While the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, two teams largely considered to be contenders for the NBA Championship this season, have started off the season on winning streaks, the Utah Jazz barely seem to have stepped off the team bus.
The Jazz started off the season with lowest point total in franchise history for an opening game in a 96-71 loss against the Los Angeles Lakers. The previous low was 74 points against the New York Knicks in 1974 when the team was based in New Orleans.
The Jazz look stagnant on offense and lazy on defense.
After shooting just 32.2 percent from the field (7.7 percent from behind the three-point arc) against the Lakers on opening night, the Jazz responded by shooting better against the Denver Nuggets (48.1 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from the arc). Though they improved on offense, the Jazz defense allowed 68 points in the paint, largely behind Nene’s 10-13 shooting.
The starting lineup of Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson have been able to stay with teams through the first period. The Jazz only trailed the Lakers by one point and the Nuggets by five at the end of the first quarter.
But midway through the second quarter, the team has collapsed.
Tied 22-22 with 8:03 left in the second against Los Angeles, Utah was outscored 19-9 the remainder of the second quarter and never got closer than 14 after two quick scores by the Lakers to start the third.
A similar picture emerges looking at the Denver game. The Jazz were only down 42-40 with 5:39 remaining in the second quarter. Then, Denver outscored Utah 21-6 to close out the half; the rest is a painful history.
The team looks collectively out of shape and their endurance should improve as the season wears on, but the biggest concern is the lack of intensity.
Coach Corbin urged the team do more on both ends of the court after a lopsided loss to the Nuggets, saying, “We have to get back together and continue to work and fight.”
He also mentioned the lack of cohesion on the defensive end: “We’ve got to learn to trust each other on the defensive end of the floor and get it figured out.”
The $10.8 million trade exception that the Jazz are holding onto after Mehmet Okur was sent to the New Jersey Nets seems like a nice asset to use for Jazz fans right now. But Kevin O’Connor and the Miller family will ultimately decide when it will be used.
The Jazz already own The Golden State Warriors' first-round draft pick via the Deron Williams trade last year (though it is a protected top seven pick). The way things are going, they may have another one due to the team’s performance. Two lottery picks and a big trade exception could be exactly what the Jazz need to continue their rebuilding process, but it may get worse before it gets better for Jazz fans.