Monson: Jazz’s season of defeat rolls toward victory
NBA • Jazz have NBA’s fifth-worst record, and that’s not bad enough
Published: March 7, 2014 10:49AM
Updated: March 6, 2014 11:14PM
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Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke, left, loses control of the ball as he is defended by Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards defeated the Jazz 104-91. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Trey Burke’s expression after the Jazz lost their fourth straight game on Wednesday night was framed up all proper in 4-D: disgust, disappointment, dissatisfaction and determination. What was nowhere in sight was discouragement.

In a season of defeat defined by two other D-words — draft and development — that is significant. The young Jazz can’t be getting their daubers down, even if their defense is deflating. Damn.

OK, I’ll stop.

Duh.

Losing isn’t the thing with this iteration of the Jazz. Numerically, it doesn’t hurt the club. In fact, it helps it. We’ve been through this a thousand times this season. The Jazz have to lose to advance their cause. Every game they win curses them.

No matter how sickening that is to diehard Jazz fans, it’s just a fact.

You cross a desert to find an oasis. You dig a hole to find gold. You suffer defeat to find victory. You wrestle a pig to … you get the point.

There are no top-level stars on the Jazz. There are some nice pieces, guys who are coming along in that aforementioned development, growing into the improved players they’ll have to be. Alec Burks is better. Enes Kanter is better. Jeremy Evans is better. Despite a couple of down games of late, Derrick Favors is better. Gordon Hayward is not better. Burke is a rookie point guard learning rookie lessons.

But there isn’t the kind of star any real contender needs.

The Jazz can only get that star one way. They’re definitely not going to get him through free agency. They’re likely not going to get him via a trade. Those are the realities for a small-market team in the modern NBA. The Jazz didn’t form those realities, they didn’t make the rules, and they have no control in changing them. All they can do is use them to their advantage.

They need the right draft position, the right pick. And they have to pick the right guy.

And, so, the race is on.

As of early Thursday, the Jazz were tied with the Lakers for the worst record in the Western Conference, at 21-40. The Kings were a tick behind. In the East, though, they trail the 12-48 Bucks and the 15-46 76ers. The Magic were at 19-44. The Celtics were a half-game behind - ahead of - the Jazz at 20-41. The Knicks were hovering menacingly nearby.

If the lottery were held Thursday morning, the Jazz would have the fifth-best shot at the No. 1 pick.

They can do better than that.

They’ll have to. They’ll have to lose more than a measly four in a row. Take inspiration from the Sixers, who had lost 15 in a row. Now, that’s showing the kind of commitment necessary to get where you want to be. Down the stretch, the competition is too stiff for the Jazz to be fiddle-faddling around with wins over teams they have no business beating, which is just about everybody.

That loss the other night against Milwaukee would have been a thing of beauty, except that the Jazz took it to the extreme. Losing to the Bucks worked to their advantage, on the one side of the ledger, but the way they lost damaged the other side: remember, draft and development. Not sure how much growth occurred when the Jazz allowed the worst team in the league to shoot 57 percent against them while they shot 39 percent, and allowed it to kill them on the boards, too.

The best scenario for the Jazz is to play hard, to put in a good try, a good effort every night — and to lose. But to lose haplessly is nowhere near as beneficial. It’s almost as bad as winning.

Burke’s expression after the loss to the Wiz, then, was perfect. Disgusted, good. Disappointed, good. Dissatisfied, good. Determined, good. If the Jazz do this well, if the young players continue to improve, if the draft position and pick are right, if management utilizes its ample financial space to add a solid vet, all will be good, including the odds of not having to endure more seasons of defeat in the years ahead.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

The not-so-great 8

The NBA’s eight worst teams, going into Thursday:

Team Record Pct.

1. Milwaukee 12-48 .200

2. Philadelphia 15-46 .246

3. Orlando 19-44 .302

4. Boston 20-41 .328

5. Utah 21-40 .344

5. L.A. Lakers 21-40 .344

7. Sacramento 22-39 .361

8. New York 22-40 .355