Utah Jazz: Reflecting back on a rough rebuilding season
In a big way, though, that’s what this season was about — giving the young guns their turn after established veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap had carried the load for the previous three seasons.
For the first time in their careers, Favors, Hayward, Burks and Kanter got extended action, extra offensive opportunities and experience needed to improve their games. Throw Burke in the mix, and the Foundation Five players each logged career-highs in multiple statistical categories, including court time with at least 2,100 minutes (and 2,800 for Hayward).
While they also got the third-most losses in Jazz history and recorded the fourth-worst record in the NBA this season, the common thought is that this season will be an important stepping stone for them.
“Everybody will be better for this experience,” Corbin said. “Whatever happens, happens. But I think this group of guys will be better because they went through this.”
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey admitted the Jazz finished surprisingly close to the unannounced over/under line a couple of team management personnel set for this season after the organization decided to jump into the rebuilding pool.
“I viewed it a little bit different relative to win-loss expectations,” Lindsey said. “Reflecting on 25 (wins), certainly that’s nothing to be proud about, especially with a program here and a consistency here. In some ways, Kevin (O’Connor) and I and ownership, we were very sober going into the season where we positioned the program.”
While he isn’t saying whether enough player development happened to re-sign Corbin — a decision the GM said will happen after a brief decompressing period — Lindsey isn’t about to consider the season an entire loss.
“Frankly, we hit several objectives as well,” he said, specifically mentioning Hayward’s passing and Burks’ performance.
“I think we can go through those minor wins and losses with each guy. We’ll do so. I’m very confident in our group, the character of our group, the ability to move forward. Whether it be with internal improvement or using our salary cap or using our draft picks, I expect us to be better next year.”
Corbin admitted he isn’t sure whether he’ll be part of that future after holding his current position since taking over for Jerry Sloan in February 2011.
In the meantime, Corbin is grateful for contributions of veterans like Jefferson and Marvin Williams, for the way his mostly young players bounced back from a slew of losses and negative exterior influences in an effort to win and learn, for that 15-14 stretch in the middle of the season, and for moments like Wednesday night when his team, which beat Miami, Oklahoma City and Chicago, gutted out a 136-130 double-OT victory on the road on the final night of a rough year.
“It’s a good group of guys. They have great character,” Corbin said. “They have a chance to be pretty good if they continue to work hard.”
That, Burke said, will definitely happen this offseason after they went out on a positive note.
“Obviously with the ups and downs of the season going out with a win (in Minnesota), it was a great feeling for all of us,” the 21-year-old rookie said. “We found a way to win. It was good to end the season that way going into the offseason. We all look forward to getting better and coming back strong.”
Maybe with a new coach and a new captain.
Maybe with a high draft pick like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle or Dante Exum.
But definitely with the idea to not have exit interviews the day after the regular season ends. In fact, Burke set his sights high for this time next season.
"I definitely plan on winning more. I want to reach the playoffs. I think that's one goal that I really have in mind," Burke said. "We've got a young team, but we can't keep saying that. It's going to be a point where that young team has to start producing and I think we're in the right direction."
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