Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It looks like the Utah Jazz's intriguing youth movement will get its baptism by fire on the road during the early portion of the NBA's 2013-14 regular season, which was announced Tuesday.
The youthful Jazz, with five potential starters ranging in age from 20 to 23, will play five of their first seven games on the road — a place where the team struggled mightily last year.
Thus, fourth-year swingman Gordon Hayward (age 23), promising young big men Derrick Favors (22) and Enes Kanter (21), shooting guard Alec Burks (22) and 20-year-old rookie point guard Trey Burke will find out right away whether they're ready for prime time — or not.
"That would be the defining character of the schedule that, with our young team, we're gonna hit the road early and face some stiff competition," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. " ... It will certainly test us the first two months of the season, where we come out with a minus-8 home-to-road schedule. Our young team will get used to playing on the road and their execution in those games will be crucial.
"But if we survive those first two months and come out of it healthy, then we hope we can take advantage of a more home-friendly schedule after that.
"We're not gonna complain; we're just gonna take the ball and do the best we can," he said. "We're gonna play 41 games at home and 41 on the road, and then when we add it all up at the end of the season, hopefully we'll end up with a good (playoff) seed and take it from there."
After opening the upcoming season at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 30 against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz play five of their next six away from home — at Phoenix, at Brooklyn against former Jazzmen Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, at Boston, at Chicago and at Toronto — with a home game Nov. 2 against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets thrown into the mix.
Last season, the Jazz dropped their first four road games — a trend that continued throughout the 2012-13 campaign. After losing six of their first seven away from home, which turned into seven losses in their first nine road games and nine defeats in their first 12 trips, the Jazz wound up a disappointing 13-28 overall on the road.
As a result, a decent 30-11 home record wasn't quite enough to propel the Jazz into the 2013 NBA playoffs.
This season, the Jazz not only play four in a row on the road in early November, but they'll face five straight road games on their pre-Christmas road trip Dec. 16-23, and a six-game road stretch from Feb. 28 to March 8 — Utah's longest road trip since a six-game stretch in December 2003.
LeBron James and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat make their lone visit to Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 8, while reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio takes two early-season trips to Utah — on Nov. 15 and Dec. 14.
Other home highlights include games against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 27 and April 14 in Utah's final home game of the regular season. Former Weber State star Damian Lillard, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year, and the Portland Trail Blazers also come to town twice, on Dec. 9 and April 11.
Williams, Kirilenko and the Nets will make a return trip to EnergySolutions Arena on Feb. 19 in Utah's first game after the NBA's All-Star weekend, which will be staged Feb. 14-16 in New Orleans. And popular former Jazz player and assistant coach Jeff Hornacek, the first-year head coach in Phoenix, will bring the Suns to SLC on Nov. 29 and again Feb. 26.
The Jazz will play five games on national television during the 2013-14 campaign, including three times on ESPN (Jan. 15 at San Antonio, Jan. 31 vs. Golden Sate and March 26 vs. Memphis) and twice on NBA TV (Nov. 11 vs. Denver and Nov. 25 vs. Chicago).
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