Monson: The Jazz stink — and it’s a wonderful thing
By Gordon Monson
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Nov 12 2013 11:24AM
It was quiet in the Jazz locker room late Monday night. As defeat hung thick in the air, only whispers were heard, as though Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert were studying at the school library.
The fans already had filed out of EnergySolutions Arena, many before the final seconds slid off the clock. Another loss, this one to (fill in the blank, it really doesn’t matter) had gotten almost everybody’s dobber down.
It shouldn’t have.
The Jazz now are oh-fer in their first eight outings, heading into games against the Pelicans on Wednesday and the Spurs on Friday — and those will likely be losses, too.
There’s only one word to describe the situation here …
The Jazz are right on schedule.
Don’t run from it — embrace it.
It’s OK. It really is. Keep reminding yourself this season is different than any you’ve ever experienced. Up is down, down is up, wins are losses, losses are wins … do-do-do-do, you’ve entered the Twilight Zone. You’ve entered the land of the Bobcats, with one exception: Jazz management actually knows what it’s doing to extricate itself. It has a plan, a good plan, a plan that can help the club navigate the jagged realities for a small-market team in the NBA.
It can’t get a star in free agency, so get him through the draft.
It’s up to that management to make the correct decisions presented by their plan, but the plan itself is sound … unless basketball fans around here want to fight for the final playoff spot in the West every year. And they don’t. They want to legitimately contend. This is the dark way to that contention. It’s the only way.
If the locker room seemed like a library, that’s what it should be — a place for young minds and young bodies to learn lessons well. Kevin Durant learned those same lessons not so long ago.
According to the standings, the Jazz are the worst team in the league, the only team without a win. Everyone else, except Sacramento, has at least two wins. Phoenix and Philadelphia are leading their divisions. Let the phools have their pholly.
The Jazz are taking the direct path.
After gaining the lead late against the Nuggets on Monday night, they got outscored by 30 points. They missed shots, they fumbled the ball away, they had more turnovers than assists. They did what they’ve been doing since the season started — they played 4-on-5.
With Trey Burke still sidelined with a broken finger — the rookie will start workouts and be reevaluated in a couple of weeks — the Jazz could find no fuel at the most important position on the floor: point guard. Right now, they have no point guard. No offense to John Lucas or Jamaal Tinsley, but those guys bring no offense — or defense. It really is as though the Jazz, every night, are playing a man down, and in the NBA that gets you beat every night.
Against the Nugs, Lucas and Tinsley combined for four points and five assists while Ty Lawson and Andre Miller totaled 32 points and 11 assists. The Jazz have to continue to take advantage of that lopsided situation at the point — by losing at every opportunity. They’ll probably keep on losing once Burke is back because he has his lessons to learn, too.
The only risk along this path is if the young promising players get discouraged in defeat. But their whispers said otherwise on Monday night.
"I’m good, man," said Favors, who had 21 points, 13 boards and 3 blocked shots. "Just got to stay positive, keep working hard, and get through it. We’ll get a win sooner or later. Got to keep playing hard. Everybody’s staying together. I feel good about my game, I feel comfortable. We’re just going through a rough stretch, but we’re staying motivated."
Said Ty Corbin: "The guys are great. They’re frustrated with losing. We understand we have to get better in situations. We’re making some mistakes that are costing us, but they’re still fighting and I’m pleased with that. This group of guys won’t quit."
Richard Jefferson, a 13-year veteran, said the Jazz know they’re not a good team right now, but confidence isn’t lacking: "It’s just us not executing the way we need to."
Asked about what players must do to weather what he called a "perfect storm," Jefferson said, "You have to be a man. We’re paid to perform." He added that, as presently constituted, the Jazz are "young men … you have to go through this … we have quality, talented young players. There’s a lot of great young players in this league who are now all-stars that are carrying playoff teams that struggled early on. …
"You don’t see us holding our heads, we’re not fighting, we’re not arguing with coaches. There’s not a fragile psyche. We just got to get a win."
They don’t even need that.
They just have to improve as time goes on and keep a good attitude. They have to survive — and pick the right player in next year’s draft. Everybody outside the locker room has to forget about winning, stay focused on the plan and enjoy the ride.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.