SALT LAKE CITY — It might seem as if their defense is already basking in the warm sunshine and sipping on a cold drink on a remote tropical beach somewhere far from the team's current location.
But the Utah Jazz adamantly claim their season is not over yet.
They still hope they can delay the beginning of their offseason vacations and bid each other a bon voyage.
Center Al Jefferson even acted stunned Saturday when asked if the team has quit on this wacky season moments after the Jazz suffered a third ugly blowout loss in six days.
"No. Heck no," Jefferson said. "I hope no one in here have quit, because there's a lot of games to be played and we have a job to do. I can speak for myself and I can speak for a lot guys in there (the locker room), and I know they haven't quit."
"I don't understand," Big Al added, "why our effort is the way it is."
Something major will have to change in the Jazz — and quickly so — if they hope to extend their playing days into the 2011 postseason instead of calling it a year at the conclusion of the regular-season finale on April 13.
Faced with the prospect of not being able to cheer their team on in the playoffs for just the fourth time in 24 years, frustrated and restless fans are asking questions.
The fans aren't getting wins, so they at least want answers.
Are the Jazz woes caused by a lack of chemistry?
Are players not trying?
Is it a talent issue?
Just too many obstacles — and significant personnel losses — to overcome this quickly?
Have they been done in by the injuries?
More than anything, what in the heck is going on?
"I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it," Jefferson said. "Two nights in a row we let teams come out and just do what they want to do on the offensive end."
You can almost understand that against Derrick Rose and the Bulls. But against the Timberwolves?
Of course, the Jazz woes go back further than two games.
Utah has lost 20 of 27 games, including going 3-10 since Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned and 3-7 since team leader and star Deron Williams was shipped off to New Jersey.
Corbin was encouraged that his team at least showed some life after falling behind by 30 points in the first half of Saturday's 118-100 thrashing in Chicago.
"I'm certain they haven't quit," Corbin said. "We have some chemistry issues in that we haven't been together and we're putting (them) in situations that they're not comfortable with for different guys and personnel.
"But," Corbin added, "we can be a little more feisty. We can fight a little harder as a group and we can communicate a little bit better."
Even while Corbin has openly wondered where Utah's effort has been in recent outings, small forward Andrei Kirilenko doesn't believe that is the big problem.
AK-47 believes Jazz players are trying hard but are just not doing the right things, especially on D.
"Defensively, we've been out of focus. Everybody keeps saying it's effort, but effort-wise, if you take a look, everybody trying," Kirilenko said. "Everybody following guys. Everybody working hard. But for some reason we're not organized. We're not helping. We don't have that concentration. It's a matter of concentration and focus more than effort."
So, then, does the blame fall on the coaching staff? Ownership? Management? Sloan? Bush or Obama? Everybody?
C.J. Miles recently blamed the players, not the team's new head coach. Corbin did inherit a team experiencing turmoil even before the surprising departures of Sloan and Williams, and he has several new pieces to work into the puzzle.
Unprompted, Jefferson also came to Corbin's defense Saturday.
"I just don't understand it. It's up to us to do it because we're the one out there playing," Jefferson said. "Coach is doing a great job teaching us and coaching us, but at the end of the day we're the one have to go out there and do it and we're not doing it for him."
Jefferson believes getting his low-post sidekick back will help immensely. But power forward Paul Millsap has missed three games with a nagging left knee injury, and the painful tendinitis doesn't seem to be easing up for him.
"I can't wait to get Paul back. I want him to come 100 percent," Jefferson said. "The heart that he got—huge. He came out there and on a hurt leg, he have done it before. If we can get him back 100 percent ready to play and get everybody back clicking like we was, I really think we have a chance to do it."
Two games — which is what eighth-place Memphis has on Utah — certainly isn't an insurmountable margin to overcome with 15 games remaining. That's especially true seeing as the Grizzlies and Jazz have an increasingly important showdown next Monday.
But Phoenix is also ahead of Utah in the playoff positioning, and the Jazz have less than a month to sort things out.
"You can say (I'm surprised) how bad we're playing and we've still got a chance to make the playoffs," Jefferson said. "But we've just got to get it together before that. That window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller. Two weeks from now we can't say that we've got to turn it on. We've got to have it turned on by then."
Anxious fans who've been through a rough roller-coaster ride of a season with so many losses (personnel and games) hope that begins tonight at home against Philadelphia.32 comments on this story
"We're definitely not giving up. We will try hard as much as possible," Kirilenko said. "We have to grind for every win, for every game. We can't look forward right now, just take every game like it's the most important game."
Not a pretty sight
After a win over Cleveland on Jan 14, the Jazz stood at 27-13, but are just 7-20 since then. Here are the worst records in the NBA since that date:
Team ... Record
Cleveland ... 4-22
Toronto ... 5-22
Washington ... 6-21
Sacramento ... 6-21
Minneosta ... 7-21
Utah ... 7-20
Detroit ... 10-18