Utah Jazz: Utah starting lineup tweaked just three games into season
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — That lineup change didn’t take long.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin decided to switch things around after just two games in hopes of getting the team in the win column.
With Trey Burke, the team’s eventual starting point guard, out indefinitely with a broken finger, Jamaal Tinsley was named the starter for Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets.
In turn, John Lucas III was assigned to the second unit after the third and fourth starts of his six-year NBA career.
The decision was made about an hour before tipoff after much deliberation.
“Guys are playing hard. We want to make sure we keep everybody growing with this group. We may tweak it to see if it helps us,” Corbin said of the rotations during his pregame interview.
“We’ve got to find a way to shore up the second group a little bit. We’ve got to get a better punch than we’re getting.”
The change, reuniting Lucas with the backups and putting a pass-first playmaker in with Utah’s first unit, worked brilliantly for a while. Utah jumped ahead early and built a 19-point advantage a minute before halftime.
“I thought it went well for us for the first half,” Corbin said. “I thought Jamaal came in and did a good job for us getting us organized, getting us where we wanted to go, and Lucas came in behind that and created pace, and carried the second group. We got back to the rotation.”
Everything fell apart in the second half. The Rockets outscored Utah by 27 points to complete a 30-point turnaround and earn a 104-93 win at EnergySolutions Arena.
“In the second half,” Corbin said, “it wasn’t the same.”
The Jazz aren’t sure how much longer they’ll have to work with makeshift lineups in Burke’s absence. The rookie, whom the team traded for this summer to become the starting point guard of the future, will be re-evaluated Nov. 11 to see how his surgically repaired right index finger has progressed since the Oct. 15 medical procedure.
Lucas doesn’t think the Jazz are too far from sorting things out in a positive way, even before the 2013 NCAA player of the year returns.
“We have to build on how we played in the first half,” he said. “We’ve got to (transfer) that over into the second half. That’s not going to take no time.”
In the meantime, Corbin won’t hear any complaints from Lucas about evolving roles.
“I’m a ballplayer. I’m all about he team,” Lucas said. “Whatever the coach decides, I’m 100 percent in.”
Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks, who has a locker next to Lucas, just happened to overhear the conversation at this point.
“That’s a great answer,” Burks said quietly with a smile.
Lucas continued without hesitation.
“I’m two feet in. I’m not one foot in, one foot out. I’m two feet in with the organization, with the team, with the coaching staff and everybody,” he said. “Whatever Coach wants, I’m going to go out there and do what he wants me to do. If he wants me to play three minutes, I’m going to go out there and play the hardest three minutes I can. I love the game. I’d never disrespect the game. I’m just out there playing my heart out.”
As for the team, Lucas believes the Jazz need to “keep together” and the close-call losses will turn into wins.
“Keep plucking away, keep plucking away, keep plucking away,” he said, repeating the phrase for emphasis. “Eventually, all of our shots are going to fall. Everything’s going to come into place. Everything’s going to work out.”
Jazz center Enes Kanter, who had a great first half but a rough second half Saturday, also sees it that way. This is part of the learning process.
“Definitely. We just have to figure it out,” Kanter said. “I know down the road when time goes on we’re going to learn how to close games, too. If we play like we did in the first half, no one can keep up with us.”
NOTES: The Jazz didn't practice Sunday after beginning the season with three games in four nights. ... Utah will practice Monday morning and then take a flight to New York for a four-game Eastern swing, which begins Tuesday in Brooklyn, continues in Boston and Chicago, and wraps up Saturday in Toronto. ... It still remains unknown when the five Jazz injured guys will be able to play. Burke, Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff), Marvin Williams (Achilles), Brandon Rush (knee) and Andris Biedrins (ankle) have not been available yet this season.
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