SALT LAKE CITY — They’re about to give all their attention to the Eastern Conference but surely the West isn’t far from their thoughts.
Even as they head out for a weeklong road trip with stops in Toronto (tonight), Boston (Wednesday), Philadelphia (Friday) and Washington (Saturday) Utah Jazz players and team officials understand the challenge of playing in the West, where the competition is stiff.
“There’s not going to be a lot of nights in the West where you’re going to have a chance to take break,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “You’re going to need to be ready every night you step out onto the floor.”
As they head out to face some beatable teams from the East, the Jazz will need to first figure out how to win on the road. When and if they can do that, then they can perhaps pick up some ground in the Western Conference standings.
Given the number of contending teams in the West, the Jazz can’t afford to lose much more ground.
Winning this week is particularly important.
“For us, any road trip we need to take care of business,” Corbin said. “Going east, not that it’s any easier, is still going to be a road trip for us. We need to get better on the road.”
The Jazz (3-4) are winless on the road so far this season.
Jazz forward Marvin Williams spent the first seven seasons of his career playing for Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. He said it’s a mistake to think the East isn’t competitive, but there’s more parity in the West.
“I don’t think anybody takes any team for granted,” Williams said. “I don’t care what anybody’s record is or where you play anybody, at the end of the day you’re playing another professional team. Whether we play a Western Conference team or an Eastern Conference team I think we take the same approach to each game.”
The Western Conference standings are already tight and figure to become tighter as the season moves forward.
The Lakers, for example, loaded up over the summer, picking up Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, but they stumbled out of the gates, leading to a 1-5 start the the firing of head coach Mike Brown.
Picking up All-Star talent in Nash and Howard doesn’t guarantee success, obviously. But having those kinds of players, when healthy, means a 10 or 12 game winning streak is always a possibility.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey had come interesting comments before the season began. They’re even more telling two weeks in.
“Has anybody ever had a bad offseason,” he asked at the start of training camp. “It’s like the recruiting classes at the U of U or BYU, they’ve probably never said, ‘Hey guys, we didn’t have a good recruiting class.’”
Lindsey said, by definition, preseason chatter is positive but a handful of games into the season that optimism can change.
“It’s pretty formulaic,” he said. “As soon as losses start taking over had roles are starting to be defined, the nature of (press reports) starts changing somewhere in early December.”