A lot can happen in professional sports in the space of a couple of weeks. Just take a look at the NBA’s Utah Jazz for a prime example. Over the past fortnight the club has seen its hall of fame coach Jerry Sloan quit after 23 years on the job and all-star Deron Williams shipped off to the New Jersey Nets.
It might appear to the club’s fans that the franchise has more or less given up on this season and has gone into a rebuilding mode. But that’s not the case says Greg Miller, the club’s CEO. As of Feb. 26 the Jazz sit in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 32-27 record. They may be 16.5 games behind Western leaders San Antonio, but they’re hanging onto the last playoff spot by the skin of their teeth over Memphis, with Phoenix not far behind.
Miller said the management and players are excited with the new additions to the squad, namely point guard Devin Harris and rookie Derrick Favors, who came over in the trade from New Jersey. Utah also received a couple of first-round draft picks as well as three million in cash. Miller believes the trade will see the Jazz stay competitive for the next few years at least.
However, with 23 games to go in this season, the fans would love to see the team pick up the pieces and make a surge into the playoffs. Harris and Favors were in the lineup on Feb. 25 as the Jazz travelled to Indiana and knocked off the Pacers 95-84. Harris came off the bench and scored 14 points, 10 of them in the second half, and added seven rebounds and five assists. Favors chipped in with six points.
Harris said the shock of the trade has worn off now and it’s time for him and the 19-year-old Favors, the NBA’s youngest player, to settle in and help the Jazz in its basketball playoff push. Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor believes the newcomers will definitely help the team, especially with Mehmet Okur injured for the majority of the season and Francisco Elson suffering as well.
At 6-foot-10, Favors provides the team with the size it needs. He’s used to coming off the bench, but should get more playing time with Utah. He hasn’t torn up the league with his point average of 6.3 and rebound average of 5.3, but his 51 percent shooting average from the field is fourth best among rookies.
Harris also adds something with 13.2 points, 5 assists and 2.5 rebounds as career averages to go along with his 1.2 steals. He’s a former Eastern all-star who can definitely chip in with points here and there to replace those lost with Williams leaving.
Jazz coach Ty Corbin has finally gotten the monkey off his back with his first win since Sloan retired and hopes he can build on his 1-4 record. The future looks bright for the Jazz, but there’s no reason to wait until next year for it to begin. Not while the playoffs are in their fingertips.