23 December 2011
Its been a long time since we've heard the din of cheers that followed every 3 point bucket Mehmet Okur made at home in a Jazz uniform. The silence surrounding Memo has been conspicuous, and in this truncated preseason I've held my breath to no avail as he has missed shot after shot from beyond the arc.
Get used to that silence. The zeitgeist of the 2007 Western Conference Playoffs seems to have packed up and headed east, aided in its departure by the reality that players and franchises don't exist in a vacuum and cannot completely control where they are when opening tip comes. In the time that has elapsed since April 18, 2010 Mehmet Okur has been on the sidelines, unable to return to his place in the lineup and the lineup in its mercurial way, moved on.
Factors that seem to stem from Memo's torn achilles have drastically altered the direction of the Utah Jazz (Kudos to David Locke and others who saw this a long time ago). If trading Ronnie Brewer was the original sin, Memo's injury all but cemented the Jazz's fall from grace. At the end of the 2009-2010 campaign, the exodus took shape. Boozer was gone. Korver was gone. Matthews was gone and almost a moment thereafter Sloan and Deron were gone too. Though Jerry is putting his feet up in Herriman, the majority of the old guard is starting this season east of the continetal divide. What began with Memo in 2004 seems to have ended with him tonight. The era of Jazz basketball marked by DWill to Memo pick and pops and Jerry stubbornly skulking the sidelines is finally, truly over -- there can be no doubt that all eyes in the Jazz front office are fixed firmly on the future with no intent to rekindle old flames.
Watch Memo at the top of his game
In his consistently unpredictable way, Kevin O'Connor has once again sent a Jazz man out the door with no warning and left the fanbase to vascillate endlessly between outrage, understanding, shock and nostalgia. It is the way things are done in Utah. Ronnie had to get off the plane, Deron was in the weight room when his name scrolled across the ESPN ticker and Memo got the call directly from Greg Miller the night after the final preseason game of this yet to be started season. No one sees these things coming (except, apparently, Billy King). We in "Jazz Nation" discuss the wisdom of a basketball decision only after the ink has dried.
Such will be the case for the trade of Mehmet Okur.
While the possibility of money balls raining down at Energy Solutions Arena again brings a smile to all our faces, that possibility has more value elsewhere, to another team for a spectrum of reasons I'm not qualified to speculate about.
So, while I will be lending my opinion to the sea of others on Twitter pontificating en masse in 140 characters or less about this trade, I really don't have any opinion to express here. Instead let me say this:
Two free agents set the stage for the draft selection of Deron Williams and the ascent of the Utah Jazz from the ashes of the Stockton/Malone era. One of those players was an opportunist seeking a paycheck and a comfortable spot in a starting lineup. The other was Mehmet Okur, who had just finished his second season in the NBA by becoming the first Turkish player to win an NBA title. Memo signed with the Utah Jazz in the summer of 2004 and was traded to the New Jersey Nets at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
Through seven seasons with the Utah Jazz the sharp shooting big man provided offensive energy, defensive rebounds, a three pointer you could set your watch to and a charmingly unkempt beard. He was kind to fans and popular with the media and his teammates. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Memo was tough. He played through injuries that sidelined some of the most hailed players on Utah's roster. He was a significant part of the Jazz's deep 2007 playoff run and a consistant contributer to the product that Utah put on the court night in and night out for several seasons.
He fought hard to come back from a torn achilles and though a back injury hindered his progress, the lockout lengthened offseason allowed him to rehabilitate and play serious competitive minutes overseas. At the end of the 2011 offseason he looked to be a significant part of the continued development of the new look Utah Jazz, and while that aspiration has been snuffed by the front office, Memo will doubtlessly be of great value to Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets recently without Brook Lopez.
His success inspired the Jazz's newest big man Enes Kanter to pursue his dreams of being an NBA center. It is no small bit of serendipity that Kanter will soon take the floor in the same lineup spot that Memo long occupied.
If there was ever a player who embodied Jazz basketball, it was Mehmet Okur. I imagine he will continue to embody Utah's ethic in New Jersey this year. The Nets are lucky to have him.
I can safely speak for all of us when I say he will be dearly missed.
Peace out Money Man.
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