SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA had one of its more eventful, drama-filled days in recent years on Monday, outside of the yearly trade deadline and draft.
The day began with Milwaukee firing future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, who had been the head coach of the Bucks since 2014. Before the day was through, it was revealed the Washington Wizards had a private team meeting that took a turn for the worse, resulting in a 23-point loss to the miserable Dallas Mavericks that night.
ESPN reported that the seemingly always stable San Antonio Spurs may have a strained relationship with superstar Kawhi Leonard, who has missed most of the season with injuries.
The suddenly miserable Cleveland Cavaliers may be turning Kevin Love into a scapegoat. USA Today is reporting that Love’s teammates privately questioned a reported illness that forced him to leave Saturday’s 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Late Monday night, ESPN reported that former Weber State standout and Portland Trail Blazers’ star Damian Lillard met with team owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the franchise.
Meanwhile, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan all but openly set the price for All-Star guard Kemba Walker on the trade market, saying they’d only move him if they could get an All-Star in return.
Perhaps most bizarrely, five of the six teams making news on Monday appear playoff bound, and yet are still unable to prevent the airing of their dirty laundry.
While the rest of the NBA was taking part in self-immolation, the Jazz had arguably their worst loss of the season, falling on the road to the lowly Atlanta Hawks 104-90, who entered the night tied for the fewest wins in the league. The loss comes just days after the New York Times’ Marc Stein reported the Jazz were willing to trade Rodney Hood ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
Sitting nine games below .500, the Jazz’s odds of making a playoff run are falling quickly. For the Jazz to complete the regular season with a winning record, they’d have to win 23 of their final 35 games, and even that wouldn’t guarantee them an appearance in the postseason.
With Derrick Favors and Joe Johnson becoming unrestricted free agents this summer — both likely to sign elsewhere this summer — and Alec Burks and Ricky Rubio struggling to fit in with the team’s game plan, the Jazz are likely to be sellers at the trade deadline.
Considering each of these four players were firmly in the Jazz rotation to begin the season, moving any one of them would be a significant shakeup to the roster. As trade season draws closer, though, it appears more and more likely the Jazz are willing to move each of these players, along with the previously reported Hood.
Despite the inevitable roster shakeup likely to happen in the next two weeks, and having lost 16 of their last 22 games, the Jazz appear to be operating at their regular, steady pace. Steadiness has become a hallmark of the organization that has seen more than its fair share of shakeups over the past 12 months.
The team has been impossibly riddled with injuries, despite making a playoff run last season. Also, contract negotiations fell apart midseason with George Hill, who spurned the team in free agency over the summer, all while losing the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes to the Boston Celtics, despite repeatedly handing him the keys to the organization.
As many other teams appear to be struggling to manage their successes, the Jazz have found solid footing amid surprising instability. As the team rapidly approaches a rebuilding period — reshaping the roster around Rudy Gobert and rookie Donovan Mitchell — the professional culture appears relatively unscathed.
While no team has a perfect culture, the Jazz included, general manager Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder have found a way to keep potential wildfires within the organization from spreading beyond controlled burns. Though more adversity appears to be on the horizon over the next few weeks for the Jazz, their steady culture should allow for major changes, without the fireworks currently being seen around the league.
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