HOUSTON — As Utah Jazz players dressed to exit the locker room at the Toyota Center following Wednesday’s 100-93 Game 5 elimination loss, the guys certainly weren’t happy with the outcome, but remain optimistic about the new era of Jazz basketball.
The Jazz have reached the postseason for three straight years under head coach Quin Snyder, twice advancing past the first round, but the front office will face some tough decisions this offseason as they look to get to the next level.
Utah lost to Houston, 4-1, but made it competitive in the last three after suffering blowout losses in Games 1 and 2 by 32 and 20 points, respectively.
Shooting 40 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from 3 certainly didn’t help in the series, but even in defeat, Joe Ingles is confident in this current bunch.
“It probably sounds a bit silly right now, but I think that we are really close to being an unbelievable team, really,” Ingles said after scoring 11 points with nine assists during the Game 5 loss. “The last couple years we’ve showed that we’re kind of right there and obviously this is not my job, but if they keep this group as together as we can, we can have another run because we are close and I think over these last few years we’ve found out a lot about ourselves, our team, each player individually, how we can play, how we want to play and when we lock in and play like that we’re pretty tough to beat.
“So, kind of looking down the track it’s exciting and it’s obviously not my decision, but I’ll be going in and fighting for everyone to come back and obviously every year there’s a couple things here and there, but if we can keep this group together, adding a few pieces or whatever it is, it’s going to be a special team.”
Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh are all set to become unrestricted free agents this summer, while Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver, Raul Neto, Georges Niang and Royce O’Neale’s salaries are all non-guaranteed.
Utah has until July 6 before both Favors’ and Neto’s contracts become guaranteed and July 7 before Korver’s salary is fully guaranteed.
Even as Rubio’s future is uncertain in Utah, the Spanish floor general has faith in Snyder and his practices, particularly on defense against James Harden in the Rockets series.23 comments on this story
Rubio’s camp has made it clear all along that he loves Utah and wants to stay, but the Jazz could go in a different direction even after Rubio averaged 15.4 points and 8.6 assists on 42.4 percent shooting as the second-leading scorer for the Rockets series.
“We had our back against the wall, and we came to play,” Rubio said. “A lot of people can talk or say, ‘do this or do that,’ but there’s nobody in the league who spends more time in film like our coaching staff. Our coach played the odds and is one of the best doing it.
“I’ve never been around a coach like that where the first day he came with a game plan, you can tell he spent a lot of hours out there in the film room watching how we can guard and how we can have success.”