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The Utah Jazz have a history of slow starts to the season, and they’re at it again this year

The current 4-4 start fits a pattern of stumbling out of the NBA gate during the Quin Snyder era, but things turn around eventually

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) as the Utah Jazz host the Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020.

Is a 4-4 Jazz record a disappointment? Is it familiar? Is it... both?
2021′s slow start to the season has brought down the spirits of Jazz fans, and that’s understandable: the loss side of the ledger has seen some disappointing defeats. Utah’s loss to Phoenix is more acceptable given that they rank first in the conference right now, sure. But losses to Brooklyn (sans Kevin Durant), the New York Knicks, and worst of all, the Minnesota Timberwolves, have made for some disappointing nights.
And yet, this isn’t anything new for Jazz fans. In the Quin Snyder era, the Jazz have always started at least somewhat below expectations. Then, they surge on to have a solid remainder of the season, and end up with a quality record. Here’s the full list of Snyder seasons:
• In 2019-20, they started 12-10, including a brutal 5-game road trip kept finding themselves by down by more than 20 points at halftime — in one case, they had a 40 point deficit to the Toronto Raptors.
• In 2018-19, they came off a promising second-round playoff run to open the season 9-12, a record that placed them 14th in the Western Conference.
• In 2017-18, they started the season 19-28 before bouncing back behind the emergence of Donovan Mitchell and the addition of Jae Crowder.
• In 2016-17, the last season of Gordon Hayward and a trade for George Hill still meant a 7-8 start for the Jazz.
• In 2015-16, the Jazz saw iffy point guard play take them to 10-14 to start the season before bouncing back somewhat to end the season at .500.
• And in 2014-15, Snyder’s first season saw a 9-game losing streak and a 5-16 record, when Rudy Gobert’s growth turned the season around.

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The year-after-year slow starts were easier to explain in previous years, though. Then, the Jazz were integrating new pieces or facing a difficult schedule to begin the season. Now, though, the Jazz are only integrating one new player in the rotation — Derrick Favors, a man who played with most of his teammates for years before. And the schedule has been relatively light, with the Jazz already playing teams likely to be among the worst in the league.
“In my mind, every season is different. As you mentioned, we’re a team that’s been together for the most part. Guys’ roles are maybe different, but we just have to be better. We can look at a lot of things, and there are a lot of causes to it,” Snyder said. “If we’re not playing to our strengths, it’s going to be difficult for us.”
Donovan Mitchell responded to a question about the slow start with the look of a player who has seen this before — and knows how to get out of it.
“Look, we have the tendency as a fan base and as a group to kind of go crazy during a 4-4 start. During my four years, we’ve had stretches like this. And if we continue to sit here and feel depressed and upset, you know, it’s not going to change,” Mitchell said.
“Now, I’m not saying we’re expecting this to just click at some point in time, we’ve got to do the work. But, I go back to my rookie year. We started off really, really bad, and, you know, there was that famous Rudy tweet: ‘We will be fine.’”
That tweet came after a road loss to the Denver Nuggets, pushing the Jazz to 16-23 at the beginning of a new season. The Jazz won 32 of their next 43 games.
“You know, at the end of the day, we’re going to do this,” Mitchell continued. “It’s just a matter of when. We can’t continue to let teams come in and just do whatever they want. And I’m not worried, but it’s definitely something where it’s like, OK, we’ve got to go do it.”
Mitchell knows his history. Now, he has to repeat it.
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