SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz held what was likely their second-to-last practice of the 2013-14 season Thursday morning at Zions Bank Basketball Center.
Six days and four meaningless games remain in this 24-54 campaign, which brings up a question: What are the Jazz focusing on in practice at this point?
“We’re trying to get better,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’re still trying to make sure we understand how we have to continue to prepare for each and every opponent.”
In order, those remaining opponents include the Portland Trail Blazers (Friday night), the Denver Nuggets (Saturday), the Los Angeles Lakers (Monday, home finale) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (Wednesday, season finale).
The Jazz will conduct their annual end-of-the-season locker cleanout and exit interviews next Thursday, and then it’s vacation season.
Spring fever’s gotta be creeping in pretty hard now, right?
“It can be. It’s a little easier for them to get a little distracted now,” Corbin admitted. “But we’ve got to make sure that we try to keep focused on the job at hand. We want to try to make sure we’re working to get better with these last four games and see what we can improve on in this situation and get the guys ready for the summer work to be ready for next year.”
It remains to be seen whether Corbin will be back after his contract expires this offseason, but he’s hoping the Jazz can finish this rough, rebuilding project strong like the team did during the turbulent end of the 2010-11 season. Months after the departures of Jerry Sloan (resignation) and Deron Williams (trade), the Jazz followed an eight-game losing streak by winning their last two contests and three of their final five to go into that offseason on a positive note.
“You always want to play with a purpose and that’s to be as good as you can be,” Corbin said. “That’s what we’ve always tried to focus on, and we’ll continue to try to focus on those things.”
More specifically, the Jazz spent parts of Thursday’s practice working on how to defend the Blazers. Corbin’s wary of Portland's transition game, how the Blazers are increasingly using All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in post-up situations, how All-Star point guard Damian Lillard impressively pushes the pace, and the physicality of ex-Jazzman Wesley Matthews.
“We have to make sure we’re ready from the beginning,” Corbin said.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday when the Jazz watched the Dallas Mavericks shoot 94 percent in the first quarter en route to an early 38-24 lead in their latest lopsided loss.
Utah is also trying to help recently acquired forward Erik Murphy become acquainted with the system, perhaps even getting him up to speed enough to play a few minutes. Otherwise, Murphy will likely see extended action during the Las Vegas Summer League.
“It’s a difficult transition for him. We don’t have a lot of practice time,” Corbin said. “We can’t bang the other guys a lot. He’s happy to be here. He’s been working one-on-one a little bit, trying to get him a couple of plays, get him the feel for those couple plays if we have the opportunity to get him on the floor.”
With four games in the next six nights, it's possible the Jazz won't practice again. If they do, Tuesday would be the next and final official workout before they wrap up the season Wednesday in Minnesota.