PHOENIX — They've been through a coaching change that no one saw coming, dealt with heavy scrutiny from the national media and seemingly had the weight of the world on top of them the last few days.
But the Utah Jazz know that after a couple of practices under new coach Tyrone Corbin, there is one thing they can do to get their feet underneath them and take an enormous load off their shoulders.
Just win, baby.
"It would be a large step," said Corbin, who will have his second chance to pick up his first victory as a head coach when the Jazz play in Phoenix tonight. "It'd take a lot of pressure off to have the success."
When the Jazz take the court against the Suns tonight, they will have had two full practices, one game and two shootarounds under their belts since Corbin replaced Jerry Sloan as head coach. They believe that's enough time to adjust to the coaching change and try to get back to winning.
"I'm excited about having the position, and I think the guys are OK with me being the head coach, but we got to win games," Corbin said. "We're in a situation now where we're kind of working our way out of the playoffs and we don't want that to happen. This is a good team. We know we can win games."
Jazz forward C.J. Miles said it's time for the team to stop answering the same questions and play for Corbin the way Utah played for Sloan.
"We got to listen and play hard for him — show him same respect we showed coach Sloan," Miles said. "We have to move on. No one wanted to see coach (Sloan) go. We can't talk about it anymore. We just got to play."
Raja Bell, who is listed as a game-time decision for tonight's game because of an injured calf that kept him out on Friday, has played for six different NBA teams but had never been through a midseason coaching change until now. That doesn't give him a frame of reference for how the Jazz are responding to the coaching change, but he's happy with how things have gone so far.
"I think we're doing a good job," Bell said. "Ty and the new staff have been really good about making us look forward and try to put what's happened recently in the rear view so we can go ahead and try to salvage what we have left of the season. I think for the most part we're doing a pretty good job of that."
It wasn't ideal for the Jazz to play in a game against the Suns before having their first full practice under Corbin. But that's how the schedule fell, and the players responded in their first practice without Sloan.
"We had a really good practice (Saturday)," Bell said. "It was intense. Guys were going after each other. It reminded me of a preseason practice with the level of excitement and energy that we had and I think that's a good sign."
The team's All-Star point guard was also pleased with the chance to not only practice under Corbin, but to get out of the spotlight and get recharged.
"It was good to get a couple days to rest and to practice," said Deron Williams. "Hopefully we can go back out and win some games. That's all we can do."
Although the Jazz have struggled mightily recently, winning just four of their last 15 games, tonight's game appears winnable. The Suns were one of the league's hottest teams, winning six of seven after spoiling Corbin's debut on Friday night. But they took a step backward on Sunday, losing to a 13-win Sacramento team that was without rookie DeMarcus Cousins.
The Jazz, however, will be without Andrei Kirilenko tonight. The Russian-American forward will travel with the team after spraining his right ankle against the Suns on Friday but won't play. Ronnie Price (toe) is a game-time decision along with Bell. Bell will likely start if he's able to play, Corbin said.11 comments on this story
The shorthanded Jazz have two games to play before the All-Star break. They'll face the Golden State Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday and a win or two would make them feel much better heading into the break.
The Jazz are confident that will happen.
"We just got to get better, play harder and we'll be fine," Williams said.