Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers
Tuesday December 27th, 8:30 p.m.
TV: TNT; Radio: 1320-AM
LOS ANGELES — Tonight is the long-overdue 2011-12 season-opener for the Utah Jazz.
But it's much more than that — and not just because the Los Angeles Lakers are their hosts.
This TNT-televised Staples Center showdown also marks the beginning of a new era for many players, coaches and even the team.
New years always offer a clean slate, savvy veteran Raja Bell pointed out.
And, the 12th-year guard added, "Every season's its own animal."
Thank goodness, right?
After one wounded beast of a season, Jazz fans know a post-lockout makeover is needed in Utah even more desperately than the Wasatch Front could use an inversion-cleansing snowstorm.
The perennial playoff team is coming off of a season with grimy and grim memories in which the franchise lost its backbone coach, its only star player, its usual spot in the playoffs and, really, its identity as an NBA team.
Breathe in deep, Jazzland.
This is second-chance time.
Fresh. Start. Now.
"(Our) 8-20 finish at the end of the season and not making the playoffs was not satisfactory to us, and we want to build on that," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We don't want to go into this season thinking about everything that went wrong last year. It's a new start."
In more ways than one.
Utah management, which surprisingly saw the end of the Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams eras last season, added two players to the roster who are looking to revive their NBA careers.
Veterans Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley, and their somewhat checkered pasts, have been irrelevant or out of the league for a couple of seasons. Nobody anticipates a redo more than they do.
"Any time you get another chance to play in the NBA, it's a second chance," said Tinsley, who didn't play last year after six seasons in Indiana and a short Memphis stint. "I still have some legs in me to be a professional athlete at this type of level."
"We're all coming into this thing new, looking for great things," added Howard, a former All-Star who's bounced back from a knee injury and controversial times in Dallas. "We've just got to be ready to pay attention to detail and perform on the court."
They aren't the only Jazz members trying to get back on the NBA map.
Point guard Devin Harris hopes to regain his All-Star success after struggling to fit in with Utah following his midseason trade from New Jersey.
Center Al Jefferson wants to prove he can put up big numbers and become a solid two-way player for a winning team.
Guard Raja Bell wasn't fully satisfied with his return to Utah last season. C.J. Miles is on a quest to find consistency. Forward Paul Millsap continues to face questions about whether or not he is a legitimate starting power forward.
Corbin's head-coaching career got off to an unexpected and bumpy start, which included an eight-game losing streak.
And the Jazz saw a mighty fine 27-13 record turn into a 39-43 mess and a historical nosedive that foiled playoff plans.
"Gotta get last year out of our head," Jefferson said. "We could come up with a bunch of excuses of what happened last year, but it's not going to help us. ... We're just going to go out there and be the team that we know we can be."
That Jazz team is an interesting combination.
It features a handful of exciting youth who offer hope for the future in Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans.
But then, it also has seven seasoned veterans who have enough experienced talent (a combined 62 years) to help win now in Jefferson, Harris, Millsap, Miles, Bell, Howard, Tinsley and Earl Watson.
So, will they mesh?
That's the mystery heading into this compressed 66-game season.
The team is "cautiously optimistic," Bell said. Players are saying all the right things — play hard, defend, team first, etc. But these pieces haven't been assembled very long, so who knows if they'll actually stick and work well together.
"We don't know exactly what we have," Bell said. "We're going at it (like) we knew we put in a good training camp. We know we have talent. It will be really interesting to see how that stacks up against everybody else."
Corbin has maintained an optimistic attitude throughout his first training camp as the man. He realizes challenges lie ahead. Heck, the team has so many different parts, he didn't settle in on a starting lineup (to be announced today) until this weekend.
But he's infused his starless team with a new hope.
"Guys are saying now it's a great chance to create a new identity, to give ourselves a chance to get off to a good start and as a result have a great year," Corbin said. "We have a lot of guys that have an opportunity now to create a new status or identity in this league."
They're revitalized and ready to hit that reboot button. Same old Jazz, only newer. Beginning tonight.
"Try to make the playoffs is the most important thing. We talk about it a lot," Favors said. "It's a whole team mindset. We want to make the playoffs."
