DALLAS — If they were an NCAA basketball team, the Utah Jazz would be on the bubble.
And their trending arrow on those fancy tournament charts drawn up by national pundits would be pointing down. Way down.
"Right now," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said, "we're on the edge … eighth, ninth."
One of those seeds — No. 8 — would likely result in a first-round matchup with a San Antonio Spurs team that is as dangerous as it is incognito despite holding one of the top records ever this far into the season.
And the other seed?
Well, the NBA doesn't have a play-in round, so finishing No. 9 would simply give the Jazz an extra long summer to stew over what went wrong this promising season.
For now, the Jazz are trying to push aside any postseason push or seeding improvement thoughts.
That's still a goal, of course.
But a bigger goal is replicating something they've done 31 times this season but not for just over two weeks.
You know, win — something that isn't going to be easy considering the Jazz (31-26) return from the All-Star Break with a three-game road trip that begins tonight in Dallas (40-16).
"I think the main thing for us right now is to start winning games and get into the playoffs," Kirilenko said. "It's not really important what seed right now."
Added team captain Deron Williams: "We've just got to focus on winning games."
The two-time All-Star said he doesn't have a specific seed in mind that he'd like the Jazz to achieve if the team can snap out of its funk that has seen it lose four straight and 13 of 17 games.
"It'll probably be hard to get the first or second seed," he said, only half-jokingly.
After his first practice reunited with his teammates following the All-Star Weekend, Williams is optimistic the Jazz are returning with a renewed energy and enthusiasm to make something out of the final 25 games.
"There has to be," he said, "if we want to make a run in the playoffs and try to get as high of a seed as possible."
Coach Ty Corbin liked what he saw during the Jazz's first practice back Monday night — especially having banged-up players like Raja Bell and Kirilenko in the fold again. Corbin will continue to stress to his players the need to get back to basics.
"We've got to execute," the new coach said. "We've got to play better. We've got to play harder. We've got to play harder, longer."
One of the most important traits the Jazz are desperate need of reacquiring is team trust.
It could go a long way, Corbin believes, if the Jazz will start "counting on each other, getting back to where we trust each other both offensively and defensively like we did early in the season."
It's tempting to believe that simply getting some reinforcements back will boost the slumping squad, but that could be fools' gold if fundamental flaws aren't corrected.
"Getting healthy is just not going to fix it," Corbin said. "We've got to go back and play once we get everybody back on the floor."
Corbin said he plans on returning both Bell and Kirilenko back into the starting lineup — positions they held prior to injuries when Jerry Sloan was still the team's head coach.
"Right now we just want to play better. We want to get everybody back on the floor," Corbin said. "We want to go back out and get some confidence and belief in what we're doing as a group of guys and give ourselves a chance to compete against anybody. If we have guys on the court who are healthy we have a chance to compete against anybody."27 comments on this story
Corbin said guys seemed to act more at ease two weeks into the transition from the Sloan Era. He added that the team can't worry about what other teams do when it comes to trades.
"We have to worry about where we are," he said, "continue to get better and be ready for a big finish."