Gordon Monson: Youth movement means baby steps for Jazz
There were all kinds of questions to answer here late Tuesday night in the Jazz's first real game in more than eight months, in a season opener featuring the team against which the Jazz love to measure themselves: the Lakers.
Questions such as: Which is worse â¦ being bushed or being rusty?
(Apparently, the latter.)
Questions like: How patient will Jazz fans have to be this season?
Questions like: Are Jazz shooters legally blind?
(Apparently â¦ they shot just 32 percent.)
Questions like: Is the Jazz offense running in a mud bog?
(Apparently, it scored just 31 points in the first half, only 40 in the second.)
Questions like: Why didn't the Jazz run more against a supposedly gassed opponent?
(Apparently, there is no answer to that.)
When Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Al Jefferson, and what's this? Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors took the court before the opening tip at Staples Center, it brought another answer, confirming what had been made known earlier in the day that those five would be the Jazz starters.
And that the Jazz officially are giving a nod to youth, to what might be, or at least trying to.
Contrast that with the Lakers, whose front men included oldsters Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher, staying with what used to be.
Until Tuesday, nobody, not even the players themselves, knew what form the Jazz lineup would take.
It meant one of two things: Either the Jazz have acquiesced to the notion that this season is as much about player development for the future as it is about winning now, or they believe they can win while bringing the babies along.
There's a third option, though a bit distressing: Maybe they think they'll lose no matter who plays.
The numbers on the board here weren't encouraging: Lakers 96, Jazz 71.
It also meant Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles, and everyone else, will, at least for the time being, have to do their business off the bench.
The call was a bold move by Ty Corbin, who is risking upsetting veterans straightaway to allow the kids to grow. It's the right move, even though the short-term result wasn't anywhere close to great.
Favors struggled, unable to get in any kind of groove. Hayward chipped in, but offered only glimpses. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks? Uh â¦ this is going to take awhile.
"We just missed shots," Corbin said. "It's one game â¦ we just have to continue to fight."
There also were questions about how the more seasoned Jazz players would mesh with the younger guys.
Turned out, meshing wasn't the word. Colliding was.
After the first few minutes of the second half, everything here evolved into garbage basketball listless and, with any luck for the Jazz, meaningless.
At the offensive end, they struggled from beginning to end. They scored those meager 31 points in the first half, hitting just 13 of 50 attempts. It was ugly, despite none of them being all that worried beforehand.
"We have enough guys who can score," Harris said in the game's run-up. "It's all going to depend on how good we are at the other end."
Yeah, but the offense wasn't just bad, it was terrible.
"We got off our game at the offensive end," Corbin said, "and then we missed shots."
Added Miles: "We haven't gotten to the point where everybody knows where everybody likes to be."
Jefferson, who missed 14 of his 16 attempts, said, "I had my shots â¦ the basketball gods just weren't on my side tonight."
There were plenty of questions about the Jazz's defense, too, an area of huge worry and emphasis coming into the opener.
Jefferson characterized it as "pretty good."
The rebounding was a bright spot for Utah. At least it gave good effort there. Against a team whose length has troubled the Jazz for seasons, they were able to use the suspended Andrew Bynum's absence.
If the Jazz can rebound, they should be able to run.
Although they had no authentic team identity coming in, it was thought to be a big advantage for them to have so much athletic depth, all around. The question was, would their young legs make up for an overall lack of experience playing together, and, in some cases, playing at all?
The answer: not really.
The Jazz rarely flew up and down the floor, rarely utilizing numbers and energy to their benefit, despite the fact that the Lakers were tired, playing their third game after two losses in three nights. Bryant, along with starters Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts, was fighting injuries, and Bynum, as mentioned, was gone.
It didn't matter.
"We thought we'd push the pace a little more," Corbin said.
But they didn't.
The youthful Jazz should have had a terrific chance to win, should have had no pity, should have played straight through, should have run and run and run the Lakers, should have run to daylight, and should have never stopped to care.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.