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The last time we saw the Utah Jazz, together, they were being ushered back to the locker room in Oklahoma City. Their game against the Thunder had just been suspended, moments before tip-off, after it was learned that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. A few hours later the NBA season was officially suspended.
In the days that followed, uncertainty swallowed the sports world and then the world in general, and discord reportedly swirled around the Jazz. Gobert probably didn’t contract novel coronavirus from his ill-advised attempt at humor, touching all the microphones after a media availability just as the NBA was putting distancing guidelines in place. But he was clearly careless (and unlucky) somewhere along the line and, in passing the virus to teammate Donovan Mitchell, seemed to fracture something in their relationship.
The two have reportedly fixed what needed fixing but until they are back on the court together, we won’t really know. Until things get hard, shots and rotations are missed, errors in judgment put points on the opponent’s board or take them off Utah’s, we won’t really know how strong the connective bond of chemistry is between Mitchell and Gobert.
What if the Utah Jazz pulled off the impossible?
If you accept the theory of the multiverse, then you know there are infinite variations on what we know as reality, running in parallel. That means there are universes in which the Jazz arrive in Orlando and things fall apart. Like in the playoff series of the past few seasons, Gobert’s stout interior defense is pushed towards irrelevancy as teams like the Clippers and Rockets spread the floor to the extreme. Mike Conley’s shooting struggles continue and Bojan Bogdanovic’s absence creates a void of complementary scoring and creation that is too much to overcome. The Jazz lose. The chemistry shreds. A rebuild is necessitated.
But the multiverse holds all possibilities. That means somewhere in the fabric of space and time, there is a reality where the Jazz come together. Where the chaos and complacency of three months off from basketball dulls the edge of opposing offensive systems. Where Gobert’s defense is more important than it’s ever been as teams try to shake off the rust with relentlessly misguided isolations, running right into the longest reach around. Where the rest does Conley good, helps him finally find his legs. Where Mitchell can fully inhabit the heroic opportunity, doing his best impersonation of Dwyane Wade, circa 2006.
In this universe, the Jazz make quick work of the Thunder, run through both the Clippers and Lakers and force a confrontation with the Bucks. Enormous chips adorn enormous shoulders and a seven-game epic makes any asterisks all but transparent. Mitchell is your Finals MVP but the barrier Gobert build between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the basket is just as important, to deciding the outcome and to braiding emotional steel into the repaired link between himself and Mitchell. Jordan Clarkson single-handedly swings Game 3 with a fourth-quarter scoring burst. Georges Niang hits some big shots and gets some well-deserved national shine. Joe Ingles celebrates by shaking and spraying Quinn Snyder down with some Little Creatures Pale Ale he brought just for this occasion.
Thousands of miles away, John Stockton smiles and gives a little fist pump.
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