Quin Snyder doesn’t want to hear about All-Star break plans yet.
There’s plenty of reason to start looking ahead. Utah’s game Wednesday night is against the Phoenix Suns (18-40), a team tied for the worst record in the NBA. The Jazz are as hot as they’ve been in nine years, and they already beat Phoenix on the road during the 10-game winning streak.
But Snyder doesn’t want his team to get too far ahead of itself amid all the confidence channeling Utah’s way and a break just over the horizon.
“We can’t talk about the All-Star break right now,” he said. “It’s positive noise, but it’s still noise, still talk. We have to block that out the same way we blocked it out when we were going through the tough stretch in December.”
The Jazz need this nine-day break from a health perspective. Ricky Rubio will miss his third straight game — a move that’s likely as precautionary as it is due to his actual hip soreness — and others on the Jazz are getting a lot of treatment to be able to play through various bumps and bruises.
What players and coaches say has kept Utah winning through this stretch has been positive energy from within. Donovan Mitchell said he was ready Monday night to accept that Utah was about to lose to the San Antonio Spurs and the winning streak would end at nine games. Joe Ingles shook him out of it.
“He said, ‘No, screw that. We’ve got eight minutes left. Let’s go out there and finish this off,’” Mitchell recalled. “We did that. … From where we started the day to where we finished, all the emotions came out in one leap.”
The Suns have lost nine of their last 10 games and are expected to play without star guard Devin Booker on Wednesday night. Trade acquisition Elfrid Payton, who has played well against the Jazz in the past, could play a leading role. But there’s no question there’s been tough sledding for Phoenix since the season started and the Suns fired coach Earl Watson three games in.
There was significant controversy in Phoenix’s last game when Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr handed over his grease board to his players and let them coach themselves. Kerr said it was a form of engaging his team, which has struggled through midseason malaise. Some in the Phoenix locker room called it a sign of disrespect.
Snyder said he would rather not judge the actions of other coaches without full context. But he didn’t dismiss Kerr’s move out of hand, saying Kerr has earned at least some benefit of the doubt.
“I think the key thing is as a coach you want to do whatever you have to do to help your team win and help your team grow,” Snyder said. “Steve’s shown what a good coach he is, and he’s creative. That was something he felt on a given night that could help his team.”