To complete a season when Miami played in the Midwest Division, the Jazz open their craziest stretch of the schedule tonight by playing the Heat in the Salt Palace for the last time.
The Heat, who have to visit every Western Conference team two or three times, can relate to what's ahead for the Jazz. In an NBA scheduling-computer classic, the Jazz's following three games are at San Antonio, Seattle and Houston.In that order.
"Back east, they must think it's like bopping down to Philadelphia or something," center Mark Eaton noted.
Instead of taking a seven-day trip, the Jazz are traveling the Jerry Sloan way, resulting in this plan: Saturday - fly to San Antonio, play the Spurs; Sunday - fly home; Monday - practice, fly to Seattle; Tuesday - play the Super Sonics; Wednesday - fly home; Thursday - practice, fly to Houston; Friday, play the Rockets; Saturday - fly home, play Denver.
"You kind of refresh yourself when you have a chance to go home," Sloan says of his travel philosophy. The Jazz have the three games when Sloan switched to a game-day flight, but they won at Portland in January after going home for a day instead of going directly from Oakland to Portland.
"We've talked it over with the team and they go along with it," said trainer/traveling secretary Don Sparks.
"I think you get really stale, staying in those hotels," said Eaton.
Saturday's San Antonio game presents the toughest travel situation. In order to have a backup flight available, the team has to leave at 5:50 a.m. and connect in Dallas. Sparks received management approval for a charter flight, but was only able to book a 30-passenger plane that needed 41/2 hours to fly to San Antonio, instead of the usual three hours.
What's more, Sparks had trouble securing hotel rooms that would be available Saturday morning because of a major convention in town, but finally succeeded.
The Jazz can break the franchise record with a 10th straight home win. Then comes the real work. At 13-18, they could match the best road record in team history by winning three of the last 10 road games, which would just about guarantee them a 50-win season and division championship.