These are unnerving times for some Utah Jazz fans.
After an atrocious start to the season, claiming just one victory in their first 15 games, the Jazz have taken a step toward respectability. They have won four of their last seven and are hovering around .500 since rookie point guard Trey Burke was inserted into the starting lineup.
It isn’t a season that will end in a parade, but if the tank is on, the execution has been lacking.
“As players, we come out and we try to win every game. We come out and play hard. We’re not coming out trying to lose,” Jazz big man Derrick Favors said. “We knew coming in it was going to be a development year. We’re young players, trying to learn. But we’re trying to win every game.”
For those Jazz fans anxiously counting ping pong balls and imaging a June day when Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker might walk onto the stage, put a Jazz cap on his head and smile, January might be a particularly tough month.
The Jazz, whose 19 road games to this point are the most in the NBA, will play eight of their 12 games this month at EnergySoultions Arena.
“There’s an opportunity,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. “But we’re not in a position right now where we can take anybody for granted anywhere we play them. … We had a tough schedule at the beginning of the season. It eases up a little, but that doesn’t mean we can ease up our play.”
The Jazz, 10-24, will host the Oklahoma City Thunder, visit the San Antonio Spurs and close out the month with home games against the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors. Outside of those contests, every other team the Jazz face in January had a losing record when the new year began.
Utah kicks off January on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the only team in the league with a worse record, but it has a prime opportunity to climb out of the NBA cellar.
It’s a prospect that might cost the Jazz draft position in June, and that’s just fine by Corbin.
“Absolutely,” Corbin said when asked if he took offense to speculation the team would tank this season. “As a player, I would. You work so hard to get to this level. You work so hard to be an NBA player. You want to show that you belong here.”
For the Jazz coach, the focus is on the present.
“Who knows what happens down the road?” Corbin said. “You’re asking these guys to go out and work as hard as we can to be as good as we can be now. We have to concentrate on who we have now, what we can control now to be as good as we can be now.”
Bucks at Jazz
O At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM, 960 AM
Records • Jazz 10-24; Bucks 7-24
About the Jazz • Team is 9-7 with the starting lineup of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors. … Coming off a win over Al Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. … Burke has now tallied six 20-plus point games.
About the Bucks • Brandon Knight scored 34 in a win over the Lakers on Tuesday. … Twenty-seventh in the league in scoring at 92.7 points per game. … Big man Larry Sanders is averaging 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in his first three games back from injury.