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The Utah Jazz have retaken the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference and over the last three games are playing great basketball, despite being without Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley. Things are looking pretty good for the Jazz with just six games left in the regular season.
When things are going this well, fan bases tend to overreact to small things. Back-to-back losses to the Timberwolves in the last week of April had Jazz fans up in arms, hitting the panic button and wondering if this team has what it takes to even win a first-round playoff series.
Don’t worry. Calm down. Things could be worse. There are teams in turmoil and train wrecks all over the league. The Houston Rockets’ fall from grace has been more of a nose dive, the Washington Wizards have two of the most offensively potent players in the league and are scraping by to try to earn a spot in the play-in tournament and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have yet to secure a playoff spot with the health of their best players a major concern.
If you need any more proof that things could be worse, look no further than the Indiana Pacers.
Remember Greg Foster? You know, the former Jazz man who made the throat-slashing gesture toward the Los Angeles Lakers in 1998? Well, he’s an assistant coach with the Pacers and the team suspended him for one game for getting into an altercation with one of his own players.
But to get the full scope of just how bad things are for the Pacers, we have to back up a little bit. Reports recently surfaced that first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren’s style of communication and coaching has been at the root of much of the Pacers’ turmoil and that he is unlikely to keep his job after this season.
Following that report, even more unsavory information was leaked, including that Pacers bubble breakout star T.J. Warren, who has been out all season rehabbing a foot injury and played for Bjorkgren when he was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns, requested a trade as soon as Bjorkgren was named head coach.
The Pacers have made the playoffs nine of the last 10 years, but at ninth in the Eastern Conference, and probably headed to the play-in tournament, they could miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
That brings us to Wednesday night. All this hubbub and chaos about Bjorkgren is already swirling but that’s clearly not the only thing that’s wrong in Indiana. Because as the Pacers were losing to the Sacramento Kings, Foster had to be held back and talked down by multiple players as he charged toward and yelled at center Goga Bitadze, who fired back and then kept slinging expletives at the assistant coach.
The result was a one-game, team-mandated suspension of Foster, a fine levied on Bitadze, further unrest between the players and Bjorkgren’s coaching staff and the future of the team, coach and front office up in the air.
The Jazz made it through most of the season unscathed by injury and are dealing with some minor injuries right now, but they trust each other and believe in Quin Snyder and the coaching staff. The team is close, confident and ready to compete.
So if you’re a Jazz fan and feeling a little worried about the state of things, just look around the league and be happy that the Jazz aren’t making headlines for the wrong reasons and that things are in tact and the team looks set up for current and future success.
New with the Jazz
Stat of the week
The Utah Jazz lead the league in 3-pointers made this season with 1,113 through Wednesday night. The Portland Trail Blazers are second in the NBA in 3-pointers made with 1,044 and no other team has broken 1,000 on the season.
Special Edition Mailbag
Q: With Trent Forrest emerging, have we seen the last of Miye Oni? — @Clintonite33
A: The short answer is that we have not seen the last of Miye Oni despite the fact that Trent Forrest is playing well.
Want the longer answer? With Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley sidelined recently Quin Snyder has been experimenting a little with the rotation, but if I’m being completely honest, none of it really matters that much. It’s very easy to slide Miye Oni into a nine or 10-man rotation when one player is missing but when the two lead ball handlers on the team are watching from the sideline, more Oni isn’t going to cut it. Forrest is just a little bit better of a point guard and creator than Oni is, just as Oni is a better shooter and rebounder. But once Mitchell and Conley are back, Oni and Forrest won’t be playing.
If we were talking about what’s going to happen in the offseason and which player might have a better chance of sticking around, I’d give them both about the same probability of coming back in the exact same roles they have this year. They are young developing players who are just filling in before the real players come back. That might be a little harsh, but it’s true.
From the archives
This week in Jazz history
On May 8, 1988, the Los Angeles Lakers held the Utah Jazz to just eight points in the first quarter of Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series, a 110-91 Lakers’ victory, with the Jazz setting a record low for first quarter points scored in an NBA Playoff game.
- Utah Jazz finish regular season undefeated in gold Statement jersey (Deseret News)
- Jordan Clarkson has finally found his NBA fit with the Utah jazz (The Athletic)
- Georges Niang has gone from G League star to key piece of Jazz rotation (Salt Lake Tribune)
Around the league
The Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving were hit with hefty fines after Irving’s continued refusal to speak with the media.
LaMelo Ball missed six weeks of action for the Charlotte Hornets after fracturing his wrist but since his return he’s back in the running for Rookie of the Year.
May 7 | 8 p.m. | vs. Denver Nuggets | ESPN2/AT&T SportsNet
May 8 | 8 p.m. | vs. Houston Rockets | AT&T SportsNet
May 10 | 8 p.m. | at Golden State Warriors | AT&T SportsNet
May 12 | 7 p.m. | vs. Portland Trail Blazers | AT&T SportsNet
May 14 | 6 p.m. | at Oklahoma City Thunder | AT&T SportsNet