SALT LAKE CITY — As disappointed Utah Jazz fans began filing out of EnergySolutions Arena following Friday's double-digit loss to the Phoenix Suns, the familiar strains of a oldie-but-goodie by Ben E. King began blaring from the P.A. system:
"... Stand by me,
Oh-oh-oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me."
Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a subliminal, yet strong, message hidden in those lyrics for frustrated Jazz fans who have endured a disheartening 2-15 start going into Saturday night's late game at Phoenix?
It's almost as if the Jazz front office is pleading with its fan base to stick with them — indead, stand by me — through what is turning into the most difficult stretch since the franchise move to Utah.
Sure, if those two glorious runs to the NBA Finals in 1997-98 were the best of times, which they were, then these are definitely the worst of times.
For this proud franchise, it's almost enough to make you cry.
"... I won't cry, I won't cry
No, I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Utah is off to a sluggish 2-6 start at home, a place where the Jazz were once seemingly invincible — or at least mighty close to it — back in the glory days.
Sure, we knew that when the team let veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye sign with other teams during the last offseason that this young ball club would likely struggle this season.
But 2-15 (and likely 2-6) struggle? Even the most pessimistic fan probably expected a better start than that dreadful beginning to the 2013-14 campaign.
So now the franchise has hitched its wagon to youngsters Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans, et al, in hopes of building for the future.
The future might someday turn out to be glorious, too, if faithful fans can just remain patient — a difficult thing to do in these troubling times — and wait for this young but promising team to gradually improve.
"... Whenever you're in trouble
won't you stand by me
Oh stand by me, oh won't you stand now, stand
Stand by me
Stand by me."
That familiar refrain might very well be the battle cry of Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin as well. He's been dealt a pretty darned difficult hand, and you couldn't blame him if he's starting to look over this shoulder, wondering and worrying if the axe is about to fall on him.
After all, job security in professional sports is virtually non-existent. Heck, George Karl won the NBA's Coach of the Year award last season, then got dumped by the Denver Nuggets shortly thereafter.
Perhaps Corbin could be blamed for some of the Jazz's shortcomings, but there's a much bigger picture at play here.
He didn't build this team. He didn't cut all the veterans loose in favor of a young, relatively inexperienced lineup that is now taking its lumps night after night on its way to a great pick in the NBA Lottery.
Sure, it's Corbin's job to try and coach 'em up, come up with a substitution pattern which hopefully gets the right mix of players out on the floor together at the right time, and try to keep these young guys motivated and not allow their confidence to be shaken or take too much of a beating in the wake of all these defeats.
But as the losses mount and fans begin to grumble more loudly, the front office can only hope that Utah's Kiddie Corps will eventually figure things out and live up to expectations — hopefully sooner rather than later — and that someday, these worst of times will be nothing more than a distant, faded memory.
Until then, though, it will take the team's most loyal fans to hang in there and...
Stand by me.
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