Brad Rock: Utah Jazz basketball: Jazz looking eerily like the same team we saw last season
SALT LAKE CITY — Now that the elections are over, maybe the Jazz can borrow a gently used slogan or two. For example, "Hope and Change." That was a good one. Or maybe "Forward," since that hasn't really happened yet.
Not in the economy and not with the Jazz.
They're moving, but they're also in the same place as usual.
The Jazz took care of business on Wednesday with a 95-86 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at EnergySolutions Arena, improving to 2-3. But nobody is quaking in Miami. Really, what has changed? It's the early season, but so far the Jazz have looked suspiciously like last year's team. They win at home, but the road owns them.
"We've got to fight, we've got to learn lessons, man," said coach Ty Corbin. "We've got to understand what's going to give us a chance to get road wins and what's hurting us on the road."
Thus far, that's almost everything. Whether it's lumpy beds, bad room service or quick shots, it's hard to know. Last year's road record: 18-23. Not disastrous, but not good enough to be taken seriously.
So despite the win over the Lakers, the real proof of whether this team is better lies, well, down the road.
The Jazz need to win where nobody's wearing their replica shirts.
Replica shirts aren't a problem for the Lakers. They're as ubiquitous as Starbucks. EnergySolutions is a prime example. On Wednesday, the crowd looked like a retrospective of Lance Armstrong's career — yellow jerseys everywhere.
The Jazz? Not so much. Put them on a plane and get lonesome. So far this year they're winless on the road.
The good news and bad news for the Jazz is that everyone will know by New Year's Day if they have changed — maybe even by next month. Eight of their first 11 games are on the road. Nearly half (19) of their travel games will be done by Jan. 1, even though they'll only be two months into the schedule.
Hence, the Jazz must to fix their road problems early.
You have to credit the Lakers, who at 1-4 have a nice sense of theater. What do you expect from a team from Tinseltown? Despite losing all their preseason games and their first three regular season contests, the Lakers awoke on Sunday, beating Detroit by 29.
Suddenly they looked like the normal Lakers, not the ones hiding behind the palm fronds.
No one expected the Jazz and Lakers to have identical 1-3 records going into Wednesday's game, but there it was. It was L.A.'s worst start in 34 years, or approximately Bryant's rookie season.
So this is high drama.
"We're all frustrated," said Lakers' coach Mike Brown.
They have center Dwight Howard still trying to figure out his new teammates. They have star guard Steve Nash out with an injured leg. They have Bryant telling fans and media to "… shut up. Let us work." And they have guard Steve Blake getting fined $25,000 for trash-talking a lambasting a heckler.
Roll the reel, Bobby.
In one sense this is good suspense, film-worthy in fact. But odds are good the Lakers will improve. Their history is that if you turn on the set lights they're good to go.
The Jazz are less certain. Their early-season flaws have been exposed on the road.
"We've got to come out at the beginning of the game, we can't have lulls," Corbin said.
Wednesday there was surprisingly little debate. The Jazz took the lead with the first point and never trailed. Randy Foye's five 3-pointers pushed the game out of reach. But Friday they play at Denver, then come home for a game, then go back on the road for four more.
The numbers are hard to dismiss. In their best years, the Jazz had seven straight seasons in which they were above .500 on the road. They have now had just one in the last 11.
In other words, pay scant attention to what's going on at home. That's taking care of itself.
It's the road where the Jazz will make their case.
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