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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Brad Rock: Skip the Mormon marketing — just get the guy who can score

By Brad Rock, Deseret News

Published: Thu, June 19 11:50 p.m. MDT

 Duke forward Jabari Parker (1) works against Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C.

Duke forward Jabari Parker (1) works against Mercer forward Jakob Gollon (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball second-round game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Raleigh, N.C.

(Gerry Broome, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

SALT LAKE CITY — As next week’s NBA draft nears, rumors persist the Jazz are trying to trade up in order to get one of the can’t-miss picks. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are being mentioned as possible trade bait, though it would take much more than that.

Maybe the Jazz could throw in a Lexus dealership in Spokane and the Salt Lake Bees for enticement.

Anyway, suppose the Jazz did move up from their No. 5 spot. And suppose Duke’s Jabari Parker was available. And suppose he’s a bona fide, scripture-toting member of the LDS Church — which he is. Do they select him?

Of course they do. That’s like asking if you’ll be taking your tax refund. It’s money in the bank.

But not because he’s LDS.

Take him because he’s an inside-outside scoring threat. And because he’s the most complete player in the draft. Choose him because one scout told The Boston Globe that Parker was a Grant Hill/Carmelo Anthony hybrid.

But for heaven’s (and hades’) sake, don’t take him because they think he’ll be a Mormon marketing bonanza. News flash: Latter-day Saints have been watching basketball since they were infants. They know the game. They might first attend a Jazz game because of the hype surrounding Parker, and even cheer because he’s a likable kid from a fine family.

But they’ll boo him back to Chicago if he doesn’t pan out.

Media nationwide love to point out what a marketing coup it would be to have Parker in Utah. Sure it would.

If he’s an All-Star.

Otherwise, he’ll be just a player for one of the league’s disappointing teams. Religion won’t mitigate that.

Religion has never been an issue with Jazz fans. Check the banners at EnergySolutions Arena. Only one bears an LDS name: Larry H. Miller. Everyone else wouldn’t know a home teacher from a home invasion (though some say they’re the same). Fred Roberts, an LDS player from BYU, played two seasons for the Jazz but barely moved the applause meter before going on to a successful career in Milwaukee. Similarly, Andy Toolson played part of two seasons with the Jazz after graduating from BYU.

Both were liked and respected — on and off the court — but didn’t play long enough in Utah to engender strong followings.

Danny Ainge, also Mormon, was hooted by Jazz fans, because he played for Boston. Shawn Bradley was booed regularly when he came to town with the Mavericks or Sixers.

Neither got a Mormon discount.

Consider Chris Burgess, who chose Duke over BYU, causing Cougar coach Roger Reid to complain Burgess had disappointed millions. After Burgess transferred to Utah, he wasn’t exactly embraced by the LDS faithful in Utah County.

By the time quarterback Jake Heaps transferred from BYU to Kansas, he was as popular as cold stew.

Even the former national college player of the year, Jimmer Fredette, gets a mixture of boos and cheers when he plays in Utah, though that’s more the product of the Utah-BYU rivalry.

Regardless, the Jazz need a great pick next week. Interest in the team has waned, considering it hasn’t won a playoff game since 2010, and has made the conference finals just once since 1998. People are starting to forget the Jazz were once a power team.

Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon would be solid choices, if the team keeps the fifth pick. Many are saying Joel Embiid, who turned up with a broken foot on Thursday, will even be available. He was projected by some to go No. 1 before his latest injury. Combined with a back injury earlier this year, it raises the question of whether he’s the next Greg Oden.

Still, it would be hard to pass if Embiid were available at No. 5. Better that they figure out how to trade up and remove all doubt. Parker isn’t the flashiest, just the best. Wiggins is everyone’s favorite potential Kobe. At the same time, he has shown a tendency to drift in and out of the action. Parker has defensive and conditioning questions, but those are fixable.

Embiid and Wiggins might be tomorrow’s superstars, but Parker is ready today, which is good. The Jazz need defibrillation, stat. If their draft pick is LDS, that’s OK, but Jazz fans don’t need a “Brother Parker.”

They just need someone who can score.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged

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1. Where is Hadley?
Salt Lake, UT,
June 19, 2014

But due to his Mormon faith he's probably more likely to like Salt Lake well enough to stay here long term - and yes that could factor into a play to move up higher in the draft. Jazz ownership would be more willing to give up a lot in return to secure the guy if we thought he may stay here long term and if he truly is as special of a talent as many believe. If we thought we could only keep him for the first contract, might be less reason to give up the assets to go get him. So ya, his LDS faith could play into it

2. Chester Brough
Providence, Utah,
June 19, 2014

Brad Rock is on point again, a good coach like Greg Poppovich can teach better passing, and overall court skills and demand improved defense with fine teaching, with the result--a fine team concept, but he cannot teach someone how to score, play the game instinctively to help a team; he wore out Miami chasing continual fine passing, no one in San Antonio makes such decisions on culture, background or religion--they follow what employment law is in the United States: "hire someone because of ability, qualifications with the temperament to blend into an employment environment sought by the company". What your religion focus, or purpose might be is not even a valid question during an interview to hire, so why is it in marketing a small network audience like Utah similar to the Spurs?

3. ed
Los Olivos, CA,
June 19, 2014

Bill Russell said only one question should be asked of a gay player: Can he play?

Perhaps it also the only viable question related to religion regarding basketball. Plenty of Mormons already in Utah but none of them are on the Jazz team.

4. localblue
Sandy, UT,
June 20, 2014

Nice article. Don't overdose on the Parker koolaid though. You said:
Wiggins is everyone’s favorite potential Kobe. At the same time, he has shown a tendency to drift in and out of the action. Parker has defensive and conditioning questions, but those are fixable.

Isn't drifting in and out of the action just as fixable as defense and conditioning, perhaps even more so? I'd take Wiggins first, then Parker. But both are great.

5. IndeMak
South Jordan, UT,
June 20, 2014

There was a time where millions of Jazz fans planned their schedules around the Jazz. I was one of them. Most of us watch less than 10 televised games per year. The office needs to do something quick to get the old fans engaged in the team.