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RANDY HOLLIS: Jazz disrespected despite success

SALT LAKE CITY — It was one of Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

And famed comedian Rodney Dangerfield often moaned that he couldn’t “get no respect — no respect at all.”

The Utah Jazz can certainly relate to that frustration these days. 

As the National Basketball Association takes its annual midseason break for its All-Star weekend festivities, the Jazz boast the best record in the entire league at 27-9.

What’s more, the Jazz will have three players — Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley — participating in this year’s All-Star game. And by virtue of their standing atop the entire Western Conference, Jazz coach Quin Snyder will serve as head coach of one of the All-Star squads.

That would normally be enough to make any franchise feel pretty darned good about the way things are going.

Instead, the Jazz are feeling mighty frustrated these days. Sure, they came into the break having lost three of their last four games, which was aggravating enough, but that’s not the thing that’s got ’em feeling the most pissed off right now. 

In a nutshell, it’s the way they lost their last game before the break, an overtime decision on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers, that’s grabbed theirs and everybody else’s attention.

After that excruciating defeat — in which Utah’s leading scorer Mitchell was ejected in the closing seconds of overtime — Mitchell, Gobert, Conley and Snyder each pleaded their case in different ways over what they see as often unfair, imbalanced officiating by NBA officials — a perceived slight against the Jazz organization that has routinely plagued this small-market franchise for years.

Mitchell’s and Gobert’s pointed postgame remarks earned them hefty fines of $25,000 and $20,000, respectively. Mitchell boldly said the Jazz were growing wearing of repeatedly getting “screwed” by NBA officials, a sentiment which many Jazz fans would wholeheartedly agree with.

Now the question hangs over this team like the stale stench of a locker room: Will the complaints by Utah’s players and coach, which certainly seemed justified, work for or against this Jazz team moving forward?

Undoubtedly, the Jazz team will be galvanized by what it sees as unfair officiating and an overall lack of respect for what they’ve accomplished. Utah’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality will be heightened moving forward, an us-against-the-world attitude that will serve as added motivation and a rallying cry when the regular season resumes later this week.

But will NBA officials carry a grudge against Utah going into the second half of the season? After all, it’s human nature that when someone is highly critical of another person’s performance, the person who was criticized can certainly develop an “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll show you” attitude and choose to purposely “screw” them even worse the next time they have that opportunity.

Officials are only human (though some coaches might disagree), and like most of us, they don’t take very kindly to someone questioning their judgment or integrity. That goes for the entire officiating fraternity, not just the ones who officiated the Jazz-Sixers game.

Then again, is it possible that NBA officials might take a look at themselves in the mirror and say to themselves, “Ya know, maybe those Jazz guys just might have a point.”

If that happens, perhaps all the complaining could actually work in Utah’s favor over the second half of the season.

Personally, I doubt very much that officials go into a game with any preconceived notion of how they’re going to officiate it. I think they generally try to be as fair as possible, without bias, hopefully putting personalities and past confrontations aside. And I’d hate to think that they would make calls based on whether a team is from a big market like Los Angeles or a smaller market like Salt Lake City. I find it hard to believe that they purposely “screw” any player or team.

That being said, I think anyone who has watched NBA basketball over the years has often seen superstar players get calls that defy all logic.

I remember the late, great Kobe Bryant being awarded with a highly questionable foul call on a late-game, 3-point attempt against the Jazz, when replays clearly showed that, if there was any contact made at all on the play, it was initiated by Bryant himself. If memory serves, Bryant made all three free throws to send the game into overtime, and the Jazz eventually lost.

All of the game’s greats — from Michael Jordan to James Harden, from Karl Malone to Kevin Durant, from Shaquille O’Neal (who severely dissed Mitchell on a national TV broadcast earlier this year) to Nikola Jokic, and on and on — have at times benefited from the NBA’s “star” system which rewards them with favorable calls at the expense of a lesser player.

I mean, come on, let’s face it, how many calls did Greg Ostertag ever get?

But the Jazz have established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams this season. They have definitely earned the respect of other players and coaches around the league, respect from the fans, and definitely respect from the officials. They certainly shouldn’t have to plead for respect, or face fines because they’re getting frustrated and vocal about not receiving it.

The Jazz have gotten everybody’s attention now — for their stellar season-long performance, for their prolific proficiency at shooting 3-pointers and their brand of basketball that’s fun to watch, for their fierce defensive effort, and for their ability to win games at a very high rate.Hide original message

Now they’ve gotten the attention of NBA officials as well. Let’s hope that their remarks don’t blow up in their faces or cost them questionable calls by fickle referees who are carrying a grudge for being harshly criticized.

Indeed, let’s hope those officials have the integrity to call the game the right way, as much as is humanly possible, regardless of who’s playing against who or which market they might represent.

And finally, let’s hope the Jazz franchise receives the proper amount of R-E-S-P-E-C-T that it rightfully deserves.

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