Ben Brewer, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty games in, the Utah Jazz’s season has been like driving behind somebody going 10 MPH below the speed limit in the fast lane.
They’re not zooming along as quickly as preferred, but they’re still heading down the right road.
Sure, it can be maddening at times — and some fans driving behind them are honking like crazy — but the team believes it's making slow-but-sure progress.
The Jazz’s middle-of-the-road 10-10 record is good enough for the No. 7 position in the Western Conference.
But the team's overall performance is not good enough to meet higher expectations placed upon themselves and their fan base.
“Definitely underachieving. You always want to do better than what you are,” Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. “And (at) 10-10, I think we’re underachieving right now.”
Could be better. Could be worse.
“I think we’ve done OK,” Jazz small forward Marvin Williams said. “Obviously, sitting at 10-10 there’s a couple games out there that we wish we could have back, and maybe our record would be a little bit better. But as of right now, I think we’re doing OK.”
Underachieving but OK.
The glass of lukewarm water is both half empty and half full.
Now at the end of the first quarter, the team with a history of sputtering starts is hopeful the best is yet to come.
Coach Tyrone Corbin knows the team has underperformed, but said his team has “made some strides” since the beginning of training camp. That the Jazz have wavered but still remain in the mix out West is fortuitous, but it’s also a trend that might not continue, especially considering teams with talent like the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavericks and T-Wolves are situated behind them in the standings.
“It is encouraging,” Corbin said. “We talked about that from Day 1 — ultimately, our goal is first off to make the playoffs, and we’re on pace to do that. We want to finish as high as we can in that race, but you’ve got to be in the top eight to get that first.”
That almost certainly won’t happen if Utah doesn’t figure out its road woes.
The Jazz are terrific at the place increasingly being called “The Solution,” going 7-1 at home.
But the Jazz are horrific in the places that could be called “The Problem,” stumbling to a 3-9 mark away from Utah.
Their guard play — from Mo Williams, to Gordon Hayward and Randy Foye — has been somewhere between spotty, spectacular and spot-on.
Their big men — Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter — have been a combination of dominating and dumbfounding depending on the day.
They’ve scored 99.0 points per game, which puts them in the top third of NBA offenses. But they’ve given up 98.8 points an outing, which puts them right around the bottom third of defenses.
OK but underachieving.
Blame it on the excessive road games (12 of 20) or the lineup fluctuations (six starting groups) or fill-in-the-blank excuse, but the team has yet to distance itself from overall mediocrity.
“We feel we’re better than the record indicates, but we are where we are. We’re a .500 team now,” Corbin said. “We’ve played good in some spurts and we haven’t played our best at some times, but we’re growing. I think we’ll continue to get better in some areas that we need to get better in.”
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