San Antonio • Having eight players bound for free agency may be taking a toll on the Jazz and could be partly to blame for the team’s late-season collapse, coach Tyrone Corbin said Friday.
“It may have a little something to do with where we are,” Corbin said. “We can’t do anything about it. We’ve got to play our way through it, that stuff we can’t do anything about until it’s time to do something about it.”
The struggling Jazz (34-34) have 14 games left in the regular season and play at the Western Conference-leading Spurs on Friday. San Antonio is expected to get All-Star point guard Tony Parker back in the lineup after the French national team star missed eight games with a sprained left ankle.
The Jazz were five games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in the West and appeared a virtual lock for a postseason appearance the morning of the trade deadline (Feb. 21). However, they have lost 10 of their last 13 games and slipped out of the playoff picture entirely. They are 1½ games behind the Lakers for eighth and three games behind Houston following a 100-93 loss to the Rockets on Wednesday.
“I just thought that we would be in a better place at this stage of the season,” Corbin said. “Although the schedule has been tough, we’ve played tough stretches of the schedule. I thought we’d be better in this stretch right now. I thought we’d be playing better.”
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson headline a large group of Jazz players who will be unrestricted free agents once the season ends, and Corbin said factors such as wanting to produce bigger numbers and not getting hurt could impact individuals’ performances at this point in the year.
“All that stuff could come into play,” Corbin said. “I’ve been a free agent before. You’ve got a lot of things that come into play now.”
Corbin said he would not change his starting lineup Friday, despite openly criticizing the effort and defense of that unit in Wednesday’s loss. On Thursday, Corbin said the team’s practice was “as good as it can be” after a bad loss, but that the mood of the team was “concerning.”
He said things were better after Friday’s shootaround.
“You get a chance to reflect back and get some things settled in your mind,” he said, “and try and get whether you go from where you are to get better fast, you’re a little more relaxed.”
He added, “You want to try to go back to work. You can’t beat the guys up too much because you’re still in the fight.”