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

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29 2013 9:40 p.m. MDT

In order to keep its future roster flexibility and to bring its salary up to the league-minimum range — not to mention pick up a boatload of draft picks — the Jazz traded to acquire veterans Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and injured Brandon Rush from Golden State. For one reason or another, none have been relevant in the NBA for years.

Utah also made draft-day trades to infuse the youthful team with promising point guard Trey Burke and center Rudy Gobert this summer.

All of which could be exciting for the franchise’s future.

None of which likely puts the Jazz in position to be more than an intriguing, lottery-bound team in the mix for a top spot in the coveted 2014 draft.

Good luck convincing the players and coaching staff that they’re supposed to be artwork in progress at best and a team in tank mode, a popular belief outside of their locker room.

“I’m certainly not going to tank at all. You know me well enough. I hate losses,” Hayward said this offseason. “I’m going to be playing as hard as I can. We’re going to be competing as hard as we can. There’s not going to be any tanking for us.”

Temporary starter John Lucas III, signed in the offseason to be now-injured Burke’s backup, said his team has one focus.

“We’re coming in trying to win games. We’re coming in trying to prove a point,” Lucas said. “A lot of people have already put us down, saying it’s a rebuilding year; it’s a development year. As players, we’re not looking at it like that. We look at it like it’s another chance for us to get better, another chance to prove everybody wrong — prove all the critics wrong.”

And there are plenty of those.

Utah hasn’t been gutted like the depleted 76ers or even like the Suns, with only four players back, but the Jazz are widely regarded to be a bottom-five team in the 30-deep NBA.

“People can say whatever they want. People can rank (us) 30. We don’t really care,” Kanter said. “All they can do is just talk. What we’re going to do is we’re going to go out there and show them that they’re wrong if they’re talking about bad. And if they’re talking about good then we’re going to show them that they’re right. … We have enough talent to beat every team on every court.”

Perhaps, but Jazz brass has avoided focusing on talking about making postseason plans.

“I’m excited about the group to see where we are,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “I’m excited for the opportunity for these guys to step up in this league and get bigger roles and see how things go. We’re expecting to compete.”

But those seven-straight defeats to end the preseason after surprising Golden State in the exhibition opener? Isn’t that a sign of things to come?

“The real season starts tomorrow. That’s what’s so good about preseason — none of it counts, so everybody’s 0-0,” Lucas said. “And that’s how we’re going into it. We learned. We got better. It’s a lot of new guys on the team that wasn’t here last year. We’re jelling.”

While it’s one thing to talk about youth movement, making daily progress and being in rebuild mode, it’s a whole ‘nother to live through it as the losses pile up, isn’t it?

“It’s not fun,” Lindsey admitted. The Jazz GM, who spent five seasons with the Spurs before taking over for Kevin O’Connor last summer, added, “Every game is an adventure. There’s the relief of victory and then there’s the pain of defeat. Going through defeat is like, many times, going through a death, the postmortems after the game, so you have to go through that.”

Like fans, in part because he is one, Jazz CEO Greg Miller is bracing himself for the upcoming reality.

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