‘We’ll figure it out’: As regular season winds down, Jazz still looking for answers
Having lost six of seven games, the Jazz are ailing. Is there time to find a cure before the playoffs begin?
What’s ailing the Utah Jazz?
It’s a question that seems easier to answer than it actually is, and the Jazz would be really happy if anyone had a clear-cut answer.
In order to try to arrive at an answer, we have to look at the symptoms.
There are concerns about the vibes in the locker room not being great. Maybe guys are sniping at one another, maybe they’re airing their frustrations too readily in postgame interviews and maybe there’s tension.
On the court, the Jazz have problems with consistency. They are a team that can absolutely smother and overwhelm the competition through about three quarters of a game. But then they tend to fall off.
And when the players’ backs are against the wall, they make even more mistakes. They get in their own heads and become their own worst enemy.
The reason that they play well in games has to do with quick decisions, trust, ball movement and a commitment to running on both ends of the floor. The reason that they tend to lose leads is when those things that gained them the lead break down. They stop moving the ball, stop running back in transition, stop pushing the ball, and they turn to isolation situations more than they should.
There are other issues that we could point to, but I think those are the biggest areas of concern.
So, what is causing these things to happen, and is there a solution?
Well, the reason for any locker-room problems and interpersonal tension is not so easy to nail down. Like any workplace, sometimes people don’t like their co-workers for a number of reasons. One of my former co-workers had really, really bad breath and it made me never want to work with him. Another of my former co-workers was just unusually slow at getting their work done and it made me mad and resentful.
I don’t know that the reason for any perceived tension is necessary information in order to arrive at a solution. At this point in the season, with the playoffs right around the corner, the solution needs to be really straightforward: just let it go.
This is a group of adults, not children. They are perfectly capable of putting their differences aside for the greater good of the team. They have the resources and tools available to them to be able to communicate effectively, and they should be able to do so without the team falling to shambles.
If they can’t put personal difference aside in order to make things work on the court, then this team is doomed anyway and there’s not really a point in pretending like they have a chance.
Figuring out what is causing the on-court issues is maybe even more difficult. The consensus among Jazz coach Quin Snyder and the players is that lack of executing in late-game situations is about focus and a certain mentality.
It’s not like Snyder is telling the team to throw out the game plan that earned the Jazz a 20-plus point lead when there’s seven minutes left to play a game. But maybe there is a confidence and motivation problem? If so, it’s fair to wonder why the coaching staff hasn’t been able to get the Jazz back on track.
But at some point the players are going to have to take this into their own hands.
“Collectively, there has to be a calm — a sense of like, these are the things we are going to do and execute with four minutes to go,” Mike Conley said. “It’s not time to be free, time to be loose, time to relax, time to turn the ball over. We have to really think the game and almost slow it down mentally for all of us and get all five guys collectively with that mindset.”
How do they achieve this?
That’s the biggest question of all. They can talk about all of these things and watch film and complain and hope and get frustrated and in the end they just have to do it. That’s why the Jazz’s problems are so hard to solve because it’s just about commitment and will.
“We’ll figure it out,” Donovan Mitchell said. “As a competitor, this is what fuels you and drives you. I could sit here and say, ‘Just keep your head down,’ or whatever. But we will figure this out.”
That has to be the attitude for this team because the postseason is almost here. If they can figure this out, it’s going to make them all feel very good and it would really say a lot about this team’s resolve and determination.
If they can’t, we’re looking at a much longer offseason.