"Expectations are high for us. We realize that."
After going 8-0 in the preseason only to be blown out seven of the first eight quarters of the season where it counts, Jazz fan is ready to jump off the proverbial cliff. Allow me to talk you down from the ledge.
The Jazz don't win games played before October 29
Since the NBA schedule was changed beginning in the 1981-82 season to start in the last week of October, the Utah Jazz have played five games and lost them all.
October 23, at Denver, the Jazz lose 125-139. Incidentally, much like this season, they had to turn right around and fly home for a back-to-back, to play the LA Lakers. They would lose the home opener that year as well.
The Jazz would again open the season on the road, this time in Seattle on October 26, losing to Lenny Wilkins' Supersonics led that year by a young Tom Chambers, then again turn around to play LA at home following night, this time losing to the Clippers on October 27.
The Jazz open the season on the road only to have to turn around and play a back-to-back the following night. 16 times in 32 seasons Utah has opened with a back-to-back, though until this year it hadn't happened since 2002 when they lost to both the New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks on consecutive nights to tip it all off.
Season opener, Houston. Loss at the Salt Palace.
Second game four nights later at San Antonio. Loss at HemisFair Arena.
This would kick off what would be a bad year for Utah versus Texas teams this particular season. The Jazz would make the playoffs only to be ousted by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, 3-1.
But they did make the playoffs. As a matter of fact, in each of the above instances, including 2002-03, the Jazz ended up seeing the postseason, giving you reason number one to keep your pointer finger from being tempted to press the panic button.
Yes, the Jazz have lost the first two games, not really even being in either of them. Did they simply expect to coast? Probably. After coasting through the preseason they appear to have severely underestimated the last two teams to challenge the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, Denver and Phoenix.
Even if we go back to the '79 and '80 seasons, the Jazz's first in Utah, they didn't win much before October 29th, going 2-6 from October 10-28 in '79 and 4-5 from October 12-27 in 1980.
Before we move on, can anyone tell me why, beginning in the 1981-82 season, the NBA moved the start of the season to the end of October? Seriously. I researched it thoroughly and couldn't find a single mention as to why. This might be one only David Stern can explain, as Larry O'Brien's right-hand man at the time.
Six fresh faces
That makes for 46% of the roster, basically half of it, being new to Sloan's complex flex offense. While Raja Bell has been here before and should know the system without having to think about it, remember that he's only played 180 minutes since 2009 before this season. Rusty much, Raja?
Don't you just hate it when the experts are right?
The vast majority of them said the same thing I had, "it will take time for them to gel." Difference is they stuck with it while I (and, just admit it, you too) got pumped up about all the smoke and mirrors the preseason provided. Big Al Jefferson looked poised to dominate the western low post. Raja Bell was going to provide wing stoppage and three-pointers. Francisco Elson, Earl Watson, Gordon Hayward, and Jeremy Evans were to be key cogs in what was to be one of the deepest benches in the NBA.
Instead they've all looked like summer-leaguers for the Dakota Wizards, with maybe the exception of Hayward.
A quick digression about the first-round draft pick. "Flash" Gordon? Really? WEAK. A nickname is supposed to be original. That one came way too easily and hardly fits his frame. Flash Gordon was buff, not 180 pounds soaking wet.
I propose Hayward and his new 'do be called "Despereaux." Not only is he a dead ringer for the fearless hero, but like the fictional character, who was "born with his eyes wide open," the rookie has been the lone bright spot for the Jazz thus far, seemingly the only player with his eyes open at all.
Despereaux Hayward takes a wrong turn that results in a very public dressing down from Deron. But let's not focus on went wrong on the play. Let's focus instead on the end result, a layup.
Only one playoff team from last season has less returning players than the Utah Jazz, as illustrated by this handy little tool. One.
When you have a complex offensive system that only works correctly on a consistent basis when you don't have to think about it, yeah, you're gonna have some flow problems with this many roster changes. Is there cause for concern that the Jazz are 27th of the 30 teams in offensive efficiency so far? Yes. Is it time to push the big red button? Not even close, bud.
The other night while chatting ball the subject turned to Big Al and his ineptitude in the Sloan system to date. Most were discouraged and seemed to think he'd always be what he was in Minnesota, a black hole. Al himself has alluded to this fact. Ever hear a player refer to himself in such a way? No, you don't. He knows there's a problem. You can bet this highly gifted baller will work to fix it.
My contribution to the conversation consisted of the commentary that if anyone could get the most out of Al it was Jerry Sloan, prompting a short but sweet "This" out of ESPN's Zach Harper.
Utah has started out slowly plenty of times before, prompting paranoid Jazz fan to start inching toward the ledge or point fingers. Why, just last season they were hovering around .500 before hitching up their pants and rolling up their sleeves and really getting down to work. By February, as usual, they'd created that annual buzz about how they could be ready to take the next step among the elite.
The story of this season is far from over yet, folks.
"We don't know the offense, it's as simple as that..."
The prevailing vocalization is that the Jazz's offense will be the key to getting this train back on the tracks. Folks have taken this and run with it, conveniently ignoring the rest of the quote, the most important part of what was said in that particular paragraph of Deron's postgame ruminations.
Do you really want to have to depend on scoring 114 points every night to win? Because that's what it would take. Right now the Jazz are giving up 113.2 points-per-100 possessions. That's obscenely bad defense. They're not going to miss 11 layups every night.
D Will knows, so I'm going to let him finish what he started in the last quote above, saying only that they know what they're doing and not doing, and that your final reason to back away...nay, run away from that ledge is that his will to win, his passion and competitive spirit, WILL win out in the end.
"...The defense has to be better, of course. We're giving up way too many points, that's where it needs to start, you know.
We knew we were going to struggle a little bit offensively, but if we play defense the way we're doing it's hard to beat anybody.
I think we're letting the offense a little bit, that we're not scoring, we're letting that dictate what happens on defense. We can't do that."