SALT LAKE CITY — As far as the Utah Jazz are concerned, there’s an NTA policy in force for the rest of the season.
NTA? No Tanking Allowed, of course.
Sure, the Jazz (24-52) have struggled through a frustrating season, losing 16 of 18 games before snapping a five-game skid with a 100-96 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
With their spot in the NBA lottery already assured, many folks figure the Jazz would be wise to just lose as many games as they can from here on out — they have just six games left on the schedule, starting with today’s game against Golden State — to enhance their chances at a coveted top-3 draft pick.
But Utah’s players don’t see it that way at all.
“We all want to win,” rookie point guard Trey Burke said Friday. “Every time you step out onto the court, you want to win. As much as you hear about tanking and things like that, we really try not to think about that.
“We go out there every single night and we compete. Even if we lose by 20 points, we leave it all out there on the court. That doesn’t mean our effort wasn’t there; we probably didn’t play as smart as we could have that night. But I definitely think we all have that same goal in mind.”
Burke said that losing can become a bad habit that’s hard to break, and the Jazz don’t want to develop a losing mentality despite their difficulties this season.
“You don’t want to get used to losing,” he said. â€œIt’s easy to if you lose the amount of games that we’ve lost this year. But you’ve got to keep that winning mindset; you’ve got to always go out there with a winning mentality and winning attitude. I think we all do that, but it’s the best players in the world (they’re competing against), so we’ve got to learn from our mistakes and continue to grow as young players.”
Shooting guard Gordon Hayward, the team’s leading scorer, agreed.
“It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks for us,” he said before they snapped their five-game losing streak with a win over the Pelicans, â€œand we’ve talked about just having short-term goals and trying to finish this season out strong and still try to improve.
“There’s still things we can accomplish and we can get better as individuals and as a team,” Hayward insisted, adding that their immediate goal is â€œjust to get better, just to try and improve on our mistakes and win some basketball games.”
Burke, whose Michigan team reached the NCAA championship game last year, admitted that it’s difficult getting accustomed to all the losing that the Jazz have endured this season.
“I haven’t never lost this much in a season before,” he said. â€œSo you hate losing and, as much as we’ve lost this year, you still have to find ways to learn from ’em.
“There’s nothing we can do. We can’t go back in the past and try to replay that game. So the only thing you can do is learn from your losses and try to not make those same mistakes, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
LEARNING CURVE: Burke said that in this, his first NBA season, he has learned a great deal.
“It’s a big learning experience,” he said. â€œGetting hurt at the beginning of the season was tough, coming back and having to come right in and lead this team of veterans and grown men, it’s been a learning experience, and I look forward to just continuing to get better as a player.”
DO ME SOME FAVORS: Utah’s fourth-year center, 6-foot-10 Derrick Favors, feels like he had a â€œpretty good season” in 2013-14.
“I think I had a pretty good season,” he said Friday. â€œI had a couple of ups and downs and people say this and that or whatever, but personally I think I had a good season this year.
“I’ve gotten better offensively the past three years I’ve been here. I’ve showed a lot of new stuff which I didn’t see that I had. I got a lot better.”
Favors is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13 points per game, and he also leads the Jazz in rebounding (8.8 per game) as well as blocked shots.
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