Los Angeles • Here are a couple of simple questions with perhaps not-so-simple answers:
Did the Jazz come into this season overconfident? Did the combination of last season’s incredible 29-6 stretch run and the return of nearly that entire roster create the false impression of an ability to flip the proverbial switch when needed?
It’s worth asking, considering a team that was pegged as one of the Western Conference’s elite based on the strength of its continuity and familiarity has stumbled to a lackluster 8-11 start, partly from a failure to largely play efficient offense and stifling defense in the same game.
“There’s always a sense that when you’ve accomplished something you can tap into it,” coach Quin Snyder acknowledged. “I don’t think that we’ve come in taking anything for granted.”
Whether it’s true or not, it’s true that he believes it.
Throughout this campaign, Snyder has frequently stated that bringing back 13 players from one season to the next is no inherent guarantee of continuity, likening it to finishing up a year of school, going through summer vacation, then returning for the next school year expecting to pick up right where you left off with no review period or re-acclimation.
Of course, much as the coach seeks to distance this season’s subpar start from last season’s spectacular finish, he also likes to draw convenient parallels to the 19-28 beginning of a season ago.
“There were times last year we weren’t a very good team. We were able to work through that, and that’s why we became a good team,” Snyder said. “No different [now] — there’s always adversity, there’s always challenges, it comes in different shapes and sizes.
“Certainly right now, the fact that we’re talking about all this, it’s real,” he added. “But at the same time, we just need to be better. … A lot of it, for us, is just digging in.”
The players say that adversity and those challenges are foremost on their minds.
They contend there is an urgency — if not yet alarm — to solve their issues and get things turned around.
There is also a confidence that they can do just that.
“It hasn’t gone how anybody anticipated, just because of what we expected of ourselves after last season,” said guard Donovan Mitchell. “But I don’t think we’re in panic mode, we just got a lot of stuff to fix. And that’s it — there’s really nothing else to it. As long as we fix that, we’ll be good. We’ll pick it up.”
Of course, Mitchell — who went through portions of practice Saturday at UCLA’s Student Activities Center, but will sit out Sunday vs. Sacramento — said that before the Jazz lost to the Lakers for their third straight defeat.
After the game, there was a palpable sense of annoyance at letting yet another winnable game going the other way again.
“It’s frustrating, obviously, not winning. It’s frustrating being so close to winning,” said forward Joe Ingles. “But it’s an 82-game season, and we’ve only played  games. But yeah, it’s still frustrating, because we wanna win all of them. We’re trying to win all of them. We’ll get there. I love our team, I love the way we play — most of the time.”
For what it’s worth, center Rudy Gobert suggested the team needed to start playing again with “the underdog mindset.” Considering the Jazz are tied for second-to-last in the Western Conference at the moment, maybe it’s even apropos.
“Every game, we come out with even more anger,” he said. “We have to keep doing that.”
Snyder, conversely, wants there to be more focus.
Whatever the team’s mentality going in, he said, the pieces are there to get make everything work and get it all turned around.
“Certainly there’s a foundation there, and we know what the blueprint is for our group, and it’s our job to continue to work at executing that,” Snyder said. “You don’t want to be fatalistic; obviously, we feel the urgency of however many games [in]. I don’t want to say the season’s young, but I do want our guys to understand there is work to be done.”
JAZZ AT KINGS
At Golden 1 Center
Tipoff • Sunday, 6 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 8-11; Kings 10-8
Last meeting • Kings, 119-110 (Nov. 21)
About the Jazz • Friday night’s loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles was the team’s third in a row. … Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who suffered a rib contusion in that game, participated in portions of Saturday’s practice but will not play Sunday in Sacramento. … The teams have split their two meetings thus far this year, with the Kings winning last week in Salt Lake City, and the Jazz taking the season opener at the Golden 1 Center.
About the Kings • Sacramento will be facing the Jazz in the second half of a back-to-back after Saturday’s game vs. the Warriors. … Center Willie Cauley-Stein has totaled 23 points and seven rebounds in each of the games thus far against the Jazz this season. … The Kings were highly efficient shooting the ball in their last game vs. the Jazz, hitting 52.8 percent of their field-goal attempts.