Jazz Fans, Don’t Hit The Panic Button
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Jazz fans need to relax and rejoice! It’s the holiday season and it’s no time to fret over your team going 1-4 on a recent road trip.
The idea for this column came after Utah needed an amazing second-half run to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on November 29. However, it was important to wait and see how the Jazz would fair in Toronto and Philadelphia.
It didn’t get any better. Utah trailed the Raptors by 40 points at halftime while only scoring 37 points in that first half. A night later in Philadelphia, the 76ers lead the Jazz 52-27 in the second quarter before the Jazz made a push and only lost by single digits.
The points still needs to be made; Jazz fans need to relax.
Reason #1 – No Practice Time
KSL Sports’ Ben Anderson made an excellent point on Twitter about the lack of practice time for this team.
Reason #2 – Brutal Scheduling
The Utah Jazz have faced off against some of the NBA’s toughest teams in the first six weeks of the season. According to ESPN’s RPI rankings, Utah has endured the third-hardest schedule so far this season.
In addition, the remaining schedule sets up nicely for the Jazz. According to Tankathon.com, the rest of Utah’s 61-game schedule is the easiest in the entire league.
Anderson commented on this phenomenon Monday night after the Jazz’s loss in Philly, concluding a stretch where the team faced 4 of the hottest and best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Reason #3 – Come Together, Right Now
Jazz fans need to take a step back and realize that this team is still trying to find its groove. It’s hard to coalesce in the first quarter of the season when your team looks so dramatically different than the Jazz teams of the past two seasons.
Utah added a brand new point guard (Mike Conley) and two new forwards (Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic) to their starting line-up. Conley has found it difficult adjusting to the new system.
That might explain why he has looked so inconsistent on offense. O’Neale has played well this season, but you lose his overall presence off the bench and he’s adjusting to playing with Bogdanovic and Conley.
Bogdanovic has been fantastic on offense and plays competent defense, but he’s no Derrick Favors, who perfectly understood his role.
Rudy Gobert has had to deal with the reality that he won’t see as many easy shots around the basket. Donovan Mitchell’s offensive production has tailed off a little bit after an amazing start to the season. The most dynamic offensive player looks very pedestrian at times when he can’t get all the way to the basket.
Then there is the bench which has looked awful recently. They have struggled with scoring points and have given up a lot of points in the process.
Joe Ingles looks like he’s coming out of his funk offensively as he continues to adjust to being the boss of the bench without Favors to help him run a beautiful pick-and-roll game.
Dante Exum is struggling to find a rhythm playing real NBA basketball again while opponents have better game planned for Emmanuel Mudiay and Jeff Green.
Ed Davis missed a good portion of the season due to injury.
Tony Bradley and Georges Niang are competent on offense but can be liabilities on defense. Utah has no sharpshooter off the bench (like Kyle Korver), reliable third point guard who makes smart decisions or a cheerleader/tough guy (like Jae Crowder).
Even after all of that, the Jazz are still a good team and will be better than last season. They just need to find their groove. They need time to play with one another so that everyone can figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Look back at the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers who eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. LeBron James and Kevin Love were added to the roster with Kyrie Irving and the team still started 5-7 before improving to 13-8 around the quarter mark of the season. Sure, it helps to have one of the best players on the planet on your team, but even James needed to figure out how to play with the new guys around him.
It also helped that the Cavs upgraded their roster before the trade deadline.
The Jazz don’t need to make any roster changes – at least not right now. They just need more time in the gym to work like a team.
The teams ahead of them in standings will regress and Utah should improve.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets schedules will get tougher. Kawhi Leonard will take more time off from playing for the Clippers while Dallas and Houston will probably have to score a lot of points to beat their opponents this season.
So, be patient Jazz fans and enjoy the holidays. Your team has looked awful the past two games, but it’s just two games.
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