Jazz has issues, but don’t blame No.22’s curse, thanks to Thabo Sefolosha
The veteran striker is a reliable player and a valued mentor
In July, in a downtown hotel ballroom, the Jazz featured veteran striker Thabo Sefolosha, who posed for photos in his new team’s jersey: No.22.
Losing star player Gordon Hayward in Boston in free agency made the summer pretty tough for the Jazz. And now they were replacing him with a player who would wear a number that throughout the Utah era has been associated with serious injury, suspension, crime, drug addiction and streak. of 18 consecutive losses. Some players have worn the number at times with some success, but nobody’s tenure in jazz never really ended well at No. 22.
Yes. Good luck with that, Thabo.
Five months later, the Jazz have some problems. They start games badly, they have a losing record and they are in the midst of a discouraging December schedule that will likely put them under the Western Conference playoff cut. The only surprise? None of this is really Sefolosha’s fault, or her number.
As the longtime co-curator (along with the late Bill Kreifeldt, former team publicist) of Jazz’s Curse of No. 22, I’m cautiously close to declaring Sefolosha the hexbreaker. Known as a top-level defender, he has been reliable on both ends of the pitch, averaging 8.0 points and as a leader and confidant of young players including Donovan Mitchell and Alec Burks. “I’m really happy with what he gave our team,” said jazz coach Quin Snyder. “You’ll see him, maybe more than anyone, talking to our guys.”
The only criteria left in my official assessment are that Sefolosha must stay in good health and that the Jazz must make the playoffs. If these things happen, he will have overcome the litany of mistakes and bad luck that plagued each of the previous 15 players who wore the number in the Jazz’s first 38 seasons in Utah. Former Utah State star Nate Williams performed well at No. 22 in New Orleans, but that all changed when the team moved to Salt Lake City. A sample:
Bernard King, accused of sexual assault and suspended for the last three months of the first season of Jazz in the City, having scored just 176 of his 19,655 career points in the NBA.
Carl Nicks, the starting point goalie for a team that has lost 18 straight games.
John Drew, who returns triumphantly from rehab one year, then relapses the following season and is dropped.
Carey Scurry, released in the middle of his third season, due to problems off the field.
Curtis Borchardt, injured his knee and played just 16 games in his first two seasons as a first-round draft pick.
Henry James, Dave Jamerson, Brooks Thompson, Malcolm Thomas and Jerelle Benimon. Never heard of them? This is my point.
Morris Almond became a minor league star, but only played 34 games in two seasons for the Jazz as a first-round pick.
My favorite story associated with No.22 is how Louis Amundson eagerly told me he remembered scoring his first two NBA points for Jazz – except that it never happened. And then there’s John Crotty, who originally wore No.25 for Jazz. After wearing the number 22 in Detroit, he kept that number on his return to Utah and quickly injured his knee. He then returned to No.25 and had the best year of his career.
Jazz number 22 has often been awarded to players working on 10-day contracts, most recently JJ O’Brien. So he was available for Sefolosha, who signed as a free agent after wearing No.2 and 25 in 11 seasons with Chicago, Oklahoma City and Atlanta.
So when Jazz equipment manager Adam Klauke called to ask about his number preference and said that numbers 2 (Joe Ingles) and 25 (Raul Neto) had been taken, Sefolosha chose the closest thing: number 22.
Recently briefed on the cursed history of the number in Utah, Sefolosha said, “No one told me.” And then he smiled and promised to “change the luck”.
It can happen. In the absence of injured striker Joe Johnson, Sefolosha has played a consistent role. “He’s been great,” Snyder said. “I think he’s found a rhythm. … Defensively he’s unique, just his understanding of protection.
Snyder jokes that he wonders what Sefolosha is saying to his teammates when he puts them aside, but he has to be a positive influence. Burks, in particular, became a better defender listening to him.
Good things are developing with the latest Jazz number 22, a son of a Swiss mother and South African father, who says he is not superstitious. Even so, having lost three straight games, the Jazz (13-14) need a little more luck. If they don’t win in Chicago on Wednesday, they could be stuck on 13 for a while.