Utah Jazz basketball: Time to start the 'real thing' as Jazz open up regular season play

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 30 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

"We're better now than where we were last year at this time," Corbin said.

The Jazz believe they're a better defensive squad than the one that was picked-and-rolled apart mercilessly at times in 2011-12.

The Jazz believe they're a better outside shooting team thanks to additions of veterans Mo Williams, Marvin Williams and Randy Foye along with improvements made by the likes of Hayward and Alec Burks.

They believe they have one of the NBA's best collections of big men, with All-Star-bubble veterans Big Al and Paul Millsap paired with tantalizing and talented up-and-comers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

They believe they'll have stronger leadership and tighter chemistry.

They believe they'll be more effective in transition and be more capable of faring well against quicker teams and bigger teams because of a lineup that is diverse and deep.

They believe they've done enough hard work to thrive and surprise, dating back to summer workouts and continuing through training camp and the 5-3 exhibition season.

Expectations, whether championship level or not, are high.

Energy and excitement abound.

"To me, it's all about the playoffs, advancing in the playoffs, getting deep in the playoffs," said Jefferson, the team's leading scorer and most consistent player last season.

"We had a little taste of it last year, but we ran into a great team," Jefferson added. "Now I just think it's all about getting the wins to put ourselves in a position to get a higher seed and advance in the playoffs, trying to get that home-court advantage."

Questions are aplenty, though.

Can Mo Williams, who was most recently Chris Paul's backup with the Clippers, effectively run the Jazz offense in his return to his rookie team and a role as the lead floor general?

Will the Jazz's transition and pick-and-roll defenses improve?

Can the previously poor-shooting team light it up from outside and simultaneously clear space for its bevy of bigs?

How will Corbin divvy up playing time with so many players who seemingly are capable of contributing and/or need experience to improve?

It's been decided that Mo Williams, Paul Millsap and Jefferson will be tri-captains, but who will emerge as the team's most reliable player?

"It's good to have a go-to guy," Corbin said. "But it's great to have a go-to group."

That depth — in talent and leadership — is what the Jazz really believe will help them push toward meeting high expectations even as few outsiders have faith they'll succeed yet again.

"No doubt in my mind this team can do it," Jefferson said. "We've got a great team. We've got a deep team, a great coaching staff."

Perhaps most important, it's a quickly bonded group that believes in itself.

"I like to think that we have a lot of superstars, not just one guy," Corbin said. "We have a group of guys that's going to work extremely hard to prove themselves in this league. … You know, we're going to do it by committee."

That might mean fewer minutes than some players are accustomed to and will require other guys to patiently work while they wait to chip in.

"We're going to play hard and smart together every night that we step on the floor," Corbin said. "Playoffs is ultimate. You've got to get into the playoffs first to have a chance to win the championship, so we want to have a good season and get in the playoffs and then we'll see from there."

Beginning tonight.

EMAIL: jody@desnews.com


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