If there's a bright spot, the Jazz are on the path to obtain two lottery picks at this June's draft. They will get New Jersey's lottery selection and will get to keep their own high first-round pick if they don't make the playoffs. (As part of the Al Jefferson trade, Minnesota would get the protected pick if the Jazz made the playoffs.)
But even though only nine games remain and Utah is four games behind eighth-place Memphis for the last playoff spot, the Jazz still aren't openly admitting defeat. Even Okur said he won't return to Turkey until the season is over — hopefully, he added, after the second or third round of the playoffs.
And even if — or, more likely, when — that postseason door closes in the next two-plus weeks, the team says it will do all it can to finish the season strong.
Basketball gods, be willing.
"We have a group of guys that have pride in what we do," Jazz swingman C.J. Miles said. "We're all going to play hard no matter what."
Jefferson pointed to Utah's effort Thursday night in the OT loss to the Hornets as a testament that no white towels will be tossed from the Jazz corner.
"We played our heart out, and it proved that we not going to give up this season," he said. "We going to fight till the end."
Then again, veteran point guard Earl Watson wants more than just fight and effort from the team.
Like grumbling fans, he wants positive results.
"Effort, professionalism, playing hard should always be there. It should be common," Watson said. "So, I don't take any special pride in saying that we played with effort."
Rather, Watson said his goal remains "to win every game, to win."
That's the mindset he hopes his team has in the final nine games, beginning tonight against one of the toughest teams in the league.
"You play every game, you play the right way," Watson said. "You represent something that's bigger than yourself, and you know you appreciate that. You never take it for granted and you just go out and give it your all."
Coach Tyrone Corbin, who inherited a strange mix of a midseason mess and a talented team, believes his players are headed in the right direction in the sense they haven't stopped trying. He is impressed the team's "character."
"They've fought back from a lot of stuff," Corbin said. "To come back after losing three games on the road — and this being the fourth game in five nights — to have this kind of effort back on the home floor is encouraging.
"They did a good job," he added. "They did everything to give themselves a chance to win. They just didn't get the break at the end."
Tough breaks and break-ups seem to be this season's theme.
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