Work in progress: At halfway point of season, Utah Jazz seeking more consistency

first_img Utah Jazz Analysis: San Antonio continues its dominance over Utah, winning 89-69 Related Hood’s immediate future uncertain after Jazz rookie suffers yet another foot injury Jazz can’t score and shoot in decisive loss to world champion Spurscenter_img I’d like to see more growth. We are where we are and I don’t think we really knew how good we’d be. You have ideas at the beginning of the year but certain guys are better at certain things, but you really have no idea. – Quin SnyderSAN ANTONIO — For the third time since coming to Utah 36 years ago, the Utah Jazz have hit the halfway point of the season with a 14-27 record. It isn’t quite the worst midyear record in Jazz history.Twice since moving from New Orleans to Utah in 1979 have the Jazz had worse records — a 12-29 mark in their initial season in Utah and a 13-28 record two years later in 1981-82. The Jazz also went 14-27 in 2004-05 when they finished 26-56 and last year when they ended up 25-57.But 14-27 is about where most folks figured the Jazz would be right now, considering their youth and the share of injuries they have had so far this year.Coach Quin Snyder says he can’t evaluate his team solely on wins and losses even though that’s how most people measure success.“People constantly evaluate you on wins and losses, it’s the nature of the beast,’’ he said. “But it’s not the right tool for evaluation. It’s part of it. If we were to evaluate ourselves solely on that, it wouldn’t take into consideration our improvement and growth.’’The Jazz have seen improvement and growth from several players, even if there hasn’t been a measure of consistency in the growth.Derrick Favors, who signed a long-term deal with the Jazz before last season, has perhaps been the team’s most consistent player, putting up All-Star-like numbers over the past month. Over his last eight games since the start of the calendar year, Favors has averaged 18.8 points on 55.6 percent shooting and 10.4 rebounds per game. For the season, Favors is averaging 16.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg and 1.5 blocks.Gordon Hayward is the team’s leading scorer at 19.1 ppg, but has been inconsistent as recent games have shown. After putting up 31 points in Friday night’s win over the Lakers, Hayward came back with a 10-point night at San Antonio on 4 of 15 from the field. Last year he was one of a handful of players to average more than five rebounds and five assists, but those numbers are down slightly this year to 4.8 rpg and 4.1 apg.Even more so than Hayward, Trey Burke has failed to find consistency this season. The second-year pro out of Michigan is still near the bottom of the NBA in shooting percentage (37.5 percent), ahead of just two players, including Kobe Bryant. However, he’s improved lately. Between a 2-for-19 night against Atlanta on Jan. 2 and a 4-for-15 game at San Antonio, Burke shot 48.4 percent in six games.Enes Kanter has been a bit of an enigma with some brilliant nights, such as his 16-point, 15-rebound game against Oklahoma City in November or his putting up 29 points against New Orleans and 25 against Miami in the same week in December. However, he’s struggled since coming back from an ankle injury this month, going 2 for 10 against the Lakers last week and looking almost disinterested in a four-point, two-rebound game against San Antonio Sunday night.Still another inconsistent player has been rookie Dante Exum, who is averaging 4.7 points and 2.0 assists in 18 minutes per game. After a couple of 13-point efforts early in the month, he seems to have hit a wall lately, scoring a total of 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting in his last five games, including 1 for 12 from 3-point range.The most encouraging Jazz player of late has been second-year center Rudy Gobert. He was the best player Sunday night when he pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds while blocking four shots and leading the Jazz in scoring with 13 points. In Utah’s nine games since the start of 2015, Gobert’s numbers are outstanding — 10.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game while shooting 61.5 percent from the field in 31 minutes per game.Trevor Booker, a free agent signee from Washington, has been a sparkplug off the bench with tremendous effort every night, and he provided the highlight of the year in the NBA with his back-to-the-basket, two-handed tip-in from 12 feet out against Oklahoma City earlier this month.As for the rest of the team, rookie Joe Ingles has been solid, if unspectacular, filling in at the wing position, while Rodney Hood showed flashes while playing barely half the games due to injuries. Ian Clark, Jeremy Evans and Steve Novak have seen little action off the bench and recent pickup Elijah Millsap is playing a lot of minutes lately.Snyder seems to have gotten a little weary of all the questions about the halfway point of the season, particularly when asked if he’s happy overall with how his team has performed. He always expects better.“I won’t say that, or I won’t say I’m displeased,’’ he said. “I’d like to see more growth. We are where we are and I don’t think we really knew how good we’d be. You have ideas at the beginning of the year but certain guys are better at certain things, but you really have no idea.’’Snyder points out that the Jazz have been playing without their starting two-guard and second-leading scorer from a year ago, Alec Burks, and have missed several other players this year due to injury and illness. But he sees the positive side to it.“Playing without Alec and without Enes — we’ve had enough personnel things that have happened, it’s been a strange blessing,’’ he says. “It’s allowed us to see different lineups and different combinations and how they fit together.’’Snyder is making no predictions on how the Jazz will fare over the second half of the season. The Jazz schedule might be slightly easier with 22 home games — although they have just as many road wins (seven) as home wins so far this year. The Jazz also have 20 games against teams with records of .500 or below.“Where are our strengths and how can we exploit them? Where are we weak and where can we improve? We’re trying to get better,’’ he said. “Some of it is about discovery and trying to keep understanding who we are. Every team is a little different and we need to find the path that we need to take to get there. Hopefully the wins that come will reflect that. I hope they will over time.’’ Was trading for Burke the right move for the Jazz?last_img

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