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Thurl Bailey: Utah Jazz Must Fix Things Or Miss Out On Home Court

Thurl Bailey #41 of the Utah Jazz rests during an NBA game at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1988. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Something is wrong with the Utah Jazz. The team has lost three in a row after the All-Star break, including an embarrassing 131-111 home loss to the below .500 Phoenix Suns.

The team is lacking an identity and consistency with an 8-9 record dating back to January 16, and has lost eight of 12 since January 27.

Everyone seems confused and that includes former Utah Jazz forward and Jazz TV analyst Thurl Bailey who joined KSL Unrivaled to give his extremely honest thoughts on why the Jazz have been struggling for over a month.

Only Beating The Bad Teams?

The Jazz have the third-most wins against teams under .500 in the Western Conference with 26 but when they face teams with winning records they are just 10-13. Those 10 wins are the same amount that the San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers have but both of those teams are under .500 and are currently not outside of making a playoff berth.

“We have not seen them win on a consistent basis enough. We saw them go on that incredible run and a lot of teams were sub .500,” Bailey said on KSL Unrivaled.

The upcoming schedule does ease up a bit by taking on an Eastern Conference team over the next seven games, however, they have the Boston Celtics twice and the Toronto Raptors. It is going to be a mixed bag the quality of teams on the schedule, so maybe instead of a stretch of playing really good or really bad teams will force the Jazz to play up every game.

Defense Is A Great Equalizer

The suggestion Bailey brought to the conversation is that the Jazz need to find out who they are – specifically on defense.

Having the reigning two-time defensive player of the year controlling the paint is a great thing but sometimes players in the back of their mind knowing Rudy Gobert is there it can allow for defenders to let things slip through the cracks and think that Gobert can handle it all.

“The Jazz should have a dominant identity on the defensive end. They have the best shot-blocker in the world,” Bailey said. “It happened to be me in my era when I had Mark Eaton in the back and I knew he would be back there, but it starts with individual guys saying, ‘I gotta do my job better.”

Imagine if the Jazz players on defense were guarding opponents as if the big man under the hoop was just an average player and not an All-Star? Perhaps that mentality is what could help this team be an even better unit on defense and thus a better team overall.

Home Court Is Very Much In Question?

The Western Conference is extremely difficult to achieve home-court advantage and the Jazz are on the bubble. Currently, they are in the fifth spot and a game out of fourth but also just 3.5 out of second. The other end the Jazz are just 1.5 games out of the seven spot, so lose a few games and suddenly the Jazz are at the opposite end of the standings.

“I think at this point in the season it is a matter of character and integrity. I am worried because you can drop to seventh in a day,” Bailey said. “You could be third or fourth and all of sudden you lose two or three games and there are always those games at the end of the season you are like, ‘we shouldn’t have lost those.'”

What is the answer?

That is complicated. There are bits and pieces that make the Jazz really good but it is just trying to find the right combination of talent, playing time, player performances and other things. Yet, Bailey does not know the answer but suggested it is as simple as playing better as one cohesive unit.

“What are the ingredients that make the Jazz really good that night? You still may not be good enough when playing well but what are those things that make you consistently good on a night to night basis,” Bailey asked. “Things we are talking have to be done collectively. You have to bring all of that together in a league that is sometimes ego-driven.”

The Jazz are not a team that play a lot of one-on-one or isolation basketball, but maybe it is as simple as playing more as a team on both ends of the court to find the right recipe to make the Jazz the contenders a lof people thought this team would be heading into the season.

Bailey will have a new podcast titled “Thurl Talk” on KSLSports.com beginning March 3 and you can download it along with all of our other podcasts, here.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.