The new Utah Jazz have seemingly improved their size, depth and shooting.
Now comes the tough part: Can they win more consistently on the road?
Utah won only 11 of 33 games away from EnergySolutions Arena last season — a record that must improve if the Jazz hope to climb the ladder in the Western Conference.
“It’s one area we’ve talked about having to get better,” said coach Tyrone Corbin.
The Jazz face their first road test of the young season Friday night at New Orleans.
In all, Utah plays 12 of its next 17 games on the road, including visits to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver and Memphis.
By the time the Jazz journey to Houston on Dec. 1, they will have played nearly 30 percent of their entire road schedule.
“It will be a great test for us early in the season — to get out on the road and play against some great opponents,” Corbin said.
Asked if he looked forward to getting such a substantial number of road games out of the way so quickly, Corbin laughed and said, “If we win them, I do.”
The Jazz coach knows, however, that his team already faces a crucial stretch in what will likely be a close battle for berths in the conference playoffs.
“If you dig yourself a big hole by losing a lot of road games in a row — the way the West is — it’s going to be extremely difficult all year long,” Corbin said. “If you get into the second half of the season and have to dig yourself out of a hole, it’s going to be tough.”
In the last five years, the Jazz have finished over. 500 on the road only once. That happened in 2009-10, when Utah went 21-20.
The Jazz opened Wednesday night with a 113-94 win over Dallas. They struggled early and trailed 63-55 at halftime.
In a hostile environment, it might have been a losing formula. Instead, the Jazz calmly fought back, dominated the third quarter and coasted to victory.
“At home, the crowd can get you over the hump,” said Mo Williams. “Like [the other] night, we started slow but the crowd kept us in the game with the energy they gave us.
“On the road, you won’t get that. You have to find your own energy. You have to find your own spirit. You have to execute better. You have to minimize your mistakes. That’s the way it is.”
During the offseason, the Jazz added veterans Marvin Williams, Randy Foye and Mo Williams to improve their offense and depth.
A residual impact might be additional experience that helps Utah be more competitive in opposing arenas.
According to Corbin, road games “are a different animal in this league because the competition is so good. [But] veterans understand how to ... be ready right from the beginning. They are tough enough to fight each possession and, if a team makes a run, they are tough enough to weather the storm.”
Home and away
The Utah Jazz’s home, road and overall records for the past five seasons:
Seasons Home Road Overall
x-2011-12 25-8 11-22 36-30
2010-11 21-20 18-23 39-43
2009-10 32-9 21-20 53-29
2008-09 33-8 15-26 48-34
2007-08 21-20 18-23 39-43
x-NBA teams played 66 games because of the lockout