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Kragthorpe: Five ways to cope as Jazz rebuild — and lose

Published December 16, 2013 5:55 pm

NBA • Take a fantasy approach and root for Utah players, or teams with ex-Jazz members
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After about one-third of the schedule, it is apparent that this is not an ordinary Jazz season. Frank Layden, in the old days, would have credited me with "a firm grasp of the obvious."

It took me awhile. My mistake: not playing along from the start. I viewed this team like any other club I've covered, critiquing coach Tyrone Corbin and the players and making some distinction between winning and losing.

What was I thinking?

Well, I've always found value in the NBA regular season, discovering trends and chronicling the fun and frustration of a Jazz team that could beat the NBA's elite and lose to inferior teams, while chasing a decent playoff spot. Maybe the end was inevitable, but I enjoyed the process.

Only draft position and individual growth remain as the Jazz's goals in 2013-14, with a 6-21 record after Monday's loss at Miami.

In the Jazz's 35th season in Utah, having an NBA team in this state is a blessing, and the Jazz do a lot of good things in the community. Even so, they're asking a lot of everybody in enduring this rebuilding phase. So here are my five coping strategies for this Jazz season:

• Watch the scoreboard

Even knowing the potential rewards, I just can't relate to fans being happy when their team loses. What I can endorse is hoping other teams win, aiding the Jazz's draft status

It's OK to hope the likes of Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Sacramento finish with better records, for the sake of the Jazz's own pick. That's different than blatantly cheering against the Jazz.

• Use a fantasy philosophy

If this season is all about player development, go with it. Pick a different guy every night and base your response to that game on how he performs.

In that sense, there have been some rewarding nights. The Jazz have improved since rookie Trey Burke became their point guard, after missing 12 games with a broken finger. His presence has freed up Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks to play more natural roles, and Derrick Favors is showing more offensive ability than I expected. The biggest disappointment, clearly, is Enes Kanter.

• Adopt another team

Just for 2013-14, there's no shame in shifting loyalties — but not to Miami or Oklahoma City. Portland, Atlanta and Phoenix, with heavy ex-Jazz influences, are acceptable.

In addition to Wesley Matthews, Mo Williams and Earl Watson, the Trail Blazers (21-4) have former Weber State star Damian Lillard and Dorell Wright, whose brother Delon is thriving with the University of Utah. Those players combined for 16 of Portland's team-record 21 3-pointers Saturday vs. Philadelphia, then Lillard hit a game-winning shot in overtime Sunday at Detroit.

Atlanta (12-12) has three popular ex-Jazzmen as starters: Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. And Jeff Hornacek is doing amazing things as a first-year coach in Phoenix (14-9), although I recognize the remorse associated with the Jazz's having lost him from the staff.

• Discover college basketball

The beauty of the Jazz's status is their potential draft candidates appear on TV more than anyone this side of the Kardashians. Nearly every game of Duke's Jabari Parker, Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is televised.

So go ahead, fall in love with one (or more) of them.

• Memorize the lottery odds

Remember, it's called the lottery for a reason. Even with the NBA's worst record, the Jazz would have only a 25 percent chance of earning the first pick — and a 35 percent chance of slipping to No. 4. In 2005, they had the fourth-worst record (26-56) and fell to No. 6 via the lottery, but traded up to No. 3 and drafted Deron Williams.

So let's say the Jazz stay where they are, with the second-worst record. Their chances would be 20 percent for No. 1, 19 percent for No. 2, 17 percent for No. 3, 32 percent for No. 4 and 12 percent for No. 5.

This is where paranoia comes into play, and why coping strategies come with no guarantees.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt