Coach Tyrone Corbin's young Jazz team progressing at a faster rate than anticipated

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17 2012 12:16 a.m. MST

Utah coach Tyrone Corbin talks with rookie Alec Burks. Corbin's team has already won eight games this season.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY —

It took the Utah Jazz 28 games at the end of last season to get new coach Tyrone Corbin his eighth win.

Forget all of the improvement this Jazz team has made on the offensive and defensive ends, the superior communication channels players and coaches have opened up, the increased trust they have in each other, their individual and collective development, their jelling chemistry, the night-in-night-out better effort and, of course, more accurate shooting.

Yes, that's all come together faster than almost anyone expected.

But check out the growth chart that matters the most in the NBA: the standings.

Only 12 games into the 2011-12 campaign, and the Corbin-led Jazz already have eight wins.

That's tangible progress.

"We know what we can do. We know our capabilities," Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said. "We know where we are headed, where we want to go, and we're just fighting to get there."

Fighting on the fast track, it seems.

Eight wins are about half as many as some people predicted they'd get all season. (Coincidentally, Corbin's eighth victory last season and this year both came against Denver.)

Now back to all of that stuff you were told to forget in that long second paragraph.

The Jazz's early season success has happened because they've remembered to implement the offensive execution, defensive rotations, talking, believing in each other, fine-tuning skills, bonding, role acceptance, support, hard work and, of course, more accurate shooting.

Corbin and his coaching crew brought a wagon full of those goods to sell in training camp, and the players bought it all up.

Now they're cashing in.

"We're happy we won the game (Sunday). But at the end of the day, I'm not surprised the way we've been playing," Jazz center Al Jefferson said following Utah's impressive 106-96 win at Denver.

"Like I always said, if we just go out there and play the game that we was taught to play and do what Coach want us to do, we're going to put ourself in a position to win."

Big Al and Millsap have been the cornerstones of Utah's offensive success.

Both are playing at All-Star levels, with Jefferson leading the team with averages of 18.7 points and 8.9 boards and Millsap contributing 15.6 points and 8.6 boards a night.

If one's not on, the other likely is.

Sunday was a prime example, with Jefferson carrying Utah in the first half for 12 of his 18 points. He then handed the torch over to Millsap, who lit up Pepsi Center by scoring 14 straight and 16 of his game-high 26 points in the final period.

Corbin credited them for learning how to effectively work together. When one drops down, the other pops up — and vice-versa. They're meshing, and opponents are paying for it.

"We've been doing that all year," Millsap said. "Al brings a lot of attention. So when guys go down to double him, somebody's going to be open and it just so happened to be me (Sunday)."

But the Jazz's success has been predicated on more than just those two talented bigs.

"We have extreme depth," Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. "Coach is confident with anybody that we put in there, that they're going to step up and do their job on any given night."

It might be a game-winning free throw and team-best 18 points like Hayward had in Golden State. . . .

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