Two weeks into the NBA season, the Jazz are evoking comparisons to a legendary team in franchise history.
Not a good team, just a memorable one — the expansion New Orleans Jazz, whose coach was fired after 15 games.
The Jazz, who take an 0-7 record into Monday night’s game with Denver at EnergySolutions Arena, are threatening that 0-11 start in New Orleans in 1974-75. The question naturally becomes whether coach Tyrone Corbin can last even until his contract expires at the end of the season.
Corbin definitely deserves an opportunity to coach Trey Burke, who broke a finger during the preseason. But to say Corbin is exempt from firing just because the Jazz think of themselves as different from other pro sports franchises would be ridiculous. All disclaimers aside, there’s a point in the proceedings when keeping the coach is counterproductive to any team’s growth.
The Jazz are not at that stage yet. Seven games in the NBA is the equivalent of one college football game. With a road-heavy schedule and the absence of Burke, while forwards Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush are working their way into the rotation, there’s not enough material to judge Corbin.
Having said that, the Jazz’s performance is disturbing. At various stages in last week’s trip, they trailed Brooklyn by 26 points, Boston by 25, Chicago by 29 and Toronto by 38.
That’s unacceptable, even in what’s already being written off as a season of draft positioning. Corbin also is looking bad in comparison to coaches of the teams in similar rebuilding positions. Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek (5-2), Philadelphia’s Brett Brown (4-3) and Boston’s Brad Stevens (3-4) are a combined 12-9, with the 76ers and Celtics both having beaten Miami.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey can say the Jazz are above the “blame-the-coach culture” of the NBA, but he’s obviously aware of what Hornacek (an ex-Jazz assistant coach), Brown (Lindsey’s former colleague in San Antonio) and Stevens (Gordon Hayward’s college coach) are doing with their teams.
This week’s three-game homestand is critical to Corbin, if only from a perception standpoint. The Jazz have been competitive and entertaining at ESA, even while losing to Oklahoma City and Houston. That was not the case on the road, where last week’s four losses contributed to the Jazz’s woeful statistics of 40.1 percent shooting and 87.7 points through seven games, worst in the league in both categories.
I was misguided in believing the Jazz could piece together decent point guard play until Burke was available. John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley have combined for only 8.3 points and 5.0 assists in 41.1 minutes, while shooting barely 30 percent.
That’s why Corbin can be judged only by Burke’s development. Ever since taking over for Jerry Sloan in February 2011, Corbin has faced difficult circumstances. He deserves the opportunity to coach the 2013-14 team as it’s designed — up to a point, of course.
The Jazz fired Scotty Robertson with a 1-14 record in the franchise’s inaugural season. Corbin will last beyond 15 games, even if he’s 1-14. But the day may come when the Jazz have to do what everybody else does, and blame the coach.