So how will the Utah Jazz fare without John Stockton?
If history is any indication, and frankly there's not much data for analysis, the defending Western Conference champions will be good on the road and woeful at home.Stockton underwent knee surgery Thursday night and is officially expected to miss six to eight weeks of the regular season, though one source told the Deseret News the veteran guard will be fortunate to return to action by the first of the year.
Stockton has missed just four games (all during the 1989-90 season) in his 13 seasons with the Jazz. In those four games, his teammates went 2-2.
A severe ankle sprain kept him out of the lineup Nov. 22, 1989, and the Jazz dropped a 119-97 decision to Orlando at the Salt Palace. Three days later, the Los Angeles Lakers paid a visit and left town with a 92-86 victory.
Later in the season, Stockton was sidelined with a virus on an Eastern road trip. While he battled the flu, the Jazz posted victories at New Jersey (108-101) and Charlotte (94-74) on consecutive nights (Feb. 7-8). Delaney Rudd was Stockton's backup that season.
Stockton returned to the lineup in a 110-104 win over Minnesota on Feb. 13, 1990, and has not missed a game since. While sidelined, he told reporters he'd never miss a game unless it was absolutely necessary.
"I just (want) to play in every game while I'm in this league," he said. "I hold that kind of dear to me, and I don't want to pass up any opportunities."
ESPN pro basketball analyst Jack Ramsay said Stockton's injury, though damaging to Utah's early season fortunes, shouldn't hinder Jazz hopes for a return visit to the NBA Finals.
"What's important is that you make the playoffs and that you are playing you best basketball then," Ramsay told the Deseret News. "(Stockton's injury) is a tough one if they had to go the whole season without him, but they have some very capable backups, and the others will just have to shoulder more of the load."
Ramsay, who also works on Miami Heat broadcasts, noted that the Heat went 11-4 last season when center Alonzo Mourning was out with an injury.
He notes, however, a major difference.
"There is no other John Stockton," said Ramsay. "I like Howard Eisley. I thought he played very well in the Finals. He can't pass like John Stockton, though. Nobody can."
Jazz team psychologist Keith Henschen said the timing of the injury may be a silver lining in a potentially dark situation for the franchise.
"If it was not an experienced team, it would be more disastrous," Henschen said. "It's not like they haven't played without John at different times of a game. If it had to happen, it's good it's happening at this period of time. Thay have preseason games to make the adjustments necessary, get the rotations to where they are comfortable and build confidence. It's better it happened now than in April.
"This is a tough group," he added. "I really feel like they will respond well to it. The guys will come through, and in the long run will make them tougher."