SALT LAKE CITY — Try to imagine how well your car would run — or wouldn't run — if half of your spark plugs weren't firing.
Or think about how much tougher it might be to get things done at your place of work if two-thirds of the people in your office or crew got sick and all took the same day — make that several days — off.
It'd be pretty dang tough to get things done, wouldn't it?
Well, that's the difficult dilemma the Utah Jazz have faced thus far this season, with a roster which has been hit so hard by injuries that you can't help but wonder if the franchise is truly snakebitten by bad luck, if not downright cursed by the basketball gods.
It started when Dante' Exum, who would've been their starting point guard, went down with a torn ACL in his knee in August, an injury which would force him to miss the entire 2015-16 NBA season.
But hey, injuries have always been a part of sports, and the Jazz would learn to adapt.
Then starting center Rudy Gobert went down with a sprained MCL in his knee in December, missing 18 games before returning Jan. 7.
Then in late December, shooting guard Alec Burks suffered a fractured fibula (ankle) which required surgery, sidelining him until at least the All-Star break in mid-February.
And then power forward Derrick Favors, Utah's second-leading scorer and rebounder, was forced to miss the last 13 games — and counting — with back spasms.
So let's take inventory:
Your young 6-foot-6 starting point guard is out for the season, leaving you with a rookie starter (Raul Neto) and a third-year player, Trey Burke, who was the starting point guard for a season and a half before Exum took over last year.
Neto and Burke have both done a nice job but, let's face it, they're both 6-foot-1, which obviously weakens the Jazz considerably on the defensive end of the floor.
Your shot-blocking, shot-altering 7-foot-1 starting center, who's also your best rebounder and rim protector, missed what amounts to more than one-fifth of the season, forcing the Jazz to move an undersized Favors to the center spot.
By the time Gobert got back, Favors was out with an ailing back that has yet to come around.
And Burks, arguably your best and most dynamic bench player, will miss nearly a third of the season before he comes back.
What's more, Favors, the guy who just might be your best all-around player, has already been on the shelf awhile, and you still don't know when you're gonna get him back.
And now forward Trevor Booker, another key reserve who brings much-needed toughness to the Utah team, is out indefinitely with a concussion.
Sheesh, what did the Utah franchise ever do to deserve having so many of its main guys sidelined for such long stretches of time?
It's no wonder the Jazz took what many fans might consider a disappointing 18-22 record after Saturday night's win over the L.A. Lakers.
Note to Jazz fans: If you're the least bit realistic, you shouldn't be disappointed at all.
Indeed, when you take into consideration the number of games missed by all those key members of this team, Utah's record is probably better than it should be at this juncture.
In fact, I would argue that the Jazz organization and their fans should be encouraged by what this team has been able to accomplish despite having what would've been their preferred starting lineup — Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Favors, Gobert and Neto, in Exum's absence — for just 13 games all season long.
Better yet, despite losses to Portland and Sacramento this past week, Utah is still clinging to that last playoff spot in the Western Conference, albeit with more than half the season still remaining to be played.
Thankfully, rookie forward Trey Lyles has stepped up in a big way when called upon, as has unheralded center Jeff Withey. Hayward has started every game and is having a strong season — it's a surprise he hasn't come down with the same problem Favors has after trying to carry this young team on his back — and Hood is looking more and more like a future star in the making.
Second-year head coach Quin Snyder and his staff should be commended for their ability to put together what has been a patchwork lineup for much of the season, and yet still keep these guys together, focused and playing hard despite all their many difficult lineup hardships.2 comments on this story
Hey, it's a good thing Snyder has such a nice, full head of hair, because the arduous challenges this season has presented him would be enough to have most coaches pulling their hair out trying to somehow make things work.
And you can't help but wonder what kind of success this squad might be able to sustain if, and when, it ever gets its entire lineup back together and healthy.
Hopefully, for the organization's and Jazz fans' sake, that day isn't too terribly far off. And, hopefully, when Exum gets back next season, the basketball gods will decide the hard-luck, injury-plagued Utah franchise has been cursed enough for awhile.