’Tis the season for trips into the wilderness to cut down a tree that could have been bought just a few blocks away, for awkward conversations with some of your closest third-cousins, for — somehow — another ugly sweater party and more fruitcake.
Who doesn’t love the holidays, right?
Jazz at Kings
O At Sleep Train Arena (Sacramento, Calif.)
Tipoff » Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV » ROOT Sports. Radio » 1280 AM, 960 AM, 97.5 FM
Records » Jazz 4-19; Kings 6-13
Last meeting » A 112-102 overtime win for the Kings on Friday in Salt Lake City.
About the Jazz » Playing seven of their next eight games on the road. … Guard Alec Burks scored 20 points in a home loss to Portland on Monday, marking the seventh game in a row he’s reached double figures. … Forward Derrick Favors (sore back) is a game-time decision Wednesday, while forward Marvin Williams (sore heel) is doubtful to play.
About the Kings » Acquired Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy in a trade with Toronto this week. … DeMarcus Cousins, who scored a game-high 28 points against the Jazz with Derrick Favors out of the lineup, dropped 32 in a win over Dallas on Monday.
Well, the Utah Jazz have a holiday tradition of their own, and just like the rest of us they plan to grin and bear it.
Dating back to Frank Layden’s run as head coach, the Jazz have loaded up on December travel, hoping to catch other teams distracted by holiday bustle and ensuring they’d get to be home on Christmas morning.
So in the spirit of tradition the 4-19 Jazz, hampered by injuries and struggling for wins even at home, will play seven of their next eight games away from EnergySolutions Arena.
"It is what it is, man," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said Tuesday. "It’s going to be some tough opponents but we’ve got to play."
The Jazz start this whirlwind tour Wednesday in Sacramento. After the Kings’ overtime win at Utah on Saturday, coach Mike Malone said he expected "a different team" in this week’s rematch, anticipating Jazz forward Derrick Favors and Marvin Williams’ return from injury. But while both players practiced Tuesday, Favors remains a game-time decision for Wednesday, while Williams is doubtful to play.
Instead it’s the Kings who will be different after acquiring Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy in a trade this week with Toronto.
The Jazz head to Colorado for a game against the Denver Nuggets on Friday before returning to Salt Lake City for one night to face the San Antonio Spurs, the Jazz’s only home game between now and Christmas.
Then it’s off to the East for five games in eight nights.
"Sometimes you’ve got to go in the fire," forward Richard Jefferson said. "Sometimes you’ve got to go in the fire to get better, and when you come out you’re a better team for it. Maybe you’re better in games 60-80, but maybe that’s what you need."
The Jazz have struggled all season, but particularly away from EnergySolutions Arena, where the team has recorded three of its four wins. At home, on average, the Jazz are outscored by six points a game. On the road, that number more than doubles to 14.
The team’s field goal, 3-point and free-throw percentages all drop on the road. The Jazz’s defensive rating is nearly four points worse (110.2 vs. 106.5) on the road, while their offensive rating drops by a full five points.
Still, Jefferson said he sees improvement among the last-place Jazz.
"We’re getting better," he said. "I know the wins and losses aren’t what people want to see on a consistent basis. But in the locker room, we’re getting better. We’re staying together. There are no players-only meetings. There’s no lashing out by the coaches. There are no doghouses out there. It’s just guys working to get better."
If nothing else, guard Alec Burks said when asked if there are any positives about the long road trip, "the cities [on the trip] are nice. If you’ve got some Christmas shopping you can do that. Besides that, it’s basketball."
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