CHICAGO — Good news has been hard to come by for the Utah Jazz since the team began the 2013-14 season with five straight setbacks after ending the preseason on a seven-game losing streak.
But there are encouraging developments heading into tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls (6 p.m. MDT, United Center).
“Our spirits are great,” former Bulls point guard John Lucas III said after the team’s morning shootaround at Moody Bible Institute’s gym in downtown. “We knew we’re going to have ups and downs. Right now it’s a bump in the road.”
Aside from maintaining a positive attitude, which coach Tyrone Corbin and players alike claim they’re doing, the Jazz continue to make progress on the injury front.
Shooting guard Brandon Rush is expected to see limited action against the Bulls. He sat out the loss Wednesday in Boston after playing 10 minutes in Brooklyn — the first time he’d played in an NBA game since tearing the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 2, 2012.
The Jazz are also planning on reintroducing injured Marvin Williams to the playing court. The 6-foot-9 small forward hasn’t played this season after having surgery on his Achilles tendon just over five months ago.
“I hope it comes true,” Williams said.
The NBA veteran said his Achilles “feels good” and he’s confident enough to test it in a real game. He lacks a bit of explosiveness, although doctors have told him that will return as he plays more.
“It’s definitely strong enough to get out there and play,” Williams said.
Williams has had injuries before — a back surgery kept him out for eight weeks — but this medical issue has been tough to deal with for multiple reasons.
“I was literally in a cast the whole summer — we’re talking like three months,” Williams said. “It’s been long. It’s been long, but I’m really excited to get back out there.”
The Jazz are equally excited to start getting some of the guys who are expected to be regular rotation players back into the mix.
Utah has only had 10 available players in four of five games during this 0-5 start because Williams, Rush, Trey Burke (finger), Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff) and Andris Biedrins (ankle) have been sidelined with health problems.
“It’s huge. We’ve got a lot of guys injured and banged up. It’s definitely taking a toll on us,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. “When they come in and are ready to play, it’s good to have some people who can space the floor and (provide) some veteran leadership.”
Rush probably won’t play in Toronto on Saturday as the Jazz bring him back slowly from his January knee surgery.
Burke continues to make progress as well. He hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, but he has been allowed to run and do light shooting and dribbling. The 2013 NCAA player of the year will be re-evaluated Monday by the hand specialist who surgically repaired his fractured right index finger almost four weeks ago.
In an encouraging sign, Burke sank a one-handed 12-foot shot using his right hand while reporters talked to Corbin following shootaround.
— Hayward on what the Jazz need to do to snap the five-game losing streak: “We’ve got to be focused for the full 48. That’s been our problem. Hopefully, we can not focus on whether or not we’re winning or losing, but just (focus on) doing our job.”
— Williams on how tough it is to be sidelined while your team struggles: “It’s always difficult. I’m a part of this team just like everybody else. Unfortunately, I’m not out there to kind of help them. There are times when I feel like I can definitely help the team out when I’m not out there, but I try to stay as involved as much as I can whether it’s pulling guys aside and telling them what I see, and I’m always trying to be as positive as I can for everybody on the bench.”
— Corbin on his team’s attitude: “It’s a tough time. Losing is not fun. We’re not having a great time losing games, but the guys are growing. We’re shorthanded. Their attitude is understanding that we have to continue to work, we have to stay together as a group. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this. We’re hanging in there.”
— Corbin on the struggles of John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley at point guard: “We need everybody to play well. I can’t point at one position.”
— Lucas on returning to Chicago, where he played during various stints between 2010-12: “It’s very special. This is like my second home. I love it here. It’s always good to play in the United Center when you play there (as a Bull) and also when you come back and play. It’s electrifying in there. The atmosphere is crazy. It’s a lot of history there. It’s just, I love it. I can’t wait to play tonight.”
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