In an alternate reality, the Utah Jazz have a dream season when Gordon Hayward and LeBron James join forces.
LeBron James wakes up June 15th with night sweats. His forehead is throbbing. He can’t breathe. His heart is beating at a million miles a minute. He just keeps reliving Game 3 over and over again in his dreams. “OK that’s it,” he tells himself. “Time to fight fire with fire.”
It’s still early so he goes down to his private court to shoot around a bit. By the time 6 AM rolls around he goes to make his kids breakfast and have a discussion with his wife. “It’s a basketball decision he says. I have to slay the beast I helped create by beating a 73 win team.”
After a few hours of playing with his kids, LeBron picks up his cellphone and dials a number in his phone listed under “G-time.”
“Hello?” LeBron hears. “Hey, Gordon.” LeBron replies. “Re-sign with Utah. I’m coming to help you defeat Golden State.”
“Wow,” Gordon says softly. “We’re really going to do this thing huh?”
“Yes, but let’s keep a lid on this for a while.”
Meanwhile, in France… Rudy Gobert is doing an annual camp for kids to learn basketball. His agent calls and asks if he’s heard any rumors about LeBron. “LeBron? No, why? What should I have heard?” Rudy asks, confused.
“It’s probably nothing,” his agent says. “I’ll see you when you get back.”
The weeks leading up to the first of July are full of rumors. Boston and Miami are both thought to be prime destinations for Gordon Hayward. There are trade rumors. The No. 1 pick appears to be in play again. What else is new?
LeBron James watches and waits for his time to pounce. After David Griffin is fired as the Cavaliers GM, he implements his exit strategy. Have the Jazz trade a first-rounder and Derrick Favors for himself.
What do you know — maybe LeBron James was the GM of the Cavaliers for once after all!
Amazingly, this deal gets done and LeBron shows up to a huge crowd at Salt Lake International Airport. LeBron ends up purchasing Karl Malone’s old house and gets to work. He spends one-on-one time with Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert and spends two weeks with Gordon Hayward, following the same workout routine to a tee.
As one might expect season tickets sell out in a hurry and the ticket prices for home games raise substantially. On opening night, the new-look Jazz blitz the Lakers 130-95. The new era of Jazz basketball begins.
After starting the year on a 15-0 run, the Jazz drop a couple of games; it looks like injuries are going to hamper the team yet again. However, this time the Jazz respond by going on another five-game winning streak heading into the team’s first Christmas game in two decades. (Seriously the last Utah Jazz Christmas game was in 1997).
This time, the Jazz are headlining against the Golden State Warriors.
The game starts with LeBron rattling off 10 straight points. Golden State soon wakes up and explodes for a 40-point first quarter. It’s 40-30 at the end of the first in favor of Golden State. After an intense battle, during which the Jazz trail for most of the game, they ultimately lose by just five points.
This gut-wrenching loss proves to be one of the only real games the Jazz and Warriors play all year, alternating between resting LeBron and a few other members of the core.
Rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell shoots 40 percent from three-point land. Gordon Hayward averages 30 points per game and Rudy Gobert torments the opposition all season..
As the season draws to a close, the Jazz finish with a franchise-best 64 wins. They are the No. 2 seed in the West, one game behind Golden State and two games ahead of San Antonio. As the playoffs ramp up, all anyone can talk about is the potential Warriors-Jazz Western Conference Finals match-up.
The Warriors rip off eight straight wins en route to the Conference Finals, but the Jazz struggle a bit to put away Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. In the end, though, they defeat them 4-2 in a hard-fought series. The new-look, battle-tested Jazz remain focused and set their sights on defeating the Warriors.
With Stephen A. Smith predicting the Warriors will prevail in five, the Jazz are ticked off. They blow the doors off of the Warriors’ perfect record and stun them with a 121-105 win in Game 1. Not willing to be shown up, the Warriors respond with a 115-107 win over the Jazz in Game 2. When Golden State takes the first game in Utah, 105-98, fans start to worry.
Could it be that even LeBron is unable to defeat this team?
Could it be that Jordan Bell has made the Warriors even more dangerous? His double-double lifts GSW in Game 3 against the Jazz. Certain doom is lurking in the shadows for this Jazz squad.
In Game 4, the outlook becomes even bleaker with the Jazz dropping the game by 10 points. The Warriors now hold a 3-1 series lead; the most dangerous of Warrior leads.
However, the Jazz stun the Warriors in Game 5 by blitzing them for 142 points. Draymond Green gets ejected for throwing a punch at Rudy Gobert and Jordan Bell is forced to replace him in Game 6.
The contest in Utah is extremely close throughout. Neither team holds more than a 10-point lead. Nevertheless, the Jazz are able to close this one out, winning by a mere two points. The Warriors 3-1 lead becomes a 3-3 tie.
In a battle for the ages, the Jazz take the series back to Oracle Arena. The league gets one of its most exciting WCF games of all time and the Jazz close out.
With the Jazz reaching the NBA Finals and sweeping the Paul George-led Celtics, Danny Ainge cries openly as he watches the free agent he thought would be his first big win hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy and say “Boston Sucks!”