Jazz fans may be at the end of their rope while enduring one of the more tumultuous seasons in franchise history.
They've watched their Hall of Fame coach unexpectedly resign and ride his tractor into the sunset. They've seen their two-time All-Star point guard get dealt to the New Jersey Nets for promise. The potential return in the deal being in the form of a new point guard, a lottery pick, two draft picks and a cool $3 million cash.
This past week surely didn't help, as the Jazz went 1-3 on a road trip that took them to New York, Toronto, Minnesota and Chicago. The loss to the Timberwolves was particularly demoralizing. Utah can't afford to lose to teams like that in order to remain in the playoff race.
So while there might not be much to look back upon fondly — or look forward to during the final weeks of the 2010-11 regular season, I still think there are reasons to believe the Jazz have a bright future. And because the people who know me know what a positive, cheery man I am who is always looking on the sunny side of life, I'm here to pass on why there are reasons to be hopeful about what lies ahead for the Jazz in the next few seasons. Utah may have once had a Pistol Pete, but I am Positive Pete about the franchise's future.
Tyrone Corbin: Talk about a stacked deck. Could Corbin's first month on the job have been more difficult? His All-Star point guard was traded. His team has been besieged with injuries. He's had to tinker with unconventional lineups, most notably in Utah's last two games before the All-Star break when he had nine players available and only one backup guard in Earl Watson.
Corbin is only 3-10 as a head coach, but he's the right guy for the job. As a former NBA player, he knows the game and he learned how to coach from two great ones in Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson.
He has handled the adversity on the job in his first month exceptionally well. Before the Jazz left on their four-game road trip, he was asked if he's having fun on the job. His reply? "Ask me after a win."
"It's been fun, though," Corbin said. "The guys have been tremendous. It's been frustrating not getting over the hump, but we're getting close. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'm looking forward to the change or the turnover of coming close in games to actually winning games."
Corbin will do his part to make the Jazz a contender again.
"I enjoy teaching," Corbin said. "I think that guys are responding well to it. It's just we need to have more success in order to feel better about what we're getting done."
Derrick Favors: Favors, the youngest player in the league at 19, has a long way to go to fulfill the promise of being the third overall pick in last year's draft. He's shown glimpses of what he can be with acrobatic dunks and the athletic ability to improve Utah's defense, especially against the dreaded pick-and-roll.
"I'm really pleased with his personality, and for a young guy especially," Corbin said. "He's really, really attentive. He's been a tremendous blessing for us because of his athletic ability and he'll listen and learn."
Gordon Hayward: Selecting Hayward with the team's long-awaited lottery pick garnered mixed reactions from Jazz fans last summer. Like Favors, Hayward has shown flashes of what he can be as a pro player. He's smart, understands the game and can contribute on both ends of the floor.
I really liked what Hayward said after he scored a career-high 18 points against the Timberwolves on Friday night. He played well, but didn't want to talk about himself. That's a good sign for a young player.
"The win is all that I care about, and we lost, so it doesn't matter," Hayward said.
Devin Harris: The first time I saw Harris play in person, he led Wisconsin to a first-round victory over Weber State in the NCAA Tournament. That is tougher than it seems because the Wildcats entered the game on a spectacular 17-game winning streak and had one of their best players in school history in Jermaine Boyette.
Anyway, I followed Harris' pro career because of how impressive he was against Weber State. He made the All-Star team once, and still has a lot of life left in his career. He'll do an excellent job as the Jazz's point guard for the next few years.
C.J. Miles: It's easy to forget that Miles is only 23 — and I sure did during a recent discussion about video games when I brought up Tecmo Bowl. Miles can score, and he'll improve his all-around game. He won't be a disappointment if the Jazz stick with him.
Al Jefferson: The center thrived after the trade with the Nets, becoming Utah's unquestioned go-to guy on offense. He scored 30 or more points five times since the deal, and will continue to be the team's franchise player.
The lottery: If the Jazz miss the playoffs, it isn't entirely a bad thing. They'll most likely have two lottery picks — theirs and the Nets' that they acquired in the Deron Williams trade. With Hayward and Favors and the two picks, that's four lottery players in two years. That may be Clipper-esque, but also just what the Jazz need in order to replenish what they lost in Williams and players that departed as free agents such as Wesley Matthews, Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver.
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