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The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed that "the first wealth is health."
He would have been a miserable Utah Jazz fan.
A season ago, injuries derailed a promising campaign, as the Jazz fell just short of their dream of reaching the playoffs. Things haven't been any better this time around, when hopes and expectations have been even higher: 15 games into the season, no team in the NBA has lost as many games to injury and illness as the Utah Jazz.
"It's the reality," coach Quin Snyder said. "You have to face that. But at the same time, the key, I think, is to not dwell on it and try to take advantage of the opportunities. Because they're there. They may not be perfect, but they're there."
On Sunday night in Denver, point guard George Hill was overdressed in a suit jacket and a wrap on his sprained thumb. Sixth man Alec Burks was sitting behind the bench too, watching his teammates drop their fourth straight game and still waiting to make his season debut. Forward Derrick Favors, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found in the locker room, instead rehabbing his injured knee back home in Salt Lake City.
In total, the Jazz players have combined to miss 42 games due to injury and illness so far this year.
Hill and forward Gordon Hayward have arguably been the team's two best players in this 7-8 start to the campaign, but the tandem has played together exactly one time, leaving Jazz coach Quin Snyder left to wonder how differently the start of this season might have been if both had been healthy.
"Hopefully the band will be back, [but] we haven't really established a band," Snyder said, "so I don't even know what that sounds like."
Hayward broke a finger on his left hand during the preseason and can still be seen wincing in pain when he hits it too hard during games. Now Hill is dealing with the effects of a finger injury, a sprained thumb, that has caused him to miss eight straight contests since being named the Western Conference's Player of the Week.
"It's a little bit of everything," Snyder said of Hill's injury. "It's gripping, catching. He's not able to shoot. Those ligaments have to heal and become less painful or he's just not able to be effective.
"The main thing is we need to get him healthy," Snyder continued. "He's obviously a big part of what we do. He's one of the reasons people were excited about our team."
Snyder said he wants his players taking advantage of extra minutes, and praised the play of Trey Lyles and Dante Exum as they've filled in for Favors and Hill. But even the players benefiting from extra minutes have been frustrated by the mounting ailments.
"It's always frustrating," Exum said, "but it's something you always have to deal with. Hopefully everyone can get healthy as soon as possible."
On the other end of the injury spectrum, the Phoenix Suns have been the NBA's healthiest team, only losing two games to injury so far.
Other teams have dealt with mounting injuries to varying success. The Philadelphia 76ers (3-10) have seen 39 games missed due to injury and illness. The Brooklyn Nets (4-9) and the Denver Nuggets (5-8) have each had 32 combined games missed. But the Toronto Raptors, 8-5 on the year, have managed to win despite losing 33 games to injury to this point.
So after Sunday's disappointing 105-91 loss in Denver, Jazz center Rudy Gobert said injuries alone couldn't explain away the defeat.
"We've still got the weapons to win games," Gobert said. "We have to control what we can control and win games. We've still got a lot of good players. It's not an excuse to say we have injuries."
Jazz players who have missed games this season:
Alec Burks • 15 (3 rehabilitation, 11 left ankle debridement)
George Hill • 8 (sprained right thumb)
Boris Diaw • 8 (right leg bone contusion)
Gordon Hayward • 6 (fractured left ring finger)
Derrick Favors • 4 (1 IT band syndrome, 3 left knee bone contusion)
Rodney Hood • 1 (illness)