Remarkably, Miles and Millsap are the only ones on this 13-player roster who've experienced the postseason in a Jazz uniform.
"Putting it together, you can't really define it yet, but I'm excited to see it as we grow," Watson said. "I know it's going to be positive. It's going to be progressive — us growing and becoming better each and every week is important."
New Year's Day isn't until Sunday, but the Jazz are making early resolutions to make things right again.
"(There's) disappointment, obviously, losing the way we did last season," Harris said. "We've refreshed our minds a little bit. We went through a lot of controversy last season. A lot of things went on. A fresh start for us will be good."
UTAH JAZZ SCHEDULE
Dec. 27 @ LA Lakers 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 @ Denver 7 p.m.
Dec. 30 vs Philadelphia 7 p.m.
Dec. 31 @ San Antonio 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 2 vs New Orleans 7 p.m.
Jan. 3 vs Milwaukee 7 p.m.
Jan. 6 vs Memphis 7 p.m.
Jan. 7 @ Golden State 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 10 vs Cleveland 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 vs LA Lakers 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 vs New Jersey 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 @ Denver 6 p.m.
Jan. 17 vs LA Clippers 7 p.m.
Jan. 19 vs Dallas 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 vs Minnesota 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 vs Toronto 7 p.m.
Jan. 27 @ Dallas 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs Sacramento 7 p.m.
Jan. 30 vs Portland 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 vs LA Clippers 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 @ Golden State 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs LA Lakers 7 p.m.
Feb. 6 @ New York 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 @ Indiana 5 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs Oklahoma City 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 12 @ Memphis 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 @ New Orleans 6 p.m.
Feb. 14 @ Oklahoma City 6 p.m.
Feb. 17 vs Washington 7 p.m.
Feb. 19 @ Houston 5 p.m.
Feb. 20 vs San Antonio 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 @ Minnesota 6 p.m.
Feb. 28 @ Sacramento 8 p.m.
Feb. 29 vs Houston 7 p.m.
March 2 vs Miami 7 p.m.
March 3 @ Dallas 6:30 p.m.
March 5 @ Cleveland 5 p.m.
March 7 @ Charlotte 5 p.m.
March 9 @ Philadelphia 5 p.m.
March 10 @ Chicago 6 p.m.
March 12 vs Detroit 7 p.m.
March 14 @ Phoenix 8:30 p.m.
March 15 vs Minnesota 7 p.m.
March 17 vs Golden State 7 p.m.
March 18 @ LA Lakers 7:30 p.m.
March 20 vs Oklahoma City 7 p.m.
March 22 @ Sacramento 8 p.m.
March 23 vs Denver 8:30 p.m.
March 25 @ Atlanta 4 p.m.
March 26 @ New Jersey 5:30 p.m.
March 28 @ Boston 5:30 p.m.
March 30 vs Sacramento 7 p.m.
March 31 @ LA Clippers 8:30 p.m.
April 2 @ Portland 8 p.m.
April 4 vs Phoenix 7 p.m.
April 6 vs Golden State 7 p.m.
April 8 @ San Antonio 5 p.m.
April 9 vs San Antonio 7 p.m.
April 11 @ Houston 6 p.m.
April 13 @ New Orleans 6 p.m.
April 14 @ Memphis 6 p.m.
April 16 vs Dallas 7 p.m.
April 18 @ Portland 8 p.m.
April 21 vs Orlando 8:30 p.m.
April 24 vs Phoenix 7 p.m.
April 26 vs Portland 6 p.m.In-N-Out
UTAH JAZZ ROSTER CHANGES FOR 2011-12:
G Alec Burks — drafted No. 12 by Jazz with own pick
C Enes Kanter — drafted No. 3 using New Jersey pick
F Josh Howard — Signed as free agent during camp
G Jamaal Tinsley — Signed as free agent before camp
G Ronnie Price — has since signed with Phoenix
F Andrei Kirilenko — not currently on an NBA roster
C Francisco Elson — Not currently on an NBA roster
C Kyrylo Fesenko — Not currently on an NBA roster
C Mehmet Okur — Traded to Nets last Thursday
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