AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — During interviews, it’s fairly common to hear Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin use two particular words when he’s talking about his young team.
And the coach has had plenty of opportunities during this rebuilding and developing season to point out where and show his players how to, yes, get better.
As the Jazz approach the midway point of this 2013-14 campaign tonight against the Pistons in their 41st game, Corbin has a sense of pride and accomplishment that improvement has been made.
Sure, the Jazz still own the worst record in the Western Conference at 13-27.
But the team is trending in the right direction.
And Corbin believes that will continue to happen as long as the Jazz try like they did at the end of Wednesday’s 109-105 loss to the Spurs when they nearly erased a 14-point lead in the final three minutes.
The thought he shared in the locker room at the AT&T Center was similar to the one he’s preached all season while promoting his get-better message. To sum that up: “Keep fighting.”
Preferrably sooner than later.
“We made some mistakes. The only way to get better is to continue to fight as hard as we fought tonight,” he said. “There are no moral victories in this league, but if we get this kind of effort on a nightly basis we will have a chance to win our fair share of games.”
That is already starting to happen.
Remember the 1-14 start when it seemed like the Jazz might be the worst team in the history of basketball?
Utah is an anti-tanking 12-13 since then.
Veteran Richard Jefferson said he’s most proud of “the way our team has answered after the slow start.”
Defensively, the Jazz were porous and sloppy. But Corbin is optimistic because he feels the team’s D is “getting better.” Offensively, the Jazz were miserable to start the season. Utah only hit the 100-point mark once in its first 16 games (something it’s done in each of its past four games, by the way).
“Everybody was struggling to shoot,” Jefferson said. “As we kind of got our lineups down, Coach kept figuring it out, that’s what I’m most proud of — we didn’t just tank it in. Guys didn’t start acting crazy, getting selfish, doing any of that stuff — we kind of stayed the course, and that says a lot about the character of guys on this team.”
Utah also persevered through a slew of injuries. The Jazz began the season with only 10 healthy bodies, and two of the injured players were starters — rookie Trey Burke and power forward Marvin Williams.
It wasn’t a coincidence that the Jazz started clicking once those two guys began playing. The change was especially evident when Burke made his NBA debut, seeing how the Jazz struggled mightily at the point guard position while he was out the first 12 games with a broken finger.
“If you’re dealing with injuries, your season is most likely going to go to (bleep),” Jefferson said, bluntly. “We were dealing with injuries at the beginning of the year. I know we had low expectations (from outsiders), but we were all very confident that once we got healthy we would be a very competitive team, and we’ve shown that.”
Though some fans are still clamoring for guys like Alec Burks and Enes Kanter to become starters (or permanent ones), the Jazz have been pleased with the progress of the team’s Foundation Five guys.
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