BOSTON — The mood inside the visitor’s locker room at the United Center Wednesday wasn’t amiable.
Utah Jazz players were visibly disappointed after dropping a winnable 103-100 game to the Chicago Bulls — one of the league’s worst teams.
Even after losing four straight, Jazz forward Jonas Jerebko couldn’t hide his smirk when the focus shifted to Utah’s next game on the schedule against the Boston Celtics Friday night.
As a former Celtic, the skilled Swede spent the past three seasons in Beantown before signing with the Jazz this offseason as a free agent.
He knows a thing or two about the area and the players. One of his go-to spots is Strip by Strega. When he isn’t balling, he’s getting full off oysters in Boston.
“My friend has a couple restaurants. I’ve got to eat some good food,” Jerebko said. “I might have a couple oysters because I’m in Boston but other than that, it’s just eat some good food and say hi to some good people.”
Returning to a familiar setting will be fun for Jerebko, but he knows it’s all about business once the Jazz hit the parquet floor at TD Garden. That’s why he won’t hold back from sharing any knowledge during game planning that could potentially help his new squad break out of its recent four-game losing slump.
“I know a few tricks that they use and stuff like that but we kind of know what they are going to do,” Jerebko said. “Obviously, I’m going to help with whatever I can.”
Boston is one of the league’s hottest teams, atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 24-6 start and led by early MVP candidate Kyrie Irving.
Utah (13-15) is still in the playoff picture, now in ninth place in the Western Conference behind the Oklahoma City Thunder after Wednesday’s loss, but have the toughest schedule in the league for the month of December.
With Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver and Golden State scheduled for the remainder of the calendar year, it’s possible that the Jazz won’t win a game heading into January.
It’s a tough outlook, but an honest one as the team has struggled to find a groove, even with the return of Rudy Gobert (knee), Rodney Hood (ankle soreness) and now Joe Johnson who is available to play in Boston after missing the last 21 games with right wrist tendon instability.
“We need to play better to win, obviously,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “We have to be better on the defensive end. We’ve been there before as far as the ball’s not going in. We have to be even more stingy.”
Boston is coming off a 124-118 victory against the Nuggets Wednesday with Irving contributing 33 points and seven assists. Jaylen Brown also scored 26 points with five boards. This year’s Boston team is no joke and Jerebko knows it.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on them. I’m happy for them,” Jerebko said. “They keep winning. It’s a long season but they started really well. Obviously Kyrie’s been a big help for them and it’s good to see guys like Marcus (Smart) and Terry (Rozier), who came in young when I was there, blossom out.”
Jerebko played 19 minutes in the Chicago loss logging nine points, a steal, a board and an assist while shooting 3 for 7. He averages 6.3 points and 3.7 rebounds as a valuable reserve for the Jazz this season. Although his time in Boston has expired, he still remembers those lessons he learned as a member of the famed organization.
“It’s all about winning over there,” Jerebko said. “I had three great seasons there, going to the playoffs, Eastern Conference finals and a lot of winning so I just learned that this league is about winning and that’s it.
“Don’t look at your stats, it’s all about that win in that column so that’s really what I learned in spending my time there,” he added. “It was a good time.”