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Utah Jazz: After tough start, Jazz want to make up ground in January

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson (25) knocks the ball out of the hands of Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) at EnergySolutions Arena, Monday, December 30, 2013.

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 01 2014 05:55PM
Updated Mar 24, 2014 11:31PM

These are unnerving times for some Utah Jazz fans.

After an atrocious start to the season, claiming just one victory in their first 15 games, the Jazz have taken a step toward respectability. They have won four of their last seven and are hovering around .500 since rookie point guard Trey Burke was inserted into the starting lineup.

It isn’t a season that will end in a parade, but if the tank is on, the execution has been lacking.

"As players, we come out and we try to win every game. We come out and play hard. We’re not coming out trying to lose," Jazz big man Derrick Favors said. "We knew coming in it was going to be a development year. We’re young players, trying to learn. But we’re trying to win every game."

For those Jazz fans anxiously counting ping pong balls and imaging a June day when Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker might walk onto the stage, put a Jazz cap on his head and smile, January might be a particularly tough month.

The Jazz, whose 19 road games to this point are the most in the NBA, will play eight of their 12 games this month at EnergySoultions Arena.

"There’s an opportunity," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "But we’re not in a position right now where we can take anybody for granted anywhere we play them. … We had a tough schedule at the beginning of the season. It eases up a little, but that doesn’t mean we can ease up our play."

The Jazz, 10-24, will host the Oklahoma City Thunder, visit the San Antonio Spurs and close out the month with home games against the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors. Outside of those contests, every other team the Jazz face in January had a losing record when the new year began.

Utah kicks off January on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the only team in the league with a worse record, but it has a prime opportunity to climb out of the NBA cellar.

It’s a prospect that might cost the Jazz draft position in June, and that’s just fine by Corbin.

"Absolutely," Corbin said when asked if he took offense to speculation the team would tank this season. "As a player, I would. You work so hard to get to this level. You work so hard to be an NBA player. You want to show that you belong here."

For the Jazz coach, the focus is on the present.

"Who knows what happens down the road?" Corbin said. "You’re asking these guys to go out and work as hard as we can to be as good as we can be now. We have to concentrate on who we have now, what we can control now to be as good as we can be now."

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