Time Comes for Jazz To Improve

By Patrick Kinahan

With the preliminaries out of the way, it’s time for the Jazz to start seeking a serious at upgrade in talent.

The excitement of making the playoffs for the first time in two seasons ended in a thud once the Jazz got there, as they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Game 4 was a repeat of the other three, with the Spurs dominating most of the game in the 87-81 loss Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.

In the end, despite all the talk of trying hard and fighting to the end, the postseason was still disappointing. Some stuff should be expected.

Except for Game 2, the Jazz exhibited all the admirable qualities that have come to define this long-running successful franchise. That much was evident during the fourth quarter of the final game, when the Jazz forced the smiling Tony Parker and Tim Duncan off the bench and back into the game.

The furious rally, while it didn’t change the result, at least gave the home team something to feel good about as preparations begin for summer vacation. But all that is now history, left to be nothing more than a footnote to a tough series.

“They’re just a class team and a class organization,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “They don’t quit.”

Assuming the effort is always going to be there, the offseason is about the Jazz addressing some the glaring weaknesses. Kevin O’Connor, the time is now yours.

As we’ve seen all season, the first priority has got to be improving the perimeter shooting. This era of basketball demands that teams not only have a three-point threat, but several players who can actually make shots from behind the line.

The great teams have are multi-dimensional, capable of attacking the basket and flooding the floor with shooters. In their present state, the Jazz have no consistent perimeter shooting.

Game 4 provided the perfect example. The Spurs made 10 of 22 three-pointers, with seven players each making a shot from long distance. The Jazz also had seven players hoist up a three-pointer, with the only difference being that none went in the basket in 13 attempts.

“We’ve got to be able to make perimeter shots,” said coach Ty Corbin.

Gordon Hayward can’t do it all by himself, recognizing that he did practically nothing on offense in the final three games. The 22-year-old second-year pro will remember his first postseason appearance for all the wrong reasons, exactly like several great players have experienced.

After scoring 17 points in Game 1, Hayward bottomed out with a total of 12 points over the next three games. In the last three games he combined to go 4 of 27 from the floor, including misfiring on all eight three-point attempts.

On the bright side, Hayward picked a great time to go through the necessary struggles. Even if he was brilliant, it’s not like the Jazz were going to upset the Western Conference’s best team.

Without another outside threat, Hayward’s struggles were magnified. They may not be as pronounced once the Jazz another shooter.

Perhaps more than ever, O’Connor has more weapons to use in trades for players or draft picks. But it may mean breaking up the nucleus of this team in the form of trading the popular Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Only Derrick Favors should be untouchable.

“We don’t just want to make the playoffs,” said Corbin. “We want to have a chance to compete for a championship.”

Those words should be sweet music to the ears of every Jazz fan. Even if the team exceeded the expectations of some outsiders, the players and coaches clearly were not satisfied with merely taking a date to the dance.

One year from, they went to be dancing.

“We set the goal to get to the playoffs,” said Jefferson. “Now it’s time to set the goal to make a run.’