Utah Jazz challenged by coach after loss to Denver Nuggets
Denver • Tyrone Corbin closed the locker room door and raised his voice.
After watching the Jazz suffer serious blowouts during their initial two games of a lockout-shortened season, Utah's second-year coach decided to make a stand Wednesday following a 117-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
Instead of chewing his young team out, though, Corbin issued a challenge. The NBA isn't going to wait on us, Corbin said. Figure out what you want to stand for as a group and do it fast, or continue to pay a hard price for individualism.
"Our players have to step up and do it. And we all have to as a coaching staff and myself we have to lead them through it," Corbin said. "It's a young bunch of guys for the most part. We've got to grow together. And I'm not quitting on the guys and I don't think they'll quit on me. But we've got to get things figured out."
The Jazz (0-2) have figured out little since training camp started, and Utah's lost its first two games of the season by a combined 42 points.
Al Jefferson scored a team-high 19 points for the Jazz, while rookie guard Alec Burks added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting during 9 minutes, 51 seconds of garbage time.
Nene's game-high 25 points topped the Nuggets (2-0), who led by as many as 27 midway through the fourth quarter and coasted to victory.
A non-existent Utah defense allowed 63 points during the first half, an unsightly 68 points in the paint, and Denver shot 53.5 percent (46 of 86) from the floor while often scoring at will.
The Nuggets' rout followed the Jazz's season-opening disaster during a road loss Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers, when Utah's 71 points established a franchise low for a scoring total to start a new year.
Just two games into an unforgiving season, the Jazz are floundering at both ends of the floor. Is it too early to panic? Yes.
Is it too soon to hold players accountable and demand everything from improved effort and mental focus to teamwork and intensity? Heck no, Utah's coach said.
"I think mainly it's a trust thing," Jazz guard Devin Harris said. "Defensively we've got to trust each other and make the proper rotations. Offensively, [it's] ball movement and making the right plays."
He added: "We've just got to stay together."
Just one game after preaching patience and cautioning against overreacting, Corbin acknowledged it'll likely be a "long season" for a Jazz team that's balancing a core veteran trio of Harris, Jefferson and Paul Millsap with four of the first 21 lottery picks during the 2010 and 2011 NBA drafts.
Millsap's been Utah's best all-around player. But he's come off the bench while 20-year-old Derricks Favors has started at power forward. Favors has responded by spending the last two contests in early foul trouble.
Meanwhile, 2010-11 problem words such as "trust," "togetherness" and "communication" are already making the rounds through the Jazz's postgame locker room. When shots don't fall, the team's defense falls apart. When the Jazz's defense collapses, some players put the weight of an entire roster on their backs, attempting to single-handedly lift Utah to an impossible win.
"It's a team sport, so you've got to trust in one another at both ends of the court 100 percent, you know?," Bell said. "When you don't do that, it's a chink in the armor."
Two games into a new season, the Jazz are already showing cracks.
Nuggets 117, Jazz 100
R IN SHORT • The Jazz's defense shows serious problems and Utah loses its second consecutive game to start the season.
Key stat • The Nuggets shoot 53.5 percent from the field and record 68 points in the paint.
Key moment • Denver closes the second quarter on a 21-6 run and takes a 17-point lead into halftime.