I have never identified with the question, "Do you want the good news or bad news first?" Either the bad news is so bad that the good news doesn't matter anymore, or the bad news is not bad enough to be worth the worry. It is liking being punked. Maybe I can actually make the good news and bad news even. Anyways...
The Good News: the Jazz are in first place in their division and percentage points out of 3rd place in the conference. I think almost any Jazz fan would take an 18-8 record so far if you asked them before the season. Deron Williams isn't satisfied, however. He said that he wished the Jazz were "winning a bit more" in his postgame interview last night. Deron wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than 26-0 though.
The Even Better News: the Jazz schedule is about to lighten up, even with all of the road games. The Jazz have 31 games before the All-Star Break, 17 road games and 14 at home. But excluding games at Boston, LA and Denver and a home game with the Spurs, the Jazz will be favorites in all of those games. I know that every game in the NBA is a possible loss and I am not saying that the Jazz are going 27-4 over the next 31, but the Jazz have a slew of winnable games in the next two months and that usually leads to lots of winning. On top of that, the Jazz have some nice breaks. They don't play again until Friday. They have 4 days off around Christmas. They have 2 other 3 day breaks between now and the middle of February. The Jazz have 8 back to back games between now and February 16th, but four of those games are at home.
The Bad News: Cliches exist. Like this one: "they play the games on the hardcourt, not on paper." The Jazz have been known to underwhelm against teams they should beat, not to mention the slow starts and rebounding issues. And Oklahoma City, who is and will continue to be our biggest competition for the NorthWest Division, has some favorable matchups as well. Only 29 games between now and the AS Break with 15 of those at home for the up and coming champions of the NBA. But the Thunder do have to play away games against the Knicks, Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, Nuggets, and Jazz and home games against the Mavs, Nuggets, Hawks, Magic and Heat in that time frame. So the pressure is really on the Jazz to create some separation from the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the next 60 days.
Other Bad News: The Jazz's four best players are having to play a lot of minutes and Deron Williams is being asked to do a lot so far in the season. Luckily the Jazz players in question are young and playing well, but you need to be able to pace yourselves in an 82 games season. You don't want to win a few games now at the expense of losing games late in the season when you are tired and overworked (but never underpaid). Part of the problem is that rookie Gordon Hayward has given the Jazz next to nothing. He looks like he is the only player wearing roller skates at times and his summer league games where he shot 4 or 5 times a game, look like Iversonesque performances compared to his offensive timidity now.
The Good News: The Jazz don't need Hayward to contribute anything in order to still be very, very good. Kevin O' Connor asked Jazz fans to wait two years to judge the Hayward draft pick and that is the case with a 19 year old, physically immature rookie, not just a David Khan-like cop out. Even in light of the fact that the Jazz are a team that wants to win now, they drafted Hayward with an eye on the future.
Even Better News: The Jazz have a lot of other bench guys who look ready to contribute and take pressure off of the starters. We all know about the contributions of Ronnie Price, Earl Watson, Francisco Elson, CJ Miles and Kyrylo Fesenko. The Jazz also have this fantastic rookie named Jeremy Evans, who is not only a fan favorite, but a fantastic energy guy who has impacted every game he has played in. His per-36 minute numbers against Golden State were 36 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists, numbers he would have easily reached, if he were only allowed to play 36 minutes. All kidding aside, Evans slightness will limit his minutes, but against many opponents, I have a hard time seeing Jerry Sloan being able to keep him on the bench. In the words of some bass-voiced peasant from Disney's Sword in the Stone: "I say, let the boy try."
The Bad News: Al Jefferson is shooting a career low 47% from the field this year. His previous low was 49.7% and we thought his efficiency would improve in the Jazz system. It hasn't.
The Good News: Big Al is shooting a scorching 84% from the free throw line this season and is helping the Jazz become a much better free throw shooting team in general. His previous best for a career was 74%.
More Good News: The Jazz are contenders to win the West this year and may be considered by the league a contender for the NBA title if they add one more defender/rebounder or outside shooter before the trade deadline.
The Bad News: The Jazz really don't have any players they could trade without messing up the chemistry and makeup of the team. Their most tradeable players (Watson, Kirilenko, Miles, Millsap, Price) are worth more to the Jazz than whatever they would bring back. The Jazz do have trade exceptions to use, but the team's financial situation makes them more likely to dump salary than bring it on. I would shop Gordon Hayward if I were Kevin O'Connor to see if I could steal an OJ Mayo, Anthony Randolph, or Kevin Love to help the team now. I don't think Kevin O' Connor would shop Hayward for help now, if he were Kevin O'Connor, which he is. And I was joking about trading Hayward for Kevin Love, but the fact that you didn't know if I was serious or not, shows the awesomeness of the Minnesota front office.
The Good News: The Jazz will probably acquire a player that will help with rebounding and shooting before the trade deadline. His name is Mehmet Okur.
The Bad News: Some unnamed members of the Jazz front office are getting a "little excited" about Okur's rehab progress and giving us false hope of his imminent return. We have no real idea of when Okur will suit up. We do know it will be sometime between now and never again. So there is that.