Merry Christmas, Utah Jazz fans. This morning, your stocking is half full.
Provided you still care about the NBA -- and that's certainly not a guarantee -- you're probably anxious to see the Jazz back on the court this season. After so many changes in the past 365 days, you're no doubt wondering if they're going to be any good.
Somewhere in the back of your mind you may even be asking, "Can these guys make the playoffs?"
To that I say, "Ho, ho, hold there, Blitzen. That's a pretty big Christmas wish."
Jerry Sloan is gone, ditto for his top assistant, Phil Johnson. Deron Williams is in New Jersey, so is Mehmet Okur. There's a good chance Andrei Kirilenko ends up there, too.
Tyrone Corbin now commands the team and while he seems to know what he's doing, he's an unknown commodity. Replacing DWill, Memo and AK-47 are guys who've not yet earned nicknames: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward.
What's more, C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap -- the two remaining names from the 2006-07 team that advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals -- are good complementary players, but are they All-Star performers?
Frankly, the jury's still deliberating that question.
Look, if you're asking me on Christmas Day 2011 if the Jazz can make the playoffs in this, a lockout-shortened, 66-game season, the answer is: You've got a better chance of finding a front-row spot in the WalMart parking lot tomorrow morning.
That's not to say it's impossible, but, well ... you get the picture.
Notice, however, you're stocking is still half full.
Turns out Santa left you a little something.
That something is called hope.
While I don't think the Jazz are going to make the playoffs this season, their future looks to be as bright and shinny as the star on top of your tree. At least that's what the front-office, coaching staff and players will tell you. And if you're a fan, that's where you've got to hang that hope.
In the 2011-12 Jazz season preview story that accompanies this column, I wrote that the Jazz ought to unveil a new marketing slogan this season: "Who are these guys?"
I wasn't kidding.
Given the incredible turnover in just two short seasons, the current roster is virtually unrecognizable. Even the most ardent fan may have trouble rattling off the 13 players who'll start the year wearing a Jazz uniform.
But in the coming weeks and months, I'd wager many of you will come to know a few names quite well.
Derrick Favors is an All-Star in the making. Harris is a one-time Eastern Conference All-Star who has quickly shown himself to be a dynamic team leader.
Hayward can go as far as his confidence will allow him. The same goes for rookie Enes Kanter.
Rookie Alec Burks is an incredible talent who may need to harness some of his confidence before he reaches his full potential.
Millsap, Miles and Al Jefferson, they're veteran players, all still in their 20s ... still in their prime. Future All-Stars or not, they're probably the most recognizable names on the roster and Corbin will count on them to help carry the team this season.
How far the team goes remains to be seen. Given the talent and depth in the Western Conference, it's hard to imagine the Jazz making the playoffs. But given the talent and depth of Utah's roster, it's easy to see fans getting excited about this group.
Go ahead and look over the roster. You may not recognize all the names, but the Jazz are banking on the fact you'll see something else there.
It's called hope, and this morning it's got your stocking half full.
Merry Christmas, Jazz fans. Enjoy the ride.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247