Kragthorpe: Larry H. Miller wouldn’t have wanted Jazz to lose to Lakers
Published: April 15, 2014 12:04PM
Updated: April 15, 2014 07:23PM
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Kurt Kragthorpe

The logical question after this outcome — something resembling the Los Angeles Lakers 119, Jazz 104 ­— is whether the home team actually lost or won Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

After all, the Jazz now claim the NBA’s fourth-worst record (24-57) with one game remaining, Wednesday at Minnesota. They’re assured of finishing behind the Lakers. So the Jazz enhanced their lottery odds and potential draft position, which evoked some rejoicing among fans.

Sorry to spoil the celebration of the defeat, but I wish the late Larry H. Miller could be here to address this subject. Do you really believe Miller would have enjoyed watching his team lose, under any circumstances? Not like this, certainly. Not to the hated Lakers. And not with an ugly, fourth-quarter meltdown.

Summarizing the Jazz’s season, Gordon Hayward said, “We were in a lot of games, and then we have a lapse and we’re down 10, 15 points.” Or 20, in this episode, after being tied through three quarters.

I understand the big picture of this season, and so would have Miller. But c’mon. What’s fun about this stuff? Jazz fans in the sold-out building had to absorb the taunts of Lakers followers and watch Nick Young prance around the court while scoring 41 points. Well, the L.A. people were entitled to have fun.

The last time the Jazz were this bad (26-56), Miller took the microphone before the final home game of 2004-05. Amid his usual tears, he said, “Two things I’ll promise ya: No. 1, we’ll do everything we know how, through the draft, through free agency … and come back bigger and better and stronger than ever. Number two, you’re looking at an owner who will never, ever say that our fans didn’t stick with us through thick and thin.”

That remained true nine years later. Jazz management should be very appreciative of the support they’ve received, with average attendance of 18,175 during the worst home-court performance (16-25) in the Jazz’s 40-year New Orleans-Utah history. Franchise owner Greg Miller’s personality is not like his father’s, but his brief video message of thanks sure seemed inadequate.

And here’s the issue going forward: If the Jazz can’t hang with this version of the Lakers, how are they suddenly supposed to win next season, even with a new coach and a high draft pick?

The Jazz crumbled in the final period, wonderfully playing the role of Washington Generals. If that was the goal, though, you’d never have known it by Tyrone Corbin’s approach.

Corbin coached as if his job depended on winning, fighting for calls and exhorting his players. Asked before the game about having to merely play out the schedule, Corbin said: “That’s not fun, but you understand where you are. You continue to develop.”

Any future development undoubtedly will occur without Corbin, who may have been retained if the season had ended March 1 instead of April 16. These last six weeks have been disturbing, except when viewed from the bottom of the standings.

Which brought us to Monday’s exercise. The Lakers (26-55) sent out their starting lineup of Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks in an effort to ruin everything for the Jazz, from a lottery perspective. They failed to do so, thanks largely to Young’s performance off the bench.

So a home schedule that began in October with a rimmed-out 3-pointer from Hayward that could have tied Oklahoma City ended with an embarrassing performance. That night, Hayward addressed the crowd and assured everyone the team was “committed to playing Jazz basketball every night.”

And then the season started, and that definition kept evolving. Right now, who knows what Jazz basketball is?

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt