Young players, deemed to be the core for the future, have shown promising signs of being able to produce at this level. They’ve even been brilliant at times despite playing one of the busiest and toughest schedules in the NBA to date.
Versatile swingman Gordon Hayward finishing off Oklahoma City with the final 17 points for the Jazz and a career-high 37 last week was a highlight for a guy who’s growing into his role as a leader, a top scorer and all-around player.
Rookie Trey Burke exploding on the scene, earning Western Conference rookie of the month honors and going off for 30 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a nice win at Orlando has been a fun shot in the arm.
Shooting guard Alec Burks turning into a high-flying, off-balance scoring machine with newfound consistency, not to mention 34 points, in a victory against Denver and 31 versus the Heat, has been a pleasant development.
Center Enes Kanter working his way out of a rough season start to come on strong with six straight double-digit games, including his season-best 25 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday at San Antonio, has been encouraging.
And, of course, Derrick Favors becoming a reliable and strong two-way player since signing his four-year, $47 million-plus contract in October has been one of the biggest storylines so far.
“We have a lot of potential,” Kanter said. “We have a lot of young guys and we have competitive young guys (who) want to win every game.”
The Jazz, of course, are multiple pieces away from getting to the point where that is an expectation instead of a pipe dream. In a bit of irony, Utah could have a better shot of obtaining one of those star-type players if it returned to its erratic early season play instead of its current .500ish pace.
Whatever happens in the future personnel-wise, Corbin, in the final year of his contract, wants his team — for as long as it’s his — to try to emulate the Spurs squad that just beat them.
His dream scenario?
For now, Corbin wants the Jazz to string together some wins. Utah has only won consecutive games three times all season, and the team has yet to go on a winning streak.
Defensively, he still wants players to be “crisper” in execution, more communicative, quicker to rotate and help. Offensively, he’d love to see better consistency, increased focus and more nights like Wednesday when the Jazz scored 70 points in the paint.
And long term?
“To get where San Antonio is,” he said. “Every night they step out there on the floor you know you’re going to see a really sharp team on the offensive end, a quick rotating team on the defensive end.”
Setting your goals to Spurs level — always a contender, winning multiple championships — seems lofty. But Corbin likes the Jazz’s starting point.
“We see it at times and sometimes it’s not as good,” he said. “Sometimes it’s mediocre. Sometimes below average.”
It’s that identity that he’s trying to create.
It’s that consistency and competitiveness that he craves.
Corbin used the word “process” while explaining that's what the Jazz are shooting for.
“That’s part of the journey,” he said, “and we have to continue to work on it.”
Almost on cue, the Jazz coach ended his thought with this positive statement: “We’re getting better.”
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