SALT LAKE CITY — Back in 1971, there was a delightful little movie entitled "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."
Based on a novel by Jimmy Breslin and featuring a fine young actor you might've heard of named Robert De Niro, "The Gang ..." was a story about a bunch of bungling hoods who tried repeatedly — and failed miserably — to whack a Mafia boss.
Well, it seems that a sequel to that movie is being filmed this year in Salt Lake City, and this one stars ... wait for it ... the Utah Jazz.
Yep, when it comes to a gang that can't shoot straight, look no further than your 2013-14 Jazz ballclub. Alas, NBA opponents are apparently just as safe as that Mafia boss was in the 1971 movie.
After all, through their first six games — all losses — the Jazz were shooting just 39.4 percent as a team. They actually shot somewhat better than that in Saturday's game at Toronto, but it didn't prevent the Jazz from trailing by 26 points at halftime and by 31 at the end of the third quarter.
So far, Utah's performance this season has been even uglier than those camo uniforms the Raptors were wearing in Saturday's eventual 115-91 decision.
Through that 0-6 start, two of Utah's top young players, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, were hovering right around 41 percent from the field.
Gordon Hayward, the guy who's supposed to be their best player, was barely over 43 percent, and a couple of NBA veterans, Richard Jefferson and John Lucas III, were shooting less than 30 percent.
Jamaal Tinsley, never really known for his shooting, was barely over 21 percent from the field, including a woeful 1-of-14 from 3-point range. Thankfully, he didn't take a shot on Saturday.
In fact, only one Jazz player, center Enes Kanter, had managed to make more than half of his shots thus far this season.
The "can't shoot straight" malady may have even affected Utah's free-throwing efficiency, as the Jazz came into Saturday's game at less than 69 percent from the foul line. And their 3-point shooting is absolutely awful, too.
Not only can the Jazz not shoot straight, they apparently are having a lot of trouble passing the ball and dribbling it straight, too.
They were averaging almost 20 turnovers per game heading into Saturday, but only committed 14 against the Raptors. What's more, they made 20-of-24 free throws, so maybe there's some light at the end of that long, dark tunnel ahead for a frustrated team that has now fallen to 0-7.
OK, we knew the Jazz youth movement was going to struggle this season, and probably struggle mightily. Most preseason predictions had them winning anywhere from 20 to 30 games, but I was feeling optimistic and picked 'em to win 30, figuring they'd win around half of their 41 home games and a fourth of their 41 road games.
Based on what we've seen so far, though, maybe that was faulty logic. And far too optimistic.
The Jazz performance has been decent at times, but absolutely abysmal on other occasions during this young season. After narrow losses at home against Oklahoma City and on the road against Phoenix, the Jazz built a double-digit halftime lead in their next home game against Houston, only to get clobbered and outscored by 27 points after intermission.
Saturday's loss to Toronto mercifully ended an 0-4 road trip which also included losses to Brooklyn, Boston and Chicago. But now they return to Utah for their next three games, and certainly there must be a win waiting for them out there somewhere, isn't there?
Maybe Monday against the Denver Nuggets? Perhaps it'll come Wednesday against those pesky Pelicans from New Orleans? Or Friday when the San Antonio Spurs come to town? (OK, probably not Friday).15 comments on this story
Keep in mind that it's a long season, and that the Jazz have played five of their first seven games on the road.
They will get better, no doubt, provided they don't get so discouraged that they simply give up. That would make a bad situation even worse.
Some folks out there are blaming Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. But keep in mind that Corbin's simply playing the difficult hand he was dealt.
And besides that, he's not the guy throwing up bricks or throwing the ball away for this Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.