Salt Lake City Full of Tears

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Utah Jazz are going home after tonight. No more practices, no more games, no more film sessions. There goes Jerry Sloan's chances for Coach of the Year; there goes Andrei Kirilenko's chances for Most Improved and Best Defensive Player. Who would vote for players and coaches on teams that aren't even in the playoffs? No legends will be told of this team, no songs composed.

Utah's Salt Lake will get a little saltier as more tears are shed, but Jazz fans worldwide now have an unfamiliar task ahead of them: calculating the odds of Utah getting the number one pick.

It's not a high number, of course. It is a one-in-two-hundred shot. But who would have given higher odds before the regular season of the Jazz finishing within a victory or two of the playoffs? Or even finishing with a winning record? Or, more poignantly, of finishing with a winning record but not being invited to the playoffs?

Almost surely, the Jazz will not win the lottery for any of the top three picks, but will get the 14th pick, to go along with New York's pick, which is likely to be 16th, and Houston's pick, which will be 21st overall.

Three chances to draft more young scrappy players for Utah's perennial system, or three chips to lay on the line for a sign-and-trade with another team's free agent.

Utah will be busy this summer, no doubt. But for the first time in two decades, it will be the front office and not the players that are competing in the playoffs.

The newly lottery-bound Jazz host the long-time-coming Phoenix Suns tonight in a completely meaningless but potentially exciting game. Finally the players on both teams can be loose and play for the sheer joy of it. The game starts at 7:00pm and will be broadcast on KJZZ and NBA League Pass.

The Jazz will hold tryouts for the 2004-05 NuSkin Jazz Dancers on Saturday, July 31, 2004 at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City.

Matt Harpring
(knee) andCurtis Borchardt(wrist) are out for the rest of the season, meaning, of course, today.


Phil Miller ofThe Salt Lake Tribunewrites: Put it this way: For the first time since 1983, the Jazz can turn out the lights on their season after a victory.What the Jazz's own marketing surveys reveal to be the franchise's most popular, if not most accomplished, assortment of talent in years deserves to take a bow -- and in some cases, wave goodbye. With expansion, the draft and free agency straight ahead, half the roster could turn over this summer. Who knows, for example, whether Greg Ostertag's 640th game in a Jazz uniform -- sixth-most in franchise history -- will be his last? Whether all three young point guards will return? Whether Tom Gugliotta's or Mikki Moore's careers in Utah will last more than a month? "It's our job to make decisions about these guys," coach Jerry Sloan said last week. "They know it. It's a business and if they want to be a part of it, this is the reality they have to live with."

Tim Buckley ofThe Deseret Morning Newswrites: Pick your poison: November road losses at Golden State, New Orleans and Milwaukee. A December loss in Washington. A January overtime loss to Cleveland. An early February loss to Chicago, at home nonetheless. Florida flops in Miami and Orlando — the Magic, mind you, are dead-last in the league — despite being fresh off the mid-February NBA All-Star break. A March loss in Toronto that never ought to have been. And then the real kicker, Monday night's 104-90 loss in Minnesota, a game with so much on the line, a game the Jazz trailed by 23 before halftime even arrived. Win any one of the aforementioned, and the Jazz still are in contention tonight.Instead, Utah — which also owns picks belonging to playoff-bound Houston and New York — will prepare to make its first lottery selection in franchise history during the upcoming NBA Draft. And Sloan is left to assert his overachieving club probably wasn't worthy anyway. "If you don't belong," he said, "you don't belong."

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: When the NBA holds its 20th annual draft lottery on May 26 at the league's entertainment studios in Secaucus, N.J., the Jazz will need directions.Utah is the only team than has never participated in the lottery, which began in 1985 as a way to discourage teams from tanking games to improve their odds of landing a top draft choice. Before that, a coin toss between the worst team in each conference determined who got the No. 1 pick.

Tom McEachin ofThe Ogden Standard-Examiner writes: For the first time in 21 years, the Jazz head into the final game of the season knowing it will be their last one.Their streak of 20 consecutive playoff appearances is over, and after tonight's game with the Phoenix Suns at the Delta Center, so is the Jazz season. Over the final week of the season, when their playoff hopes were still alive, coach Jerry Sloan said, "I don't see any games that we have where we can prop our feet up and say it doesn't make any difference." But tonight's game doesn't make much difference.