Change In Order for the Jazz

By Patrick Kinahan

There’s no sense in stressing over the latest Jazz playoff loss, a game that has to rank among the worst in franchise history.

It’s crazy to suggest the San Antonio Spurs really are 31 points better than the Jazz, as they were in Wednesday night’s 114-83 win. This was one of those games in which the veteran team with a championship pedigree blew out inferior competition.

It happens.

“They couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “It happens to all of us.”

The Jazz shot a woeful 34 percent, often missing attempts from close range. The starting five combined to make only 17 of 52 shots.

As it would figure, the Spurs shot a blistering 57 percent. All five starters, who scored in double figures, converted 27 of 41 shots.

“For whatever reason we let them do what they wanted to do,” said Jazz guard Gordon Hayward. “They played well and we didn’t. It was in every facet of the game.

“What happened, happened. You’ve got to put in the past. We’re fighting for our lives.”

But there’s a bigger story here, one the Jazz brass needs to seriously discuss over the summer. Going forward, management must determine the nucleus of this team.

Does the core consist of the veterans, namely the trio of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Devin Harris? Or has this postseason proven the Jazz have got to turn over the keys to the car to the youngsters, obviously led by Derrick Favors and Hayward?

The polls are open. What’s your vote?

The result from this precinct show the projected winner is to build around Favors and Hayward. As they say around these parts, isn’t it about time?

The veterans on the team deserve praise for making the Jazz competitive. Coming off a 39-43 season, which spiraled downward after Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan left, the Jazz were thought to be in horrible shape.

Behind the strong play of Jefferson and Millsap, along with Harris as the season wore on, the team proved otherwise. In terms of excitement most fans got their money’s worth, as Jazz games usually went down to the last second. And often times the players put in overtime without any extra pay.

But as we’ve seen so far in the playoffs, the veterans don’t have enough muscle to stand toe-to-toe with the heavyweights. The shortcomings are not about one game.

Look around the league. What formula produces a winner?

The answer is two things: Length and consistent perimeter shooting.

Go back and examine the last four NBA champions. The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers (twice) and the Dallas Mavericks had both of the requirements in great supply.

It starts inside out. And it begins with Favors, the current Jazz player who most resembles the likes of Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Tyson Chandler. This isn’t to say that Favors is on the same level as these players, but he’s the best hope on this roster.

And while Hayward is nowhere near Dirk Nowitzki, he has the size and shooting ability worth building around.

Favors remains one of the most intriguing prospects in the NBA, seemingly possessing all the skills necessary to make a significant impact. Recognizing that this represents only one slice of a long journey, the Jazz trailed by five points when Favors came out of the game in the second quarter against the Spurs. The next time he stepped on the court the Spurs led 70-38.

With Favors on the bench, the Spurs enjoyed a 22-2 run.

“We just didn’t respond,” said coach Ty Corbin.

All those demanding more of Favors never had more evidence. While Jefferson and Millsap combined for 59 minutes, Favors played 21 minutes.

This series seems more about venue. The Jazz can’t count on the homecourt to compete with the Spurs.

Changes, in the long-range variety, are in order.