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Gordon Monson: No trades – so Jazz must grow from within

Published March 16, 2012 2:20 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So, what you see with the Jazz in 2012 is what you've already met.

Sort of.

The NBA trade deadline came on Thursday and then disappeared, ducking on down a back alley without the Jazz as much as breaking their stride-and-stumble. Before Thursday night's 111-105 overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at EnergySolutions Arena, before the deadline hit, the Jazz stood at 20-22. A few hours later, they were 21-22, still lagging down around the 10th spot in the West.

Whether they could have bettered themselves with a deal, we'll never know. What we do know is that Kevin O'Connor did not make a deal. When asked about the inactivity, he said, "Unless we could have improved the team over the long term, we didn't want to make any moves."

There were those rumors about C.J. Miles getting shipped here, Raja Bell getting shipped there, Devin Harris getting shipped somewhere, but … ship didn't happen.

Nothing happened.

The Jazz on most nights can't hit a 3-point shot to save their playoff lives, opponents are packing their defenses tight, attempting to force Utah to launch its armament from a distance, a tactic that has been effective. But the Jazz decided whatever help they could have gotten wasn't worth whatever they would have had to give up.

Maybe it's just as well.

If the Jazz are going to get better, which they certainly can do, they'll have to achieve it in the sort of antiquated way that is frequently forgotten — and disregarded — in today's make-it-happen-now mentality.

They'll have to do it among themselves.

A couple of nicely placed draft picks, certainly within their reach — thanks, in part, to Golden State — at season's end, wouldn't hurt, either: "We can add a really good player to our young core," O'Connor said.

But for the time being, the Jazz have to look inward. They have to make the distinction between who on their roster is capable of improving and who isn't. They have to determine who is still rising and who is already topped out.

Emphasize the growers.

Thursday night, Gordon Hayward — "Great game," Ty Corbin said — scored 26 points. Alec Burks got 15. Derrick Favors — "Great job," Corbin added — garnered 16 boards and four blocks. And, still, the team blew a 12-point lead in regulation.

The Jazz will get better and benefit over the short and long hauls by utilizing that growth among those who have it in them.

That course doesn't automatically disqualify the veterans. It's not just the youngsters who can build on their games. We've seen that in small increments with Al Jefferson, who used to swallow the ball whole and burp up only the seams in the low post. Now, he at least peeks at his teammates, sometimes actually giving the ball back to them, breathing life into an offense that sometimes grinds to a dead stop. He's learning to … how you say? … pass the ball.

It's not the equivalent of bare-fisting into submission a 20-foot boa in the backwater of Brazil.

Favors is on his way, almost in spite of the limited minutes Corbin so often gives him. Enes Kanter can get better. Same with Burks and Hayward.

It will be left to the offseason to properly address the perimeter-shooting problem, although Hayward drained 2 of 3 bombs against the Wolves. Somehow, it has to be addressed, despite Corbin's earlier assertion that he would prefer his players take shots closer to the basket. In the modern NBA, that reasoning is wrong. It's great for the Jazz when they boast about all their points in the paint. But they had more points in the paint than the Suns did the other night — and lost to them by nine.

The Jazz at present are good enough to beat marginal teams, good enough to beat even good teams at home. But their 5-16 road record is the near opposite of their 16-6 home mark.

Against Minnesota, the Jazz played well at times, terrible at others. Ultimately, one big positive — strong defense — helped them take a tight game.

Yeah, there was no major trade whirlwind or personnel drama on Thursday for the Jazz, no new help from the outside in.

They are left, then, only with the inside in, with baby steps to take, with small bits of growth to gain, with playing the guys capable of improvement.

But, hey, now. It's not as though they're wrestling boas in Brazil's backwater. This is something they can do, if they will.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.