SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Sloan insists it will require more effort and concentration for the Utah Jazz to rebound from their dismal rebounding so far this season.
Others associated with the team — from lead assistant Phil Johnson, to the Jazz big men and guards — say it will also take better boxing out, some technique tweaking and a stronger commitment to crash the glass from all positions.
And the team's spiritual adviser?
The Rev. Jerry Lewis apparently believes the Jazz need some help from above — even higher up than 7-foot-1-tall Kyrylo Fesenko — to return to the franchise's usually strong rebounding ways.
"Our chaplain mentioned it in the prayer," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "So it must be a big problem (for him) in the middle of a prayer to pray that we can rebound."
In this instance, the minister had good intentions for the Jazz, but the other team had better rebounders.
"I think that's the game we gave up 24 offensive rebounds, so it didn't help," Williams said, laughing. "God didn't answer that one."
"He's got other things to worry about," quipped backup big man Francisco Elson.
No doubt. But as far as basketball goes, this rebounding weakness ranks up there with the Jazz's biggest concerns.
Pounding the boards has been as big of a strength for Utah as the pick-and-roll over the years, but the Jazz have consistently ended up on the short end this season.
The Jazz have been outrebounded in six consecutive contests by a combined 283-226, and that's just the beginning of their woes.
Utah has lost the rebound battle in 12 of its 15 games, finished with double-digit deficits on the boards in four straight games and has a minus-5.0 margin against opponents on the season (45.2-40.2).
Not what you'd expect from a team that finished fifth-highest in rebounding margin last season at plus-3.0 — a negative eight-rebound swing per game — and led the NBA in that statistical category twice in the past seven seasons.
"I think it's concentration," Sloan said. "After all the years that I've watched, the guys that concentrate on rebounding and like to rebound, they always do it. It's a day in and day out job."
The Jazz are particularly poor on defensive rebounding, as they rank third from last while giving up 14.3 offensive boards an outing. San Antonio's 16 second-chance points were the difference in its 94-82 win over Utah last Friday.
But the Jazz admit to struggling on both ends of the court.
"Every game you look at it and we're getting outrebounded by 10, 12 rebounds," Williams said. "We're surviving, but it's something we've got to get better at. It's everybody."
Added Elson: "I think we are lost right now."
The veteran center said the Jazz are missing boxing-out responsibilities on occasion because they're trying to help teammates and end up out of position.
But Jazz players also aren't following their missed shots and are headed the opposite direction without mixing it up for the loose ball far more often than Sloan would prefer when a shot goes up.
"It's a big deal. We need to figure that out," Jazz starting shooting guard Raja Bell added. "We need to box out. We need to have a better commitment to being tough on the boards. We need to just have that energy about ourselves and that will take care of some of it. (And) we've got to have more fight."
A common thought among players is that rebounding is a problem but nothing the 10-5 team needs to lose sleep over — for now.
"It's a concern, but we're still finding ways to win. Winning is the only thing that matters," said Jazz power forward Paul Millsap, the team's leading rebounder with a 9.1 rpg average. "But it's something that we need to touch up on and try to get better at so it won't cost us a game in the future."
Jefferson will give him an "Amen!" to that invocation.
"If you tell me I'm going to lose every game in rebounding, but we're going to win every game," he said, "I'll take that all day."
But Jefferson, who's averaging 8.8 boards, acknowledged the Jazz's No. 29 rebound-margin ranking and admitted, "It's an issue that we've got to solve."
And especially against strong teams that are coming up on the schedule, like the 11-2 New Orleans Hornets tonight and the 12-2 Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Jefferson is hopeful some rebounding reinforcement is on the way — something he said moments before 6-foot-11 center Mehmet Okur tested his surgically repaired Achilles tendon in a full practice and all-out scrimmage for the first time since last spring.
"Hopefully, Memo is on his way back and that's going to help us big-time," Jefferson said. "But it's a team effort. We all (are) just going to have to go in and rebound. It can be done."
Even if they don't have heaven's help on this particular matter.
Rebounding: Jazz vs. NBA
Overall: 40.2 rpg (22)
Offensive allowed: 14.3 (28)
2010-11: -5.0 (29)
2009-10: +3.0 (5)
2008-09: +0.7 (14)
2007-08: +3.1 (3)
2006-07: +5.5 (1)
2005-06: +4.2 (2)
2004-05: +2.4 (5)
2003-04: +4.6 (1)
2002-03: +3.3 (2)
2001-02: +4.0 (2)
2000-01: +3.3 (3)
Team boards per game
Denver 46, Utah 43
Utah 45, Phoenix 44
Utah 42, OKC 38
Toronto 36, Utah 35
Golden St. 52, Utah 46
Clippers 51, Utah 43
Miami 46, Utah 44
Orlando 41, Utah 35
Utah 43, Atlanta 41
Charlotte 43, Utah 40
OKC 39, Utah 34
Nets 57, Utah 44
S.A. 46, Utah 31
Portland 48, Utah 38
Kings 50, Utah 39
Information from ESPN.com
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