Monday, March 31, 2008

Kyle Korver : The Closer

In the late innings of any close baseball game, most managers will decide to bring in the bazooka, the big-gun, the flame-throwing relief pitcher who can make opponents quake in their cleats. He is the hired-gun, the specialist and it’s his job to come in and close out the game with a wicked curve or slider or unleash the 100 mph heater. He is known as The Closer. I am not talking about the retail world’s version of The Closer. You know the slimy dude with slicked-back hair smelling of Aqua Velva that sweet-talked you into the rust-proofing and undercoating on that ’93 used Taurus or a 4-year extended warranty on a toaster. I am referring to the alpha-male man’s man with icy Gatorade running through his veins, who wants the ball in his hands in the game’s closing moments.

In basketball, usually the best players start the game and play the majority of the time and usually there has been no clear-cut basketball equivalent to The Closer, until now. For the Utah Jazz, Kyle Korver is The Closer. Instead of hurling split-fingered fastballs from 60 feet, he is dropping 3’s unconsciously from 23-feet-9 inches away. In the place of the 100 mph heat, he is sealing wins by nailing 90% of his free-throws. Even if his shot is not on, he is making the defense come out to guard him which opens up the middle for Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. He is the zone-buster.

Although he usually plays the second quarter and helps start a few good runs, it has been the fourth quarter which he owns. Rewind back to December when the Jazz lost 11 games and I bet the Jazz only lose a few of them with Korver in a Jazz uniform in that fourth quarter. Since his arrival, the Jazz are on a 20-5 tear and he has just nailed big shot after big shot.

In Denver, he scored 5 points in the last 48 seconds to help the Jazz win by 3. Against Orlando, he dropped 5 in the last 36 seconds as Utah won by 4. Most recently against Atlanta, he scored the last 6 in a 20-second span to close out the 6-point win. If the Jazz ever win a championship, they must give Philadelphia some props because they have given the Jazz two of the best pure shooters in team history- Jeff Hornacek and now Kyle Korver. Maybe Philly is taking the ‘brotherly love’ creed a bit too far but speaking for the Jazz, we sure appreciate it.

If possible, the Jazz should borrow one more thing from baseball to raise the roof even higher in the ESA: the theme song. When Trevor Hoffman, the closer of the San Diego Padres and the all-time leader in saves leaves the bullpen and begins to head onto the field, the Padres’ P.A. announcer begins blaring the slow rhythmic gong…gong…gong from AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells and the crowd goes absolutely nuts. Mariano Rivera enters Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s Enter Sandman and the Dodger’s Eric Gagne enters the field to the Axl Rose wail that begins Welcome to the Jungle.

Korver needs a theme song, some bass-thumping, hard-pounding, blood-pumping, stadium-rocking anthem that puts the crowd over the edge and puts the sound at unsafe decibel levels. I think they could borrow from Hoffman. Just imagine the closing minutes of a game 7 with the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. Jerry Sloan calls a timeout and The Closer walks slowly on to the court and it starts… “gong…gong…gong.. I’m rolling thunder…a pouring rain…I’m coming on like a hurricane…” It would be crazy.

1 comment:

KK said...

Wow, what a great blog. I couldn’t stop laughing when you described the guy with the Aqua Velva after shave, haha. Anyway, back to KKorv, this guys been huge for us and you’re right, even when he’s not “feeling it” he still opens up oportunities for everyone else by just standing behind the arch. Over the last couple games though he doesn’t seem like he’s as willing to fire up shots. I wonder if because he hasn’t been as hot lately as he started that Sloany told him to not shoot as much. If so that is a shame. I agree with your analogy of Korver as a Closer, but what you need to realize is the mentality of the closers. They go out to the mound, throw their best stuff and if the other team beats them then they tip their cap, but the best closer aren’t afraid of anybody. They believe nobody can touch them and thats why they have that job. KKorv is at his best when he has that confidence in himself. I loved when he first got here because as soon as he’d get it, he’d fire it up with no thoughts about missing. I think he might be getting too worried about missing or Sloan is taking his shots away. Last night he had a 3pt opportunity late in the game that he passed up. I’m not sure what’s going on, but we need him to fire that thing up as often as he can because he IS our closer and that’s what closers do!