NBA Preview: The wait ends tonight

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Here we go again: the NBA season. Oh, how it toys with our hearts here in Utah. Without any other major sports teams to obsess over, each year we put all our eggs in one basket. We heap all our dreams onto the shoulders of a bunch of imported giants.

Boozer, Williams, Okur, Kirilenko — where will you lead us this year? Will there at last be triumph? Or will the ringless drought drag endlessly on into infinity in a Chicago Cubs-like fashion?

Soon Jazz fans will pour into EnergySolutions Arena and something quite bizarre will occur.

Utah and BYU fans who elsewhere wouldn’t so much as spit in the other’s direction, will unite for the common good. They’ll stand side by side wearing Boozer and retro Karl Malone jerseys, and for those 41 home games, the hostility and repulsion will subside and the nasty looks will be replaced by knowing glances of empathy.

There will be no arguments about who is self-righteous and who is a heathen — at least for those two-and-a-half hours — as Utes and Cougars together experience the occasional triumphs and the inevitable disappointments of being a Jazz fan. I cannot imagine a lovelier sight — unless Israelis and Palestinians could find a common NBA franchise to root for.

After spending the summer stewing over a zillion media-manufactured issues, it is at last time for the Jazz to don their baggy shorts.

Some issues have been blabbed about incessantly all summer. Like the whole Andre Kirilenko ordeal.

Andre learned a tough lesson. If you shoot your mouth off in Russia — it doesn’t matter if it’s to an obscure blogger or to Vladimir Putin himself — it’s a safe bet that the scandalous interview will make its way across the ocean and back to Utah. We’ll dissect every word and treat every sound byte like we’re Rick Majerus tearing into a succulent slab of meat.

It’s all we have!

The 2007-2008 season is an interesting one for the Jazz. Last year they experienced their greatest success since 1998, collectively and individually. Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur made the All-Star team, but it was Deron Williams who made the biggest splash of all.

Williams went under the radar during the regular season, but in the playoffs he had the national media drooling over his scoring and passing skills. Folks compared and contrasted him with John Stockton until their throats were dry. The playoffs seemed to set the stage for a huge follow-up year.

Will Williams be able to reproduce his playoff numbers in the regular season?

It’s just one of several questions that the Jazz face.

Will Millsap avoid a sophomore slump?

Will Mehmet Okur regain his shooting touch?

Will Andre Kirilenko ever gain one?

Right now, these are as big of a mystery as the white spot on the back of Rasheed Wallace’s head.

We’ve been chewing them over all summer and we’re finally about to get some answers. Isn’t it exciting?

Sam Battistone, if you’re out there, thank you. Battistone, the former owner of the New Orleans Jazz, moved the team to Utah in 1979.

Mr. Battistone, you’ve given us elation, heartbreak and something to obsess about in this forgotten five-electoral-vote state in the neglected Mountain Standard Time zone. Thank you for your imperfect, frustrating, wonderful gift.

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