SALT LAKE CITY — There’s always the buyout market.
If you are one of the many fans who were hoping for reinforcements as the Jazz limp towards the All-Star break, the lack of news on Thursday wasn’t welcomed.
The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday afternoon with the Utah Jazz staying on the sideline and not making a deal. The Jazz stood pat, but that doesn’t mean they are planning on standing pat for good.
It wasn’t necessarily shocking that Utah didn’t make a move. The Jazz had little in terms of appealing assets and they didn’t want to offer up any of their core players. But with the team in the midst of a five-game losing streak, with each loss more disheartening than the last, there’s a growing feeling that something — anything — needs to change.
Just mere hours before the deadline, the Jazz suffered what might have been their worst loss of the season. They were up by 15 in the second half at home against a Denver Nuggets team playing with just seven players and that was on the second night of a back-to-back. Somehow, some way, the Jazz lost.
“I feel like we don’t have the mentality of a very good team,” Rudy Gobert said following the game.
A trade to improve the edges of the roster wasn't going to help change that. And while the Jazz are going to be heavily scanning the buyout market to find a piece or two to solidify things for a playoff run, fixing their current issues won’t come from adding a fringe rotation piece. That will have to come from within.
The Jazz have had one of the best locker rooms in the league over the last few years. The camaraderie is almost legendary and it all stems from Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — the team’s two All-Stars. But that pair has also been coming up short over the last few games.
On Wednesday, Mitchell led the Jazz in turnovers, missed 16 shots, had just one assist and was blown by multiple times on the defensive end. On Saturday in Portland, Gobert was punked by Hassan Whiteside, who scored 17 points and grabbed 21 rebounds.
Mitchell said he was satisfied with his decision-making on Wednesday, but ever since the second half of last week’s loss to Denver, he looks to be forcing things on the offensive end. Gobert, meanwhile, hasn’t been strong enough on the glass. Over the last two games, opposing centers have grabbed 42 rebounds. Gobert's better than that. He just hasn’t played that way recently.
In a nutshell, that's Utah's problem right now. The Jazz aren’t playing well. Yes, the schedule turned more difficult, but with the way Mitchell and Gobert — not to mention Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, etc. — have been playing, it’s hard to see them beating anyone with consistency, let alone winning 19 of 21 games.
Utah was gift-wrapped a game on Wednesday. The Jazz couldn’t take advantage. That should speak volumes.
“We haven’t played well,” coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve played sporadically. We’re not as good. We have to find that again. There’s no easy answers. You have adversity on the scoreboard and in the form of losses, that’s your look in the mirror. I think we’ve been doing that. No one has any illusions that we’ve been playing well.”
When the Jazz struggled earlier this season, the reasons were obvious. Utah’s starting unit was blitzing people — and then the bench would come in and cough up lead after lead. That’s why Utah went and got Jordan Clarkson and waived Jeff Green. It sparked the second unit and a long Jazz winning streak followed.
The answers this time, though, revolve around the stars. And that’s why a trade — exciting as it would have been — wouldn’t have done much to help the current struggles. Mitchell and Gobert are the All-Stars; they are the franchise pillars — they need to play like it for the Jazz to be good.
“When we get up 15, we can go one of two ways,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been doing it. That’s what makes this loss even worse. It’s like we haven’t shown it. We’ve been doing it for months, month-and-a-half, two months. We’ve been doing it. So now it’s a matter of where is it going? Why are we not doing it? We’ve just got to find it within ourselves.”