COMMENTARY | After a poor showing in the 2012 playoffs, the Utah Jazz probably stepped onto the hardwood last Halloween with the intention of at least returning to the postseason.
But, 82 games later, they're on the outside looking in.
Here's what they need to do to bounce back next year.
1. Convince Kid Baller to take on a larger role
When he's not letting his scruff do its thing, Gordon Hayward looks a lot like an 18-year-old Mormon missionary. And he often acts like one, too. That is, he's a little too charitable with the basketball. For example, in the Jazz's final game of the year -- when the team was shooting just above the Mendoza Line -- Hayward continued to defer to his teammates, and by the time the clock hit double zeros, he had attempted just eight shots.
No. 20 has the skills to be an All-Star in this league: He can stroke it like Hornacek (he shot 41.5 percent from deep this year) and slash to the basket a la Kirilenko.
With three years of professional experience now under his proverbial belt, it's time for Hayward to morph into the star he was drafted to be.
2. Help Coach Corbin with his X's and O's
After losing 12 of 15 following the All-Star break, Ty Corbin rallied the troops in a Gordon Bombay kind of way, and during the last three weeks of the regular season, led the Jazz to a 9-3 record and near playoff berth. Not bad for a second-year coach.
Here's the problem: Despite all of its talent, this year's team (43-39) finished just one game ahead of the 2004 Jazz (42-40). Remember that roster? Of course you don't -- it was chock full of who-is-thats. