SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz were, in elementary terms, taken to school in their season-opener.
The ugly start — a 110-88 blowout loss in Denver on Wednesday as well as a slow start against Phoenix Thursday — could prove to be a positive for Jerry Sloan's pupils.
The Jazz hope that and other early season struggles will be valuable lessons learned that, well, they still have lessons to learn.
And it isn't just about knowing the X's and O's. It's also knowing how to work with each other in real-game situations and adapting on the go to opposing defenses.
Most important, the Jazz seem willing to do the required homework to turn the equivalent of a detention session into a good educational experience.
"We're new to each other," said Jazz shooting guard Raja Bell, who's back with his second stint in Utah. "There'll be some times when we probably don't look that great. We've got to stick together, go back to the drawing board and rededicate ourselves to doing the right thing every possession."
Team captain Deron Williams admits the team has plenty of things it needs to work on and absorb — especially on the offensive end.
"We've got to do a better job in the offense of screening, of getting guys open. A lot of times we were just out of place," he said, referring to the opener. "That just comes with learning the offense and we've just got to do a better job of teaching the offense."
Speaking specifically of getting Al Jefferson into an offensive rhythm, Williams added: "It's just going to come with time. He's going to learn when that double team's coming to kick it out and we'll get it right back to him."
Some of the team's teaching experiences will happen in practices and gameday shootaround sessions. Others, however, will have to happen in games. After all, nothing replaces learning in real-life situations.
"It's a constant change with 29 different philosophies," Sloan said. "If somebody sees on film what you're getting over, what's causing you trouble, you better get ready for it because the next team's going to be doing the same thing probably.
"So, you have to adjust," the Hall of Fame coach added. "You don't have all of the practice time in the world."
Sloan likes to preserve players' energy, so he keeps his practices short.
Considering the team has six new guys on the roster, the Jazz concede it will take time to process and implement all of the info. There are many variables to the offense, Sloan pointed out.
"Everyone here knows that there will be some growing pains — to what extent remains to be seen," Bell said. "But I think we'd all be a little na?e if we thought we were going to come out there and just run the table and be the greatest thing since sliced bread."
It's not like they're the Miami Heat or something.
"If they keep their head up," Sloan added, "they'll be all right."
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry believes the Jazz will be as well.
"I think they're a little bit like us," Gentry said. "They don't have Carlos Boozer, who was a big part of what they do. Kyle Korver is gone. They're trying to figure out what they can do and how they can best utilize their players.
"Jerry (Sloan) has been able to do that the last 24 years, so there's no reason to think he won't do that this year."
THEY GET IT: Sloan didn't feel it was necessary to remind rookies Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans that the NBA season is long, so they shouldn't fret too much over one loss. The Jazz coach is sure the rookies are well aware they're at the beginning of an 82-game marathon season, not the 30-some-odd game college schedule.
"They've probably been told that 100 times. I'm sure their parents told them, their girlfriends told them, everybody else that it's just one ballgame," Sloan said. "They've played enough basketball at this stage that they realize that they just get themselves ready to play again."
And again and again and …
GETTING IT?: Sloan admitted C.J. Miles still has learning to do in his sixth NBA season. That was especially evident after the 23-year-old's lackluster 0-for-4, two-point showing Wednesday.
"He's still a young player," Sloan said. "C.J. is sometimes his own worst enemy. He fights himself a little bit. He's got to learn to work through that."
Contributing: Andrew Aragon
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