Let me clarify.
I hope the Jazz never lose. But given their current situation, I see a number of reasons why losing might actually be beneficial.
The first preseason game could not have gone better for Jazz Nation. Fans got to see the players they wanted, and different players stepped up and delivered when called upon. It’s a young team, and they played with a lot of energy and excitement. Confidence is up after an off-season of mixed reviews.
Before anyone hurts themselves patting their own back, though, this win against Golden State probably wasn’t as definitive as everyone hoped. As Andy Larsen, Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops pointed out in his post game notes, the Warriors were playing their third game in four nights and doing so with the altitude change.
I don’t mean to undermine the win by any means, but it was the first game in PRESEASON after all. This organization doesn’t really need another preseason championship. Been there, done that. What they need is to keep growing. If they are committed to this rebuild like they claim to be, they should do everything to keep working towards the long term. Preseason wins can often cloud reality.
Will the Jazz lose a lot of games this year? Seems likely. So why would I really want to add any more numbers to that column? Well, I have this sneaking suspicion that this Jazz team might surprise a lot of people. And while some might argue that you can learn just as much and still win, I think it has a lot to do with building character. It might even prepare fans for what lies ahead this season. Think of it like chess, sometimes you have to give up your pawn in order to advance your strategy. But I digress.
What did we learn from game one? Trey Burke can run the point. Enes Kanter is willing to run the floor and can score around the basket. Derrick Favors is a best grabbing boards and protecting the rim. Jeremy Evans apparently has a jumper to go with the rest of his jump. Alec Burks has a knack for scoring the ball. Gordon Hayward can be a leader. And when Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams come back from injury, this team will have a significant amount of depth on the bench.
So what aren’t we sure about? Well, all of it. Obviously, the sample size for all of these points is still small. In fact, it’s as small as it can possibly be to even technically be able to call it a sample—one game.
With all of those positive points in mind, here’s why I think losing a few games will help them: motivation. Winning right now doesn’t allow this team the optimal chance for improvement. Let’s start with Burke again. His shaky start and more recently his less-than-promising scrimmage appearance brought him down from cloud nine. I’d put him at a solid cloud four or five at this point. The last thing we need is for him to get a big head over a few preseason games. Now, I don’t think that will be the case, but I would hope these next few games leading up to the season opener will battle test the kid. We’ve seen how hard he’s been working since he was first humbled.
Next up are Kanter and Favors. I was really impressed with both of them, but still noticed a lot of room for improvement. They might get a few minutes against some of the dynamic front courts out there, but it won’t be anything like the regular season when all-stars play 36 minutes night in and night out. I want these two to go through the growing pains sooner than later. Battling from behind might be a good way to do that.
Can Jeremy Evans keep hitting that outside jumper?
Hayward, in my opinion, is the one who stands to grow the most from a few challenging games. When the going gets tough, and it is going to get there, Gordon needs to get going. This will be an early test for how much he can really lead the other guys. We got a brief glimpse of what should be happening when he got after Kanter in the Golden State game. He’s holding guys accountable, and if he can keep filling up a stat sheet, the others will listen. Tack on a few losses early on, and I guarantee we will start seeing what G-Time is really made of. He doesn’t like to lose. You can see it in him. If he has to, he’ll carry the team on his back, which is exactly what I think he needs to become a strong number one option for this team.
As far as the rest of the team, there are still a lot of battles for playing time. Let’s see who has a fire in their eye. When your back is against the wall, you really only have one option. Fight or flight. Sink or swim.
If you ask me, I saw a lot of determination in that first game. It seemed liked a lot of these guys had something to prove. Whether they couldn’t shoot, weren’t big enough or fast enough, didn’t have anything left, I saw guys that wanted to play. It’s not the actual loss that will help these guys, it’s how they respond after one.
It’s only preseason after all.