Utah Jazz: Reflecting back on a rough rebuilding season
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The day after finishing a funky 25-57 season with a double-overtime win in Minnesota — consider the extra time their postseason — the Utah Jazz cleaned out their lockers, ate some traditional end-of-year Crown Burger grub, conducted exit interviews with team officials, answered final media questions, bid farewell to friends and exited EnergySolutions Arena one last time this spring.
Goodbye, 2013-14 season.
Some, like Trey Burke and Derrick Favors, know they will likely return next fall to play basketball in the Beehive State.
Some, like Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson, know they likely won’t.
And some, like Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin and team captain Gordon Hayward, simply don’t know if they’ll be given new contracts now that their current deals are expiring.
Welcome to the puzzle known as the 2014 offseason. Oh, and grab another pastrami burger before you go.
With critical decisions about the franchise’s future pending, some (Corbin’s) sooner than others (Hayward’s), this Jazz group took a moment on its final day together to reflect on a rebuilding year, which included an array of rocky and rewarding aspects.
“The guys, I’m proud of (them). They made some great strides this year,” Corbin said, perhaps speaking publicly for the last time as the Jazz’s head coach. “I like the character of the guys on the team through all of the adversity that we’ve been through. For the most part, they stayed together. Those things are positive.”
For a team that began the season 1-14, started a rookie point guard, had four other young players in key roles they’d never been in, relied on a couple veterans to revive their careers, experienced eight losing streaks of four or more games, valued development over victories, had a coaching staff with an uncertain future, struggled mightily to score, ended as the lowest-ranked defense, and finished at the bottom of the Western Conference and as one of the worst squads in franchise history, the positive Corbin cited just might be the biggest win of a season that didn’t include very many victories.
“For the most part, I think we stuck together, which is very difficult to do in a season like this where you end up losing a lot of basketball games,” Hayward said.
“You can turn on each other. I think we realized that we’re a young team and we’re trying to develop and grow and at the same time try to win basketball games. It’s a hard thing to do, especially in this league where experience is pretty valuable and we didn’t have very much. For the most part, we tried to stay positive.”
They were better at that than winning this season, which made it all the harder to be united while enduring. The start was rough for Utah but somewhat understandable because of Burke’s finger injury and youth, but to end the season with only six victories in the 30 games after the All-Star break took its toll.
“The biggest disappointment of the season is losing for me. As a competitor, I just hate to lose,” Corbin said. “Losing don’t feel good. These guys made some strides, but it’s tough losing games. You want to see the fruit of your labor, your victory, and we lost a lot of games this year.”
Tell Favors about it.
Or, depending on his mood, don’t.
“I’m mad about it because I want to be in the playoffs,” the fourth-year big man said when looking back on the season. “I got that first taste two years ago. I want to be back in that atmosphere. It’s kind of tough, but we still got to be patient and wait our turn.”
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