SALT LAKE CITY — Playoffs aren’t a possibility this year and never were for the rebuilding Utah Jazz.
There is, however, a big offseason prize up for grabs, and the more losses the team piles up, the better chances it has of getting in a prime position to do well in the lottery to determine the draft order.
That scenario has put some fans in a conundrum this season, particularly as the 2013-14 campaign comes to a conclusion.
Should fans cheer for the Jazz to win for pride, fun and lessons learned? Or should fans hope the Jazz lose so they can acquire more pingpong balls for the lottery?
Point guard Trey Burke didn’t mince words when asked about the concept of choosing losses over wins, something that reared its head around Jazzland after his game-winning 3-pointer Saturday.
“I think that’s just selfish for a fan. We play hard, practice hard every single day. Why would we want to go out there and try to lose?” Burke said. “Wherever we do land in the lottery, that will be great for us, but to try to tank games and lose games, I think, is just absurd.”
Burke’s corner 3 with 1.6 seconds remaining Saturday helped the Jazz snap a six-game losing streak and win for just the second time in 13 games, so he had no conflict of emotions after the 89-88 victory over the Magic.
The competitive 21-year-old struggles to see how fans could have, either.
“You want to win. Obviously, every night you want to try to win,” he said. “I’m sure if they were in our shoes and experienced the losses we’re experiencing, they would want to win as well. I just think it’s just absurd.”
Utah isn’t the only market that is dealing with this so-called tanking issue this season. The same is happening in proud NBA cities, including Los Angeles with the injury-riddled Lakers, Boston and Philadelphia, among others.
It’s hard for players to hear that their own fan base is rooting against them this season even though the hope is for a brighter future.
“As a player, that kind of sucks that they’re kind of rooting for us to lose,” Jazz captain Gordon Hayward said. “But you see where they’re coming from. We’re mathematically out of the playoffs. Fans just want to be better for the coming years.
“But as players, we’re trying to win every game. That’s what we go out to do. We can’t think about stuff like that.”
WHERE IS INDIANA?: Hayward, who grew up in an Indianapolis suburb called Brownsburg, admitted he didn’t fill out an NCAA tournament bracket this year.
“Butler wasn’t in it,” he admitted. “There’s no Indiana teams. I’m kind of out of it this year.”
This is the first time in 10 years and only the second time since 1975 that none of the 10 Indiana-based Division I basketball programs were invited to the NCAA tournament, according to Sports Illustrated.
Hayward said it’s hard for Hoosier State fans to believe that Butler, Ball State, Evansville, Purdue, Valparaiso, Notre Dame, Indiana State and Indiana (all of its iterations, including IUPUI) weren’t included in March Madness.
“A lot of Indiana people are (upset) about it. There’s nobody to root for,” Hayward said. “That’s supposed to be our sport. Basketball is supposed to be Indiana’s sport. It was a tough year for them.”
OFF KEY: Speaking of tough, Hayward’s ears apparently had to endure a rough rendition of the happy birthday song Sunday at practice on the day he turned the big 24.
Hayward’s review of the tune sung by rookies Burke, Ian Clark and Rudy Gobert: “It was weak.”
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