SALT LAKE CITY — The cohesiveness isn’t there.
That was seen Wednesday as the Sacramento Kings’ uptempo attack cut through the Jazz’s defense in the Kings' 119-110 win. Utah was sometimes back to defend in transition, but the players weren’t on the same page. Multiple players would try to stop the ball, leaving Kings players as they rolled to the hoop or spotted up for open 3-point shots.
It’s why the Jazz once again were fighting out of a hole — a hole that they ultimately couldn’t get out of.
But this also pointed to a much larger issue: The Jazz aren’t as in sync as they were last season.
“If I could point to one thing, it’s our communication,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “That makes you together and makes you be able to defend as a group. You can have as much effort, as much determination, but if you don't communicate, you don't play collectively.”
The Jazz have struggled in transition. They have struggled to defend handoffs. They have struggled to defend pick and pops. All of those struggles can be traced back to a lack of communication.
“We didn’t have it,” Donovan Mitchell said. “We have to compete and talk.”
It’s a surprise that is the issue for the Jazz. This was a team that was expected to pick up right where they left off last season — a defensive juggernaut that even the best offenses in the league would struggle against. They brought most of the team back from last year to keep continuity, to see if this group could reach another level.
Back in September, Snyder stressed that this year’s squad wasn’t the same team. It sounded like coach speak, but maybe it was more than that. Maybe the Jazz coach realized something that many fans and media surrounding the team didn’t. He realized there would still be a process, still be a learning curve.
“What were we able to do and the way we were able to play at the end of the year is nothing you can take for granted. There was a process that occurred,” Snyder said Wednesday. “After the course of the summer, you have to reconvene and formulate a new group and, hopefully, the culture and the things that we can absolutely control are solid and that allows you a foundation to build. But you are building. Every year, you are building.”
But not every team is building the same way. Last year, the Jazz needed to replace their star while they slowly (or not so slowly) turned things over to a new one. They needed to master how to best play around Rudy Gobert on the defense end. And they just needed to learn how to be a team. Once they figured all that out, they went on the run that would be hard to duplicate.
The Jazz haven’t come close to duplicating it at the beginning of this season.
If I could point to one thing, it’s our communication.
–Jazz coach Quin Snyder on the team's stuggles
This has caused fans to get restless, players to be frustrated and pretty much everyone looking for answers.
“To be honest with you, I don't know,” Mitchell said. “That’s what we have to figure out. That’s why we are stuck. We gotta figure out what the problem is. We'll fix it.”
Snyder realizes, though, the Jazz are on a different path this season. The rules aren’t the same and teams aren’t the same, and that includes his own — even if the roster is mostly unchanged.
“I think there are different types of building,” he said. “In our case, we weren’t building a new roster, but we are still building a new team. We need to understand that, and we need to be persistent and keep pushing, keep pushing.”
It sounded like a plea to the fans: Please, be patient; things will work out.
But why have the Jazz struggled to communicate? For Gobert, it starts with everyone playing well individually.
“I feel like it’s more that everyone has to do what they are supposed to do first, and then we are able to help each other and talk to each other,” he said. “It’s kind of like you help each other and that gives them confidence, and they are able to do their job better.
"It’s about us," Gobert continued. "Whether it's Game 12, Game 25 or Game 80, we have to be better. We have to figure it out. There’s nothing to overthink. It starts with me, once I do what I have to do, the team will follow."