The phrase “do or die” is too often attached to games early in the NBA season. Yet, for the Utah Jazz the upcoming homestand will really decide just how far they will go this season...
The Western Conference is too good this year for a mediocre team to slip into the playoffs.
Last season the Utah Jazz were an eight seed and they went 33-8 at home. Already this season the Jazz have dropped two games at home. Both losses coming against teams the Jazz needed to beat at home in order to compete in the Western Conference.
The Jazz will play the next 11 of their next 14 games at home. If the Jazz continue to play .500 level basketball then the season is basically over. Just to return to the level of last season, an eighth seed, the Jazz will have to be near perfect at home, during the long homestand, to make-up for early season slipups.
After a run of home games the Jazz will hit the road, for their pre-Christmas road trip, and play seven of their next eight games on the road—a place the Jazz haven’t figured out how to win. A terrible homestand will lead to an even worse road trip, and all of that will mean the Jazz season could essentially be over by Christmas.
The recent Eastern Conference road trip did show signs of hope. The Jazz were able to play short-handed, beat an underachieving 76ers team, and compete against Cleveland in a hard fought loss.
The hope given to the Jazz might be the hope of the damned. The same fundamental flaws still exist with the Jazz: A lack of team chemistry on the court, poor interior defense, lack of perimeter shooting, and selfish play.
The Jazz showed they can improve on their weaknesses, but during the critical moments against Cleveland the Jazz returned to their flawed style of basketball. It seems the recipe for helping the Jazz team to overcome their problems is a little time off and a nice long homestand.
While the Jazz will be playing at home, the competition for the Jazz will increase. During the homestand the Jazz will face: Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Portland, San Antonio, Orlando, and the Lakers. All teams who are playoff caliber, and all teams the Jazz need to beat at home in order simply to claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
It is hard to believe this same Jazz team, with the same core since 2006, and the same fundamental flaws, will magically start playing better basketball. The Jazz organization has been selling the fans on the fact that this team will right the ship, and the current team will eventually take the next step towards competing in the Western Conference.
This current homestand should be a litmus test for the current Jazz team. If the Jazz are going to pull it together, then it is time for them to show it on the court.
A poor start on the homestand should be a call to action for Kevin O’Connor. If the Jazz start to lose at home, then it is time change the current Jazz team. The decision by the Jazz to simply stay the course would make no sense if they aren’t competing for a playoff spot. Plus, the Jazz have made a sizable investment in the current Jazz roster. It would make no sense for the Jazz to have the third highest payroll in the NBA and not make the playoffs.
If the Jazz start losing games early in the homestand there is still time to save the season. A good trade would bring new life to the team, and hopefully energize the essential long-term core players on the Jazz roster. Quick action by the Jazz front office could at least give the Jazz a chance to make it back to the playoffs.
If the Jazz perform poorly during the homestand and still haven’t made a personnel move, then it is time for the Jazz simply to shed their bad contracts and prepare to be a lottery team in the draft. The Jazz would be so far behind there would be no guarantee that they could get back into the playoff picture regardless of what personnel moves they make.
The Knicks giving their pick to the Jazz in the upcoming draft would be the perfect recipe for the Jazz to tank the season, and then retool their team around Deron Williams. It would also give the Jazz front office a chance to get out of paying the luxury tax, something a small market team like the Jazz simply cannot afford to do.
The best solution for the Jazz would simply see the team start winning; however, even a good homestand isn’t good enough to save the current Jazz season. It is going to take near perfection from the Jazz to get back into contention.
The Jazz can only afford one or two losses at home in the next 11 games. Anymore than that, with the way Utah has played on the road, and the Jazz are essentially on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
The next four weeks will either make or break the current core of the Utah Jazz. If the Jazz are unsuccessful during this coming homestand it is time to declare the current Jazz core a failure, and start planning for the future.