"This room is filled with talent. But we're young," veteran forward Matt Harpring said. "We're getting better. And, from the bottom of my heart, I think we're a better team than the Lakers are. They beat us, but I think we can beat any team in this league. And we did (in the regular season).
"I hope people realize how close we were," Harpring added. "I mean, Game 5 if we could have got that game, I think it changes the whole series around. And we were right there. I just think if we keep playing hard, we keep working, this team grows together yeah, we're going to be there."
Harpring, in fact, ends his sixth season in Utah feeling pretty positive.
"Step forward," he said. "I think the West was generally better this year, so there's a lot more competition out there."
For the Jazz to get to the next level, Harpring added, they need "consistent play, especially in the playoffs. Everyone's got to contribute and play well."
Boozer's scoring down five-plus points from the regular season, from 21.1 to 16.0 may be what the Jazz lacked most.
He didn't deny that Saturday, saying, "I don't think I had the playoff series that I wanted to have in either series."
If the Jazz are to move forward, Harpring suggested, adversity akin to that must be overcome.
"It's (about) being mentally tough to go out there and score," Harpring said. "You know, you might not be hitting every shot. But you've got to be mentally tough to take that next shot and not get the ball and not shoot it.
"That's a point where you've got to get to in the playoffs, because playoffs are tough to score. They scout you, they take away things, and they're going to make you do things you don't want to do. But if you start 1-for-4 and you hesitate on that next shot, you're just hurting your team. Because we expect you to make that shot and take that shot.
"I think that is the mental part that we're going to get to trust in your ability, trust in your confidence, trust in your offense, and play it out."
Ronnie Brewer's development. Andrei Kirilenko's improvement. Williams' tremendous growth.
For all that did go wrong, much about the season left the Jazz feeling all right.
"We have the makeup of a helluva team, a team that can win a championship and get to the Finals one day," Boozer said.
"You know, we have everything. It's just, like, a matter of 'keep our game.' Sometimes we kind of can't stick with the plan," Kirilenko added. "I think if we just play our game we can beat anybody and we can win the title. But it's only words right now."
Yet words to live by.
"This basketball team here has a good future, if they work at it and put their heart into it," Sloan said. "And we've done a lot of that. But it's, 'What did you do for me today?'
"Hopefully," he added, "we keep all these guys together and try it again."
There is, after all, more progress to be made, more games to be won."You'd like to take that giant step, but this is who we are," Sloan said. "You kind of have to do it in stages, and sometimes there's a lot of bitter with the sweet. We've got to try to keep working to keep that bitter taste out of our mouth."
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