SALT LAKE CITY — History is calling, but the Jazz aren’t about to pick up. There are reminders everywhere of the road they’re on. Maybe it’s the flat looks they’re getting from Jerry Sloan, up in Row 11. The Hall of Fame coach doesn’t swear at them anymore — unless it’s under his breath — but he can still deliver his death stare.
It might be the sleepy crowd, which has lost its early-season vigor. Already Tyrone Corbin looks tired. To the coach’s credit, he isn’t making excuses. But the smiles are few. He offered no lead-in after the Jazz’s 100-81 loss to Denver on Monday, except a slight shrug and an awkward pause.
“Ty,” someone said, “what did you see in the fourth quarter tonight?”
He paused a couple of beats.
“Couldn’t make a shot,” he said wearily. “Second shots they had, mistakes, turnovers guys are playing hard but just made critical mistakes in fourth quarter ... ”
The reason for the pall is obvious. Right now the 0-8 Jazz are the worst team in basketball. Bring on your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, your wretched refuse. Bring on your Sacramentos, Milwaukees and Detroits, too.
None are doing worse than the Jazz, the only winless team in the league.
By some measures, everybody in modern history was better.
“We can’t look for excuses,” Corbin said.
By now people are starting to talk, and the word isn’t good. For instance, whom are they going to beat? There’s New Orleans on Wednesday, a possible win, and another meeting with the Pelicans on Nov. 20, but the second one is on the road.
On Monday ESPN listed its ongoing “Worst NBA Teams Ever” chart. Leading the way were the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73. But the Jazz didn’t get a pass. By extrapolating current records over an 82-game season, the site had the one-win Nuggets claiming 16 games this season. The Jazz? Zero-and-82.
Although that is far-fetched, you never know. The nine-win Sixers lost their first 15 games — which would seem to give the Jazz some breathing room. Later that year Philadelphia lost 21 straight. The 1992-93 Mavericks and the 1997-98 Nuggets both won just 11 games. Denver lost its first 12 that year, but the Mavericks got their first win in Game 4.
The worst start ever belongs to the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who lost 18 games to begin, finishing 12-70. The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers actually won their opener but later in the year set a record 26-game losing streak. They escaped the season with 19 wins.
That’s a number the Jazz might be hard-pressed to reach.
Even more disconcerting than the records are the statistics. The Jazz’s eight-game averages are worse than the aforementioned bottom-feeders. Their field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, turnover and scoring averages are all the same or worse than any of history’s most embarrassing teams.
The only good news on Monday was that 2013 draft pick Trey Burke has been cleared for more activity.
Meanwhile, Utah’s average losing margin of nearly 14 points is worse than all the aforementioned teams, excepting the 1992-93 Mavericks, who lost by 15 points a game. The historic Sixers team only lost by an average of 12.
On one hand, there is hope for future Jazz teams, though this one is debatable. They aren’t a dysfunctional, aging, waiting-to-be-traded team, as were some past NBA teams. They will have big cap money and a high draft pick next summer.
But it’s also possible their core players really are just complementary talents, not the franchise players Jazz fans hope. Gordon Hayward had 18 first-half points but only 22 on the night.
The Jazz hung close through three quarters. But a 13-point fourth was their demise. The signs of a bad/young/flabbergasted team were everywhere, from Derrick Favors knocking an open rebound out of bounds, to Rudy Gobert getting worked by veteran Andre Miller, to Anthony Randolph going top to bottom for an uncontested dunk on the Jazz.
History indeed waits, but it’s the kind the Jazz would just as soon ignore.
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