Plenty to criticize about the Utah Jazz after another discouraging defeat, this one 90-83 to the New York Knicks in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience. But you can't include their perspective in that.
Despite everything else, this is a relentlessly optimistic Jazz team.
Following the loss, in which the Jazz were pushed around by a Knicks team minus Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, Paul Millsap said, "I know, as a team, the guys in this locker room are still together. We believe we can make [a] nice run and I believe we can do it."
Easy to roll your eyes, but at the same time, credit to Millsap. If he had come out and said, oh, "We're as dead in the water as that negative beat guy from the newspaper says," he probably wouldn't enjoy the rest of his time in Utah.
Al Jefferson didn't speak to the media following a 10 point, 11 rebound performance. According to Steve Luhm, who was in the locker room while I wrote, Jefferson ducked out after Millsap turned to speak to the press. Jefferson is not compelled by rule to speak to the media, and after failing to get any rhythm against a frontline anchored by ageless (OK, 40-year-old) Kurt Thomas, he probably wasn't in the mood to chat. It's a tough job, no doubt. I've always said writers are naked all the time, because we are constantly on display to be critiqued by the masses. Pro athletes have it a million times worse (despite the millions of times better they get it in the wallet). There are countless reasons Jefferson may have struggled tonight, including something as innocuous as a hangnail. Here's the thing, though: While there is no NBA policy that dictates Jefferson needs to come out after every performance and bare his soul, it's not a good look for the man who gets paid $15 million a year, leads your team in major statistical categories and was named a team captain in the preseason, to blow off the media and, by extension, a curious and demanding fan base. Jazz practice in the morning, I imagine Jefferson will speak, and candidly.
Kurt Thomas finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocked shots in 26 minutes. One person who probalby doesn't enjoy all the Old Man jokes Thomas gets is Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin. Corbin was a 10-year NBA veteran when, in 1996, he was traded to a Miami Heat team that included a rookie forward from Texas Christian named Kurt Thomas.
The Jazz had a chance to move into eighth place in the West after the Lakers lost badly, 99-76, in Phoenix. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Lakers without Kobe Bryant, who is struggling through a sprained ankle and also the flu. There hasn't been much sign that the Warriors or Rockets will fall off the Jazz play each of them once more, both times on the road. If it comes down the Lakers without Kobe or the Jazz who also lack a superstar that feels like a toss up. Bryant is officially listed as day-to-day.
I would really be curious to see a fan ranking (March Madness style bracket, maybe?) of the most disheartening Jazz losses this season. Not sure which emerges on top, but a few that come to mind as contenders: 45-point bomb to Houston, Belinelli 3-ball in Chicago, 29-point loss to Knicks at the Garden, overtime loss to Boston, blown 15-point lead in Atlanta, 23-point stinker in Oklahoma City last week and, of course, tonight.
Of course, there have been some really fun nights in this roller coaster season: Miami, Indiana, the win over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Do the Jazz have any more of those left in them this season?