We've just got to keep reinventing ourselves, so to speak. In small ways, sometimes, larger ways in others. —coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz’s pregame injury report early Monday set an ominous tone.
“TBD” was all it said.
To Be Determined.
Or was it Team Been Dismissed?
Their injury situation is dicey, to be sure. But their immediate future is to be determined, too. Whom to trade, whom to retain. Derrick Favors is having a nice year. With Rudy Gobert sidelined, it has allowed Favors more movement. He scored 10 points in the first 4½ minutes in Monday’s 109-94 loss to Indiana, but was quiet after that. But Favors has a history of injuries. Rodney Hood, another frequently injured player, is again proving inconsistent, so much so that he’s making more news for silly things like ejections and fines.
The Jazz are on choppy seas and have been all season. Now their playoff hopes are dimming after a disastrous road trip that ended in Friday’s loss to Charlotte. They also lost at Denver and Miami, broken up by an improbable win at Washington. Now they’re five games out of a playoff spot. The schedule eased in January, but the injuries didn’t.
On Monday they trailed by 20 much of the second half.
Not nearly good enough to hold off playoff-bound Indiana.
“We’ve just got to keep reinventing ourselves, so to speak,” coach Quin Snyder said. “In small ways, sometimes, larger ways in others.”
Last week the Jazz showed attitude, but it was largely off the court. Gobert, who is nearing a return to action, is dishing on Twitter about politics and social issues. Hood got tossed on a technical, then fined for slapping away a fan’s cell phone on the way out. Favors injected humor by tweeting a GIF that said, “BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.”
It might be the most interesting thing anyone has said about the 17-26 Jazz in weeks.
Certainly injuries have savaged their efforts. With Gobert and Dante Exum still out, and Thabo Sefolosha gone for the season, the prospects of making the postseason are uncertain. Raul Neto returned on Monday after a month-long absence. Is that news?
Yes, if it’s a year in which every healthy body matters.
It would be easy to blame everything on injuries, except that the Jazz aren’t alone. There are numerous teams with better injury luck than the Jazz, but there are those with worse.
The best policy is to plan on absenteeism, regardless.
This wasn’t a big issue when the Jazz were great. Karl Malone and John Stockton missed games as often as Earth crosses the orbit of Tempel-Tuttle (look it up). But these days the Jazz aren’t alone in their consternation.
The website Man Games Lost on Monday morning had the Jazz tied for eighth in player-games lost due to injuries (124), behind New Orleans, Phoenix, Miami, Dallas, the Clippers, Cleveland and Orlando. It rated the Jazz 11th in lost win shares — games that could have been won without the injuries (3.52).
In short, the totals are piling up everywhere. Cleveland’s Derrick Rose has been out since Nov. 9 with an ankle injury. Denver’s Paul Millsap has been absent since Nov. 19 with a damaged wrist. Houston’s James Harden has been missing since the New Year, compliments of a pulled hamstring, but might return this week. Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker isn’t expected back until mid-February following knee surgery before the season. Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the draft, hasn’t seen action in the NBA thanks to a shoulder injury. Golden State’s Stephen Curry missed 11 games in December.
New Orleans and Phoenix are the most-injured teams, yet New Orleans is in playoff position, in part because no irreplaceable players are out. Oklahoma City and the Lakers have the fewest injuries.
On Monday the Jazz faced Indiana, a team with a couple of injury issues. Glenn Robinson III and Edmond Sumner were recuperating from surgery, while Myles Turner sprained his elbow Jan. 9 and missed Monday’s game.
No team gets out unscathed.
Only nine of 30 teams don’t have at least one player who has been out since November.
“Whatever kind of schematic tactical kind of plan you have going into the year, it’s just evolved,” Snyder said.
It has evolved into nine starting lineups and countless adjustments.
Gobert has missed 25 games, Neto 19, Joe Johnson 21. Sefolosha will miss the next 39. That’s not bad luck; it’s the cost of doing business. Most teams’ future is based on health as much as talent. At the moment, the Jazz are thin on both. Some players will blaze back, others will wink out. Welcome to life with the Jazz. Welcome to the business of basketball.