Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
The Utah Jazz were officially eliminated from postseason contention after their 114-98 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, and no matter how much anyone saw that coming, it is a hard pill to swallow for the players on a team that has clearly been fighting and trying its best throughout the season.
“It’s a (expletive) feeling,” Kelly Olynyk said. “You’re a competitive person, you want to win every game, you want to see the playoffs, especially, you know, 10 years and me having played in the playoffs, going to the Finals, that’s what it’s about. That’s what competing in this league is about.”
How to finish the season
Even if the Jazz have been holding guys out and being extra, extra, extra cautious with injuries and depleted the roster through trades, the players still felt that if they played hard enough, they would have a shot. And they did have a shot for nearly the entire season. It only came to an end with two games left.
But these last two games are going to be hard. Jazz head coach Will Hardy has to get these players to still believe and understand that there is something to play for. He doesn’t want them to be completely despondent and to not play hard. Frankly, that would set a bad precedent.
So in order to keep them engaged, he has to remind the players that playing the NBA is not something that is guaranteed and it’s a privilege that many people would love to have.
There are plenty of guys out there who would love to play for 10 minutes in an NBA regular season game that does not have any bearing on the standings or the playoffs. To just have that chance would be a dream.
“Some guys are looking to make a name for themselves, they’re looking to build a reputation, they’re looking to stick in the league,” Hardy said. “Opportunity is something that you can’t take lightly. The ability to put on an NBA jersey and step in between the lines of an NBA game is a gift. It’s an honor.”
The Jazz will play at home against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday afternoon and then in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. That’s the last chance for guys to show the Jazz coaching staff and front office that they’re worth keeping around, that they have value.
Who to blame for Kelly Olynyk not getting a triple-double
Kelly Olynyk was on pace to end the Jazz’s 15-year regular season triple-double drought, but ended up two assists shy.
When asked if he was paying attention to it, he said he didn’t care about any of it, because the Jazz lost and even if he’d gotten it in a loss he wouldn’t be happy.
Well, I care, because I like fun. So I decided to find out who we can blame for Olynyk not getting the last two assists.
Here’s all the people that Olynyk passed to in the third and fourth quarters that missed a shot: Luka Samanic, Simone Fontecchio, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Johnny Juzang, Ochai Agbaji.
That’s who we can blame for the continuing drought.
Now that the Jazz are officially eliminated from the postseason, all Jazz fans’ eyes should be trained on the standings at the bottom of the NBA and that includes where the Minnesota Timberwolves finish.
If you’re looking for a refresher on how the draft lottery odds work, the NBA has a great explainer article that you can read here. The NBA draft lottery will be held in Chicago on May 16.
The Jazz will have their own pick and will also have the Timberwolves first round pick in the upcoming draft, so if you’re hoping for the Jazz to have two lottery picks, you should be rooting against the Timberwolves in these last days of the regular season and rooting against them in the Play-In Tournament.