NEW YORK — When it comes to specifics of their first tongue-lashing from their new head coach, Utah Jazz players are sticking to the what-goes-in-the-locker-room-stays code.
"That," veteran guard Raja Bell said at practice Tuesday, "was for us."
But it will be evident tonight in Toronto if the players indeed took to heart the spirited (read: loud and no verbal punches pulled) message delivered by Tyrone Corbin following their Monday meltdown at Madison Square Garden.
Because he doesn't yell as often or reach the decibels his predecessor did during rants, Corbin hopes his postgame, um, pep talk got his players' attention.
Something needs to rattle their win-hungry souls.
"Accountability," Corbin said when asked again about his locker room talk.
"That's all you want. You want guys to be accountable for their actions. That's the bottom line — come out and play hard, we have no problems. When you don't play hard, then we've got a problem."
And a fiery Jerry Sloanesque postgame speech.
"I don't know if I can ever be that vocal and loud," Corbin said, smiling.
Bell didn't want to compare what it's like to get barked at as a team by Corbin vs. Sloan.
"They're all an attempt to get the same response from the team," Bell said. "Verbage might be different, but it's all trying to elicit the same response, so they're pretty much the same."
But he agreed with his coach's prerogative and points.
"Hey man, that's his job," Bell said. "I don't know what to say. ... He's got to do what he's got to do."
That's exactly what Corbin wants from his players — for them to do what they've got to do in order to make a playoff push or at least go down fighting with pride.
They had mostly played with enough effort in previous losses to appease Corbin, but the 131-109 walloping by the Knicks was hard to swallow and a defensive debacle.
"Defense and effort goes together," Corbin said. "If you're playing defense and giving good effort, you have a chance at succeeding. If you don't have any effort, nothing will work."
See Monday's box score that shows the Knicks scored 40 points as proof. The 36-point third quarter was more evidence that the Jazz just weren't in to Monday's game.
With only 18 games remaining in the regular season, that was the last thing Corbin expected or wanted to see from his players.
Especially considering the Jazz are in a rare outside-looking-in position for the playoffs. A 33-31 record might be fine for the Eastern Conference, but it puts Utah out by 2.5 games right now.
Corbin admitted a possible starting lineup change is on the table, but he doesn't want to overreact after one bad loss. Now might not be an ideal time to change, either, because of Utah's slew of injuries.
"I'm thinking about everything right now, but it's after a loss," Corbin said before his team watched film, worked on offensive plays for the new guys and ran some drills Tuesday at the New York Athletic Club.
"You kind of have to look at it overall and not just one game," he added. "I thought we had come around a little bit before (Monday) night, and (Monday) night we just laid an egg out there."
At least the healthy — or playing while hurt — players that were available did.
Only eight of the Jazz's 14 players fully participated in Tuesday's practice, and Utah is so thin when it comes to big men because of injuries that the team plucked 6-11 center Marcus Cousin from the Austin Toros of the D-League for a 10-day contract.
The Jazz could be without two starters, seeing as Andrei Kirilenko (back) is listed as doubtful and Paul Millsap (knee) will be a game-time decision.
Francisco Elson (knee and ankle), Kyrylo Fesenko (back), Mehmet Okur (back) and Ronnie Price (toe) won't play tonight against the Raptors.
"We'll look at the options we have," Corbin said. "We're going to be limited with the guys we can play because of injuries. Even some guys that's playing hurt we're going to have to watch their minutes, so they don't get hurt any worse (and) can finish the game for us."
With a tough-to-win game at Chicago on Saturday, the Jazz really need to pick up middle-of-the-road-trip wins over the Raptors (17-46) and Minnesota (15-50) to keep their playoff hopes realistically alive.
But first things first. Corbin wants that effort to show up on the other side of the border before worrying about anything else.
"We can't go out and think that just because it's Toronto, we can win that game by showing up," Corbin said. "We've got to go out and compete, do the right things that will help us win on the defensive end of the floor, and then on offense we've got to execute and pass the ball."
Things, in other words, that will be fitting of his praise, not his scorn.
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