Utah Jazz 'glad to be home,' first playoff team to be honored
Lance Murphey, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — This last month hasn’t been easy on the Utah Jazz.
Their schedule has included nine road games over the past few weeks.
They’ve had to go against some of the best teams in the NBA, including a brutal stretch against the Clippers, Spurs and Rockets.
They’ve floundered while losing 11 of 12 games, including six straight.
And some fans couldn’t be happier, considering the Jazz’s tailspin has sent them into one of the coveted spots for the lottery. Utah, now 22-47, has the fourth-worst record in the NBA, putting the team in line for one of the projected superstars of the 2014 draft. Only Milwaukee (13-55), Philadelphia (15-53) and Orlando (19-50) are below the Jazz in the standings.
Of course Utah’s players and coaching staff aren’t concerned with securing a high draft pick. They want to win games, and there’s hope that some success could be coming their way.
Three of the Jazz’s next four opponents are out of the playoff picture, including Saturday’s foe, Orlando. And the next three games are at EnergySolutions Arena, where the team has gone 14-19 compared to a Western Conference-worst 8-28 on the road.
“We’re all glad to be home,” Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. “We understand how important our fan base is at home. We play better, obviously, at home. We look forward to getting back and getting some wins.”
Thursday’s day off came at a perfect time for the Jazz, who lost their three road games against Southwest Division opponents San Antonio, Houston and Memphis by a combined 66 points.
The second half of Wednesday’s 96-86 loss to the Grizzlies at least offered some hope that the Jazz aren’t going to simply call it quits down the stretch. Utah twice rallied out of double-digit deficits to tie the game with less than five minutes remaining before the more experienced and talented Memphis squad took over.
“We will get one of these games sooner or later,” Jazz center Derrick Favors said in the FedEx Forum locker room. “We just have to keep going there, playing hard, playing with energy and playing together.”
Sounding an awful lot like his coach, Burke said the Jazz need to continue to work to improve in the meantime.
“Just developing, not only as a team but individually. We understand the playoff picture is out of reach,” he said. “In this game, you’ve got to go out and leave it on the court 48 minutes every single night or you will get embarrassed.
“This is our job. We know what we signed up for. We’ve just got to be ready to play every night.”
THE BIG 3-0: The Jazz will honor members of the organization’s first playoff team at Saturday’s game. That 1983-84 squad, referred to as “The Team with Heart,” went 45-37, won the first division title in franchise history and beat Denver in the first round.
Members of that team who’ll be in attendance — and will sign autographs that night — include guard Darrell Griffith, center Rich Kelley, center Mark Eaton, forward Thurl Bailey, guard Jerry Eaves, coach Frank Layden and assistant Phil Johnson.
Fans are encouraged to dress 1980s-style for Saturday’s game.
EASY PICK: Burke grew up in Columbus, Ohio, as a fan of the local college. His allegiance switched, however, when Ohio State spurned the point guard and rival Michigan welcomed him with open arms.
With that in mind, it wasn’t all that surprising to see that Burke picked 11th-seeded Dayton to upset the Buckeyes, a No. 6 seed, in Thursday’s NCAA tournament.
He quickly wrote a message on Twitter after Dayton’s exciting 60-59 win: “And y'all thought I was insane for my pick smh (smacking my head) anyone can be beat.”
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