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Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, top, dives for a loose ball against Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies won 96-86. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)
Utah Jazz say losses have nothing to do with tanking
NBA » High pick is not worth creating a losing culture, team argues.
First Published Mar 21 2014 03:40 pm • Last Updated Mar 21 2014 11:27 pm

The losses keep piling up.

When the Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz step on the court at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday night, they will have nearly 100 defeats between them. And regardless of the outcome, the next big win for either team might not come until the draft lottery.

At a glance

Jazz vs. Magic

At EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff » Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV » ROOT Sports

Radio »  97.5 FM, 1280 AM

Records »  Jazz 22-47; Magic 19-50

About the Jazz » Have lost 11 of their last 12 games. … Rookie Trey Burke scored 30 points in a win over the Magic earlier this season in Orlando. … Gordon Hayward leads the team in scoring at 15.7 points per game.

About the Magic »  Coached by former Jazz point guard Jacque Vaughn. … 4-32 on the road this season. … Guard Arron Afflalo leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.3 points a game.

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But while the promise of a high draft pick is there — and the nation’s top collegiate basketball talent on just about every television in America this week — the talk of tanking, of losing now to win later, still doesn’t sit right with Ty Corbin.

"It makes your skin crawl," the Jazz coach said as his team readied for practice Friday. "It makes your skin crawl as a competitor, personally. But it seems to be a popular thing nowadays with some people — media or whoever drives it."

After losing 11 of their last 12 games, by an average margin of 14 points, the Jazz enter Saturday with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, three better than the Magic.

Those three games could mean quite a bit come late May, when the NBA will draw for the order of the June draft.

If the season ended today, the Jazz (22-47) would have a 37.8 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and an 11.9 percent shot at the No. 1 overall selection. The Magic, with the third-worst record, would have a 46.9 percent chance of getting a top-three pick and a 15.6 percent chance at the top spot.

Coming into Saturday, the Boston Celtics (23-46) and the Los Angeles Lakers (22-45) were only slightly ahead of the Jazz in the standings, meaning a win for Utah coupled with a loss for either of those teams would hurt the Jazz’s chances of moving up in the draft order.

While fans may fret, it’s not something that bothers Jazz forward Richard Jefferson.

"It’s just stupid," he said of the notion of tanking. "It’s like urban legend. How many times do you see a top-three pick not pan out? How many times do you see a No. 1 pick not pan out? At the end of the day, you need to develop the guys you have, you need to build a winning tradition … within your organization. Just because you get the No. 1 pick or the No. 2 pick, it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re getting Tim Duncan. It doesn’t mean you’re getting Michael Jordan."


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Draft experts, however, believe this class might feature multiple franchise-changing players. Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Duke’s Jabari Parker, and Australian guard Dante Exum are all expected to be taken high.

With 13 games left, the Jazz aren’t willing to sink low to get there.

"If you think that you’re just going to the No. 1 pick, the No. 2 pick, the No. 3 pick and all of a sudden you’re going to be an NBA title contender, that’s false," Jefferson said. "You have to build habits. You have to build a winning attitude for the young guys that you have in your organization. Any fan that thinks their team is better off losing, you just don’t understand. … If you do get a better player and you teach these guys losing habits, where’s your organization going to be then?"

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz



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