A year ago, they were the NBA’s No. 1 team. Now the Utah Jazz are leaning heavily into an underdog role

Perspective is a funny thing.

Before any games were even played, the idea of ​​the Utah Jazz’s season culminating in another second-round elimination would have been considered a massive underperformance. And now? Well, it would still be a disappointment, maybe even a seismic shift, but it could also frankly be perceived as a better result than anyone expected given how the regular season’s long run went.

Not that jazz would accept such restrictive shackles.

“The way things are positioned now, where we have to win this or that to succeed, that external narrative is one that we can’t control and I don’t think our guys really believe in that. said Quin Snyder.

Certainly not.

They are far too busy constructing their own narrative that involves perspectives the results of this season.

“It’s very different from last year, but sometimes I like being the challenger,” said Rudy Gobert. “I like it when people exclude us.”

There it is.

Everyone loves a good underdog story.

“Look at this year, we’ve had some struggles, we’ve had some adversity and we’re going in [the playoffs]people don’t expect us to do things,” Donovan Mitchell agreed.

Not all, however, were fully on board with the talking point of “nobody believes in us”.

“Maybe for these guys. I think we are the best team in the league. I honestly believe so,” Jordan Clarkson said. “I think we have an opportunity to do something special – I’ve been saying that since the start of the season. Outsider? Whatever gets any of us ready and focused, whatever it is, whatever mindset it is, take it and take it to court.”

Regardless of the paths they took, these three players still arrived at the same place: it doesn’t matter Luka Doncic’s availability for Game 1 on Saturday in Dallas, or the series as a wholethe Jazz are – perhaps improbably – full of confidence in their postseason potential.

OK, so it goes without saying that no team will publicly downplay their own chances, but less likely teams are also usually more general and vague in their comments. This team is not.

Maybe it’s all just a boastful facade to divert attention from the ongoing plot the team chokes off big leadsbut Utah still struggles to sell the idea that, to hell with recent results, this team is in a good place to make some noise.

“It’s weird because if you’d asked me a month ago, I would have said, ‘We’ve got a long way to go to get where we want to be.’ and [then] We played more playoff-intensity basketball last week than we’ve had all year,” said Mike Conley. “They didn’t all lead to wins, they led to some games where teams came back and won against us. [but] You’re looking at the Phoenix game in particular — we played a really, really good chunk of that game outside of the second half of this fourth quarter. We do a lot of good things and that is overshadowed by some of the situations we have found ourselves in and the losses we have suffered.”

Gobert also filmed the matchups, in which the team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as learning experiences, situations that helped players develop thicker skin and a harder mindset, opportunities to become adept at deflecting adversity.

“I’ve always tried to enjoy the good moments, but even more so [so] the bad ones Even the bad ones…it never felt like it was the end of the world,” he said. “Even in the games where we were 17 and ended up losing in the fourth, we were still 17. There was always something positive to take away from those games. Our aim is to be able to channel that.”

The coach who isn’t afraid to support his team when a certain 19-minute game before the game is any hint that is also linked to this thought.

“We’ve been through a lot this year on many levels. And I think it flavored us in a way. I think our team has grown a lot,” said Snyder. “…I think our team is better right now than it was a month ago.”

How and why? The squad is mostly healthyand the staff grouping has been bolstered by the acclimatization of Juancho Hernangomez and the return to action of a certain all-round defender: “I think if COVID has a silver lining, that’s it [signing] Daniel House,” Snyder said. Also, he saw a rare continuity and cohesion on the track.

They may all end up being right, but until they prove it in court, it’s just idle talk.

On the other hand, futility has become another common theme of theirs.

Not nihilistic, but from an epistemological perspective. Literally nothing that happened in the regular season can potentially carry over to the playoffs. Nothing is known from the house. Nothing is inherent.

All those inflated double-digit leads? Gone.

The subtweets and targeted comments and barely veiled shots? dust in the wind.

“It’s behind us, it’s a new season, you can’t take anything that happened,” Mitchell said. “The greatest thing is to just reset.”

Time for the cosmic forces of basketball to push that button on the controller to reach the big PlayStation 5 in the sky.

Seriously, of course, they recognize that the wins and losses mattered and how they occurred, and that the injuries and illnesses and lack of continuity mattered, and that the habits, efforts, and plans mattered.

But more importantly, everything that came before is irrelevant when they can now streamline all of those things to the tune of 16 more wins. This closes the circle.

This is, after all, a team that started the year knowing that after several years of playoff flameouts, this group would ultimately be judged on what they accomplished in the postseason.

And Snyder couldn’t get more into it.

“If we had won three or four more games, maybe the regular season would have felt different. But we saw last year what that’s worth. I can tell — it really doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “But as excited as everyone was about last year’s regular season, that excitement evaporated pretty quickly when we didn’t win the playoffs.

“Phoenix has clearly shown throughout the year [this] Season that they are the best team. I’m not sure if we were the best team last year – us [just] had the best record of the regular season,” Snyder added. “But I think where we are right now, you just don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs.”

But we’re about to find out.

https://www.sltrib.com/sports/jazz/2022/04/15/year-ago-they-were-nbas/ A year ago, they were the NBA’s No. 1 team. Now the Utah Jazz are leaning heavily into an underdog role

Jessica MacLeish

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