The Utah Jazz Should Be Better Than Fighting for Eighth Place

By Kenny Bristow
Spruce Derden-USA Today Sports

Sometimes during the lean years of a professional sports franchise, it is necessary for the front office and coaching staff to take precedent over the players in order to make a team competitive.

This has been the case for the Utah Jazz since the retirement of John Stockton and the defection of Karl Malone and the resignation of head coach Jerry Sloan a few years later.

Back when Stockton and Malone were youngsters on the Utah roster, owner Larry H. Miller gave the whistle to Sloan. The next 23 years were basketball heaven in Salt Lake. 16 straight seasons with playoff appearances and two in the NBA finals.

But all that is history and the Jazz are under a new regime. They have had a couple of consecutive sub-par seasons and have gotten some decent draft choices out of it, but have nothing to show when it comes to the post season.

The Jazz have been on the bubble all year. Along with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, who would meet in Los Angeles. Utah has been neck and neck with those two Western Conference foes most of the way. It figures it would come down to the final day of the season with lots of drama on the line.

The Rockets have a couple of new big name free agents in James Harden and Jeremy Lin and are on the rise. The Lakers, as always, are on the front of the sports pages with their polarizing circus of stars led by Kobe Bryant. The Jazz are quietly mediocre with potential stars like Al Jefferson.

With a chance to make the playoffs as the eighth seed in the west, Utah traveled to the Midwest to take on the Memphis Grizzlies. If the Jazz could beat Memphis and the Lakers lost their game to the Rockets, then Utah would return to the NBA playoffs.

The stage was set for Utah to put all the pressure on the Lakers, who are now without an injured Bryant, to force them home for the spring. But the Jazz took any drama out of the play with a flat performance on the road awarding the final seed to Los Angeles. Memphis, already locked into the fifth seed, had nothing to prove and the Jazz needed the win like oxygen. Head coach Tyrone Corbin should have had his troops fired up higher than Hollywood. Instead, they will all return to Salt Lake and clean out their lockers and provide no real answers or solutions.

This should serve as notice to the Utah franchise, a proud and traditional basketball team in a town where they are the major sports attraction. Utah must improve not only their roster in the off season, but their attitude. They need to somehow muster the winning fight instilled by Sloan year after year when he was at the helm. To walk off the court without putting up a fight with the entire season on the line is very un-Jerry-like.

Kenny Bristow is a Los Angeles Dodgers writer for
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