Jazz reach goal yet not satisfied with playoff run

As the seconds ticked down Monday in Game 4 of what would be a

first-round playoff sweep, Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors cursed

all the way off the court.

It was a sign that while goals may have been met, no one was

satisfied.

Less than 24 hours later, Jazz brass and teammates echoed those

sentiments as exit interviews were conducted and lockers cleared

for the summer.

Yes, the team surprised some by finishing above .500 and

reaching the playoffs. But there is plenty of room for improvement

with four players 22 or younger and key veterans returning.

Plus, with the financial flexibility to add a few key pieces,

the Jazz were setting their sights even higher next year – with

enough wins to earn home-court advantage in the postseason.

”I’m very confident all of us have the same goals and the same

mindset of getting better as a team,” center Al Jefferson said

Tuesday. ”We got a little taste this year. Now we’re greedy, we

want more.”

The only ones not happy were those who found themselves on the

outside looking on in the end, notably veteran guard Raja Bell and

swingman C.J. Miles. Bell is under contract another year but said

he wants out and blasted coach Tyrone Corbin as ”unprofessional”

for not communicating with him. Miles, a free agent next year,

struggled with injury and with finding his shooting touch and also

did not play in the postseason.

Others had only praise for Corbin, who was thrust into the

difficult position of replacing Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and

seeing superstar point guard Deron Williams traded last season then

dealing with last summer’s lockout.

”We bounced back quicker than anyone thought we would,” said

backup point guard Earl Watson, still on crutches after late-season

knee surgery. ”Everyone thought we’d be a rebuilding process for

five years. So we’re ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t mean we

stop. We keep pushing.”

That means this summer will be key for players such as Favors,

rookie center Enes Kanter, rookie guard Alec Burks and even

second-year pro Gordon Hayward, whom coaches want to participate in

the summer league with the team in Orlando, Fla.

Jefferson said he also plans to return to Santa Barbara, Calif.,

for a specialty training program, and is bringing Favors and Kanter

with him.

”I can see him and Derrick just dominating the league like Tim

Duncan and David Robinson did at one point in time – if they can

stay together,” Jefferson said.

That’s what made the playoff experience invaluable for guys like

Favors, who won’t turn 21 until July.

By Game 4 against San Antonio, Favors had earned a starting

role, and didn’t disappoint, with 16 points, 10 rebounds, two

blocks, two steals and an assist.

”He’s going to be something special,” Jefferson said. ”I just

hope I’m his teammate for the rest of my career. He’s going to get

better and better and when he gets some great post moves and when

he learns how to use his athleticism instead of running over people

… he’ll be trouble.”

The Jazz showed they can play with a Big 3 lineup, with

Jefferson, Favors and Paul Millsap moving to small forward.

Corbin said it was too early to say if that’s the direction the

team would go next season.

Jefferson and Millsap are both under contract next year,

scheduled to earn $15 million and $7.2 million, respectively.

At point guard, Devin Harris also is under contract and set to

earn $8.5 million. General manager Kevin O’Connor said the team

will explore whether Harris also could be a small shooting guard

next year or a second point guard.

”What you saw, when we were successful, he played well,”

O’Connor said of Harris. ”When you have the ball in your hand and

you’re the quarterback, you get blame or the credit.”

The Jazz won’t know until May 30 if they will have a first-round

draft pick as Golden State currently holds their pick unless

another team leap-frogs the Warriors in the lottery.

Their other first-round pick went to Minnesota when Utah

qualified for the playoffs.

Utah could still trade up to get into the draft, or acquire a

perimeter shooter in free agency. But O’Connor said finding someone

who can shoot and play defense is the key.

”The other thing is we’ve got to grow from within,” O’Connor

said. ”Everybody has got to get better. Everybody did that this

year. We’ve got to do that again.”

Corbin, meanwhile, said he is set with his staff.

Asked about giving Sloan the space he requested this year,

Corbin said enough time has passed now.

”It was great to see him at the game the other night and to see

him back in the building,” Corbin said. ”He wanted time away from

it and I didn’t want to pull him back by putting my problems and my

concerns on him. He’s had some time now and I think it’s time to

make a few more calls to him.”

Is there any way Corbin would consult with Sloan on a regular

basis?

”It would be great to,” Corbin said. ”It’s his choice. He’ll

have to decide what’s best for him, but I’d love to see him around.

I think he’d be a great asset for whatever position or area he

wanted to work with us. I’d love to have him around.”

The Jazz already feel as if they are laying the foundation for a

squad with stars and high-character players like the ones they had

during the Karl Malone-John Stockton-Sloan era.

Getting there will require more work.

”The last four or five games of the regular season we really

showed a lot of heart, a lot of character,” Millsap said. ”To

fight to get in the playoffs showed something. I think we made big

strides.”