Sure enough, it's going to be a painful learning experience for the young Utah Jazz.
First lecture of the year: Old and sick can still be better than young and optimistic.
It just so happened that the schoolmaster on the Jazz's opening day was none other than the team that has usually schooled them: the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tuesday at the Staples Center, the Lakers used every trick they could — not the least being a handful of down-the-lane slam-dunks — to wipe out the Jazz, 96-71. While it's the Lakers that are wily and tested, they were also supposed to be hurting. After losing their first two games, they should have been flat, playing their third game in three nights.
Instead, they made the Jazz look like a bunch of, well, schoolchildren.
It didn't hurt that the Jazz couldn't hit land with a slingshot, making just 32 percent of their field goals.
Thus, the optimism surrounding the new look Jazz took its first big hit. The Jazz's highlight (yes, there was at least one) was Derrick Favors' alley oop dunk in the early minutes. The lowlight: An awful stretch of shooting, in which they missed 23-of-25 attempts. The Jazz shot just 26 percent for the first half and never recovered.
So the Jazz are going to have to learn on the fly. One thing they should already know is that they can outrun older teams. Eventually old guys tire out, right? But on Tuesday the Jazz didn't wear anyone out except the guy keeping track of missed shots.
That isn't to say the kids were all to blame. Veteran Al Jefferson was awful, missing 14-of-16 shots. Raja Bell missed four of his first five. Devin Harris made two of six and Paul Millsap just three of his first 10.
Considering the way the season started for the Lakers, beating them should have been, well, child's play. The (formerly) mighty Lakers lost on Christmas Day against Chicago and the next night to Sacramento.
Team Tremendous had suddenly turned into Team Turrrrrible. Lamar Odom had been shipped to Dallas, Andrew Bynum was still serving a suspension for a flagrant foul in last year's NBA Finals and Kobe Bryant was dealing with pending divorce and a wrist injury.
Meanwhile, Pau Gasol is playing for a team that tried to trade him in the failed Chris Paul deal.
That's just plain awkward.
But on Tuesday the Lakers took it to the Jazz. Mostly they just made a few shots — something the Jazz never did figure out. For all their problems, history and talent have almost always favored the Lakers. It was the Lakers who hastened the Jazz's slide into irrelevance, beating them in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs.
But the new Jazz have exactly two players who were on the 2007 team that made the Western Conference Finals. That Jazz team was supposedly set in stone. This team is a clean canvas. Coach Ty Corbin didn't announce his starting lineup until game time.
If ever there were a time for the Jazz to catch the Lakers with their guard down, this was it. Gasol has to be wondering if his name is on a bus ticket out of town. Bryant likely can't buy a ring big enough to keep his wife this time. Bynum is out by his own design. Derek Fisher has to still be smarting from the nastiness of representing the players in the lockout.
The Lakers came hoping to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1978.
Then they abused the Jazz.
For all the optimism surrounding the young Jazz, they bore a strange resemblance on Tuesday to the team that went 8-20 down the stretch last year. They didn't push the ball, didn't defend the paint. On one hand, the kids have only a modest chance to make the playoffs, anyway. On the good side, maybe they're too young to know it.10 comments on this story
As Turkish rookie Enes Kanter put it last week, "I just go out and show everybody and play for it."
Did he mean "go for it?"
Either way, it didn't happen for the Jazz.
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