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Utah Jazz: Artwork in progress for a Jazz team expected to pile up losses

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30 2013 12:52 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) drives to the basket between Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez (42), left, and Portland Trail Blazers center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in the second half of a game at the Energy Solutions Arena on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Before tonight’s 2013-14 NBA season opener, Utah Jazz fans should go to the kitchen.

No, this isn’t where we suggest you drink and/or eat future sorrows away while contemplating a potentially rough season, which tips off at 7 p.m. against Western Conference powerhouse Oklahoma City in an upgraded EnergySolutions Arena.

Don’t pre-emptively shut the refrigerator door on the Jazz season just yet because of the youth movement and lack of depth, either.

If you’re a parent, take a moment to look on the fridge at the drawings your children made. If you don’t have kids, think back to your crayon-based creations that were showcased under a “Best Mom” magnet.

The artwork, no doubt, isn’t comparable to masterpieces in the Louvre. Maybe it shows signs of artistic potential. Or not. Either way, it’d get shunned by critics.

To proud parents, though, those colorful scribbles, random squiggly lines and awkwardly drawn stick figures are cherished. They’re appreciated for what they are. Have some warm-fuzzies with that glass of milk.

To wrap up this life-imitates-art metaphor, this Jazz team is the child’s drawing on your fridge door.

It’s young. It's inexperienced. It will color outside of the lines. Some talent is on display, but this roster’s works probably won’t be displayed in a museum anytime soon. It probably won’t win critical acclaim or, for that matter, many basketball games.

That’s why team brass has talked about focusing on youth development, building a defensive foundation, not skipping steps in trying to become “championship-caliber,” competing and progressing instead of using words like win and playoffs.

They won’t use the T-word (tanking), but they aren’t afraid to use the R-word (rebuilding). While talking about the latter this week, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said ownership, management and the coaching staff are all onboard with the process even knowing this year might be, um, colored with setbacks.

“We knew that when we jumped in the end of the rebuilding pool that there’s going to be a lot of tough nights,” Lindsey said. “We’re not going to skip it. We’re not going to trick it up. We’re going to take our medicine like men and hopefully learn those lessons quicker than longer.

“If it’s longer, then so be it,” he continued. “I think we’ll be standing on steady ground when we come out of this period.”

In the meantime, fans might consider appreciating this Jazz team for what it is — and what it could be — as an unusual year begins in a place where the usual winning seasons and playoffs might be years and several art classes away.

As Lindsey mentioned, this was a conscious decision, too. Utah didn’t re-sign the veterans who carried the team the past few seasons, namely Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, to give its young core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks a chance to grow with new opportunities.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” third-year center Kanter said. “Jazz have been waiting for this long time. And we finally get to play with the people who we be with for two years and new people that came with us. I’m really nervous and excited about it.”

Nervous? Kanter, one of four new players in the starting lineup, smiled. “Nervous in a good way nervous.”

Both nervouses are applicable for some.

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