I didn’t want to get off the plane.
That’s a feeling I’ll never forget — not wanting to get off the plane. It was tough, man. The game was over. The series was over. The season was over. There was so much good that had happened this season. So much good. But then in those games against Houston, all of a sudden it was like, well, O.K. … there it goes. Whole thing gone to waste.
And now it was late, and we lost, and we had to fly back home.
I think a lot of people, just looking at our team from the outside … they might have said, “Oh, this Jazz season? This Jazz season was a win.” Like, just because we had beaten our expectations and everything, somehow that was a W.
A moral W.
But what you have to understand is — we didn’t beat our expectations by being the type of team satisfied with moral W’s. We beat our expectations by being satisfied with W’s.
We beat our expectations by being killers.
If we had been a satisfied type of team, we’d have probably gone nowhere. It’s crazy how many excuses this team had to fall back on. Lost a big star in free agency. Had these injuries. Had this backcourt of a new guy and a rookie. But man … at no time did anyone on our team even think about excuses. Didn’t think about excuses, or expectations, or any of that. We didn’t even have chips on our shoulders! You know how you hear that all the time — about how guys get snubbed, and so they have chips on their shoulders? It’s like, with this team, we didn’t even have the time to bother with that. Didn’t even have the ego to bother with that. Weren’t sitting around worried about snubs, or where people expected or predicted or wanted us to be.
All we cared about was being the best.
And all we ever had in our minds as a goal was a championship.
And that’s why it was so tough getting off of that plane in Salt Lake. It’s like, we had a goal … and we fell short of that. So as far as we were concerned, we had let this city down.
But then something crazy happened.
We got off the plane….
And y’all were there cheering for us.
And it wasn’t even just that y’all were cheering. Because it’s like I said: This wasn’t a situation where we were looking for any moral victories. No one on this team wanted to get off that plane, and be cheered in that moral-victory kind of way, that participation-trophy “you did the best you could” kind of way. What’s crazy though is that the fans here … y’all knew that. Y’all somehow just knew. It’s hard to describe — how you can tell what a group of people means simply by how they’re cheering. You can’t really put your finger on it until you hear it. But it’s like we got off that plane … and we heard those cheers … and we were just in sync, man.
It was like, Oh, they get it. This isn’t a moral W. This is an L.
But it’s only a temporary L — because we’re going to be back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. It’s temporary, because this isn’t the end.
This is the start of something special.
Y’all fans showing up like you did — it’s hard to put into words how much it meant to me, in that moment. How much I needed that. And how much I’m going to take that into this off-season, and use it as fuel to get better.
To get Win the West better.
To get Bring a Championship to Utah better.
And that’s just real. The sky’s the limit here. We’ve got the Mayor of Swat Lake City in Rudy. We’ve got one of the most dangerous trios of young guards in the league in myself, Ricky and Dante. We’ve got this group who is going to do it all, both on the floor and in the locker room, in guys like Jae and Joe. We’ve got one of the best — and most underrated, if you ask me — coaches in the league, in Coach Snyder. And man, you already know:
We’ve got the best fans in the world.
It’s crazy to me that only a year ago, I was still deciding whether to even be in the NBA at all — whether to stay in school or to enter the draft. And I made the best decision of my life, no doubt. One, because I had a rookie year I can be proud of. Two, because, man … I just love this league. But maybe most of all, I know I made the right decision because I ended up where I belong.
Playing for this team, for this city.
Jazz fans: I’ll see you around this summer — and I’ll see y’all in October for sure.
Hopefully the next time we hang out at the airport, we’ll bring a trophy.