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Utah Jazz move forward, but still search for identity
Analysis » Atop the list of questions now facing Jazz is “Who are we?”


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Closing in?

At a glance

Utah Jazz, 2011-12

Record » 36-30

Northwest Division » Third

Playoffs » No. 8 seed in Western Conference. Lost 4-0 to San Antonio in first round

Most valuable player » Paul Millsap

Best offensive asset » Al Jefferson

Top defender » Gordon Hayward

Rookie of the year » Alec Burks

Most improved » Hayward

Key veteran » Jamaal Tinsley

Biggest surprise » Enes Kanter

Biggest disappointment » Raja Bell

Locker-room glue » Earl Watson

Biggest win » 123-121, 3OT against Dallas on April 16

Biggest loss » 139-133, 4OT to Atlanta on March 25

Big numbers » The Jazz’s three main veteran pieces -—Devin Harris, Millsap and Jefferson — hold expiring contracts during the 2012-13 season. Combined, they’re worth about $33.5 million next year.

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But are the Jazz any closer to the top of the Western Conference — a peak they haven’t reached in 14 years?

Can Utah compete with ever-improving Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division without making major moves that could set the in-between Jazz backward next season?

Right now, O’Connor says, Utah must improve from within and only minor moves will be made in free agency this summer. Which means the lockout season was just one step in the Jazz’s post-Williams evolution. And the organization’s biggest challenges are still to come.

"We have to add to. I don’t think we have to blow it up and start over again," O’Connor said. "I don’t think we’re in a position of looking at it and saying, ‘We’ve got to trade some people.’ I think we’re saying, ‘We have to add to our core and go from there.’ "

And find a lasting identity.




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