The Jazz played in Sacramento three weeks ago. They lost. It set their record to 15-18. There appeared no hope for the team. Fans started getting snippy with each other. We all got frustrated. Amar vowed (and then failed) to be positive for an entire week.
And now look at us: 24-22 (that's 9-4 since the Kings loss). Fans happy and cheering. Amar can write positive things without even trying. ESPN's Playoff Odds have us back in the playoffs for the first time in more than a month.
Winning does that to you.
Coach Ty and the players credit recent success to defense. From the Deseret News:
And because they have defended aggressively, energetically and consistently as of late, the Jazz are seeing success on the scoreboard. Four straight wins, five of six and seven of 10.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it's exactly what was credited to the team's early season success.
So will it last this time? The early season success was, in part, built on wins against mediocre-to-lousy teams missing its stars. Well, that is a bit familiar:
The 9-4 record since the Sacto loss includes four wins against crummy teams (Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, GS). It also includes two wins against teams missing an important player to injury (Miami, Minnesota). The recent wins against the Lakers and Thunder are really the games that give us hope that the improved play more than just a high-desert mirage.
I'm guessing many of you do the same, but I check the standings daily. Sometimes more than daily. And there are some crazy issues in the West:
Four games separate the #4 and #11 team. The Jazz, of course, are right in the middle: 2.5 games out of 4th and 1.5 games ahead of 11th.
As the brilliant crew of SLC Dunk pointed out earlier, the Jazz schedule to end the year—among these teams between 4th and 11th place—is very very average. Not extra easier or harder, just normal. Typical total games, games against WC teams, games at home, etc.
But there is one major bit of awesomeness to the Jazz schedule:
Considering that a) Portland is tanking to the point of threatening to dip below Golden State, and b) the Jazz really want BOTH the playoffs AND a draft pick, those three games are some of the most important.
Truly fantastic piece about Alec Burks over at Salt City Hoops. Well, sort of about Alec Burks. Mostly it's about how the author (Sam Strong) completely changed his mind about what Burks was all about. Seriously, go and read it.
Here's my favorite bit from the article:
Burks is about to leave the locker room when I make my way in, running a comb through his hair he straps on his team-mandated pink backpack, standard issue for rookies in pro franchises. It’s not a new concept but as stupid as it sounds, the way a rookie carries or wears the backpack also says a lot about him. I’ve been in locker rooms where the rookie carries the thing like toxic waste, not Burks. He proudly slips his arms into both straps before looking around for any other interview requests. I catch him just in time, he gladly sticks around…Again, not normal for pro athletes.
My second favorite part of the article:
"I hope I’ll get to play more because I love playing in games," Burks said. "We’ll see."
Tonight Raja is hoping to return to playing. Coach Ty, of couse, is left wondering what to do with his wings. The SLTrib breaks down the whole conundrum for you. Here's the ultimate source of the conundrum, though:
Making the decision even more complicated: Bell’s aiming for a return against the Kings; Miles has recently played some of the best all-around ball of his career as a starter; Hayward has thrived in a reserve role that’s put the ball in his hands; Burks’ confidence has soared due to the increased minutes that resulted from Bell’s absence.
I don't know what the answer is. Even as Co-Captain fo the Play the Kids Club (est. April, 2011), I don't know my own preference.
So, open poll ...
How do you think Ty will play the wings (minutes and role) and how do you hope Ty plays the wings?