Utah Jazz: Corbin, players have one last game before questions must be answered
Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after his team’s latest soul-zapping loss Monday night, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin faced the media for his usual postgame interview session.
His expressions were gloomy, heartbroken, sullen; his tone, downtrodden and demoralized; his responses, candid with a large layer of dejection and contemplation.
And his future?
More uncertain than ever.
Having carried the burden of leading an inexperienced and talent-deficient team all season — management’s decision, not his — Corbin publicly admitted for the first time that he isn’t sure what his future holds after this season.
“It’s been an interesting year,” the Jazz’s coach of three-plus years said. “I have a lot of evaluating to do that I want to do for myself and figure out what’s my next step.”
Before the most intense pondering takes place, Corbin and his team have two final matters of business to wrap up.
First, Utah is in Minnesota Wednesday night for the 2013-14 season finale, which is of importance despite the fact neither the Jazz nor the Timberwolves qualified for postseason play.
A loss would ensure that the Jazz (24-57) finish with at least the fourth-worst record in the NBA. A Utah defeat paired with an unlikely Orlando win over Indiana would result in the Jazz and Magic (23-58) ending in a tie for the No. 3 lottery spot.
If the latter happens, Utah and Orlando would split the lottery chances (pingpong balls, if you will) for the third and fourth positions, giving each 137.5 chances out of 1,000 (13.8 percent) to win the No. 1 pick.
A pre-lottery coin toss would determine the drafting order in case neither wins.
If both the Jazz and Magic lose — probably the most likely scenario — Orlando would finish in the third spot and Utah would be fourth.
The Jazz could also finish tied for the No. 4 position with Boston (25-56) if the Celtics lose at home to the Wizards and Utah beats Minnesota. If that happens, the Jazz and C’s would each have 10.4 percent chances of winning the first pick.
Considering how the Jazz have lost five straight and only have eight road wins all season — not to mention Monday’s 28-point turnaround meltdown — ending the year with a victory at the Target Center doesn’t seem like a great possibility.
Even so, the Jazz are hoping to conclude this rocky rebuilding campaign, one in which young players got ample opportunities to both flourish and flounder, on a positive note.
On one hand, they’re eager for the misery to end. But they’re also trying to salvage some pride at the end of the worst year since 1979-80 when the Jazz debuted in Utah with a 24-58 record.
“Definitely,” Jazz center Enes Kanter said when asked about wanting a fresh start. “But we have one more game left. I know it doesn’t mean anything, but we want to finish it strong.”
Regardless of this game’s outcome, the Jazz’s final loose end for this season will take place Thursday at EnergySolutions Arena. Players will clean out their lockers, go through exit interviews with the coaching staff and front office, and then head off to their various summer destinations.
And then the serious soul-searching will begin.
The Jazz will determine if they want Corbin to return after being the head coach since Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan’s midseason resignation in February 2011, or if a new direction is preferred. The Corbin Era has been an up-and-down period, which has included some mix-and-match lineups without a star player, resulting in a tumultuous ending to that 2010-11 campaign, a surprise playoff appearance in the lockout-shortened 2012, a late-but-unsuccessful push to the playoffs in 2013 and this whirlwind of a development and rebranding phase in 2014 during which five of the top six players are between 21 and 24 years old.
Asked to assess his own season in which he became the go-to guy and team captain for the first time, Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward sort of summed up the season for the entire squad.
“I learned that I can be the guy. I just have to be more consistent. I think that’s kind of the theme for our whole team,” said Hayward, who has his own contract issue to be resolved this summer.
“We’ve seen potential out of everybody. It’s just the inconsistency that gets you. The guys that do it every single night, those are the All-Stars. You can’t be good one game and take four games off and come back with another strong one. It’s got to be every night.”
Corbin was also asked to expound on what he’s gleaned from the most challenging full season of his head coaching career (losing Deron Williams down the stretch in 2011 wasn’t exactly fun, mind you).
“I don't know if that's a good question right now. It's a question to be asked,” Corbin said in the aftermath of Monday’s 119-104 loss to the Lakers. “It's a question I have to ask myself. It’s a question I have to accept (and) figure out where I go from here.”
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