Sloan's tenure in Utah, the Jazz were notorious for fighting through all adversity to make the postseason year after year. They played playoff basketball in 19 of Sloan's 22 complete seasons, missing only one three-year window in between the John Stockton/Karl Malone era and Williams' arrival.
But the new Jazz, with Tyrone Corbin at the helm and Harris running the point, just aren't the same.
The Grizzlies, Suns and Rockets are banging on the door to barge into the West playoff picture. The old Jazz, with Sloan and Williams side by side, you could trust to get the job done. The new Jazz? Who knows?
If they just had their old coach or just their old point guard, they might still be in the hunt this season. This team did just crack the second round last spring, after all.
But now the Jazz are in disarray. Rather than trying to go deep in the playoffs this year, their new goal is to rebuild around Favors and Harris for the future.
Two weeks ago, no one saw this coming. But a lot can change in two weeks.
Can Utah still make the playoffs after trading away Deron Williams? Share your thoughts below.
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