The Utah Jazz (3-3) start their first, five-game Eastern Conference Road trip this afternoon. Hopefully everyone turned in early even though they were in New York and last night was Trey Lyles’ 21st birthday . . . but even if they did not there was at least one more hour of sleep as the clocks went back. But more than just a party this road trip is about establishing a greater frame of reference for what this team is. If you just look at two data points, the San Antonio Spurs games, you have a team that beat the Spurs by a lot in Texas and lost by a lot by the same team in Utah. If you use all of the data points we currently have then you have a .500 team that has tread water through injuries while playing Western Conference playoff teams every game -- save for the victory at home over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Well, Alec Burks and Boris Diaw are still out. But Derrick Favors is getting his sea legs under him and this road trip we’re going to see the return of Gordon Hayward. Effectively, this is the healthiest we’ve seen the Jazz in a while. And as a result, there’s no time like NOW to better understand what this team is about.
So we get the first East road trip of the season, five games over seven nights. Two back-to-backs, and two games that qualify as the third game in four nights.
- Sunday: Utah Jazz @ New York Knicks (2-3, 11th in East)
- Monday: Utah Jazz @ Philadelphia 76ers (0-5, 15th in East)
- Tuesday: The end of the world
- Wednesday: Utah Jazz @ Charlotte Hornets (4-1, 2nd in East)
- Thursday: Off-day
- Friday: Utah Jazz @ Orlando Magic (3-3, 10th in East)
- Saturday: Utah Jazz @ Miami Heat (2-3, 12th in East)
New York has the star power (Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings) but I don’t know if Jeff Hornacek’s club is going to be a team at any point this season.
Philly needs to keep trusting the process, especially with Ben Simmons out; but Joel Embiid has been remarkable in the time we’ve seen him. They will want a win at some point, and Utah could be a little frazzled by playing in this crazy time zone.
Right now only Charlotte looks good, and I honestly don’t know how good Charlotte is. Of course, they don’t have to be good to beat Utah; as Kemba Walker did it by himself last season. Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, and Marco Belinelli are all legit. And they do have some size with Roy Hibbert, Cody zeller, Spencer Hawes, and Frank Kaminsky. Okay, so maybe Charlotte will be a really tough game for our guys.
The Orlando Magic are really bad on offense right now, but you figure that they should be able to take care of business on defense with Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo going to war in the paint with existing stud Nikola Vucevic? Right? Right? Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier exist as a nice theory right now. Aaron Gordon was someone David Locke once gushed about, so I’m happy to see him continue to be a non-factor. Orlando should be better but they currently are integrating a lot of new parts. It’s tough.
And then we have the Miami Heat — this is a schedule loss if there ever was one, even if their team isn’t currently killing it. It’s the last game of this trip, the second night of a back-to-back, the third game in four, and the fifth game in seven. Miami’s Goran Dragic is playing better, and they have some nice pieces in Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and hey, maybe even Dion Waiters. But I think their main ‘deal’ right now is Hassan Whiteside, and I think Rudy Gobert will be looking forward to this game.