SALT LAKE CITY — Fans of mildly popular 1980s-era music might have been reminded of a Corey Hart song had they attended Sunday's Utah Jazz practice.
That one about the future being so bright they've got to wear shades, right?
While that bright future could very well happen, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin's message was one that more closely resembled the title of Hart's Top 40 hit with a Winston Churchill-esque message of "Never Surrender."
(And, yes, that sentence did just link the NBA to an '80s Canadian ballad singer and one of the great world leaders of the 20th century. Desperate times will do that, you know.)
Though his team has lost five games in a row and is free-falling toward mathematical elimination from the playoffs, Corbin continues to preach an optimistic message.
"We're still plugging at it," Corbin said. "We want to continue to develop. I don't want to anytime put the guys in a situation where you think you're surrendering. We're a professional club and all of these guys are pros and they want to compete and we want to continue to stay in that mode.
"You don't ever want to get into surrender mode."
For that reason, Corbin said he won't be making lineup changes (depending on injury situations).
Because Devin Harris (hamstring) and Andrei Kirilenko (knee) didn't practice Sunday after missing recent games, that likely means the Jazz will again go with Earl Watson and Raja Bell in the backcourt.
"I think you have to look at it at this point as one game at a time," Watson said. "And your goal is to win each game."
For the point guards, that begins with an especially difficult challenge tonight when the lightning-quick John Wall brings his Washington Wizards into EnergySolutions Arena.
The Wizards are just 17-54, but Wall led the Wizards to a 108-101 win over Utah in D.C. back in January.
Corbin said regardless of which point guard goes up against the quick rookie, the goal will be to keep him from penetrating.
Most important, though, is that the Jazz see what Corbin calls "continued development for the entire team" — and preferably in winning situations.
"We want to create some identity as to who we are and how we're going to play," Corbin said. "Every night you step on the floor, you're going to have to compete against us. We're going to be a tough-nosed — both offensive and defensive — team."
Even in this massive losing skid, which has seen the Jazz fall in all but five of their last 21 games, Corbin has seen glimmers of execution, excellence and effort.
"We've had some glimpses of it. We haven't had a steady dose of what we're trying to get to yet," he admitted. "We've improved some of the rotation stuff on the defensive end. Offensively, we've got to get better (at) executing and trusting each other."
Results aren't going the Jazz's way, but Al Jefferson said it's not because they aren't trying. He insists that keep-working attitude won't stop now with the end of the season only two weeks away, either.
"We've got a job to do. We're going to do it," Jefferson said. "We're going to play hard till the end. That say a lot about this team. That say a lot about coach and how hard he's got us playing. I really believe that we're just going to go out and play hard every night until the season over."
One tricky part for Corbin is juggling when to be positive and negative with and about his team. In the media, he's mostly praised his players' effort and tried to be optimistic despite obvious difficulties and situations — some of which (injuries, the trade and coaching changes) were out of his control.
That's not to say Corbin is wearing rose-colored glasses when he looks at his team.
"You can't be satisfied if you're not where you want to be, and I'm not satisfied with where we are right now as a group of guys, as a team," the rookie coach said. "But we've been through a lot and the guys are still trying to fight it out.
"You can be too easy and not get better and you can be too difficult and turn the guys the other way and turn the guys the other way, too.
"It has to be a balance," the former, 16-year NBA player continued. "I played for a long time. I have a pretty good feel for where guys are in that way. It can eat you. You've got to try to push them. Sometimes you have to say some things they may not like, but it is what it is."25 comments on this story
One of the issues Corbin planned on addressing both with Jefferson and his team at Sunday's practice was how the Jazz center ended up getting ejected at the end of Saturday's loss to Dallas.
Fed up with the officiating, Jefferson received one technical foul for cursing at a ref. He then exacerbated the problem and got tossed by mockingly clapping inches from the official's face.
"I will talk to him. I'll address the team about it also," Corbin said. "It's just unfortunate. That's not his character. We just want to make sure it's not an ongoing thing."
Same could be said about the Jazz's losing ways.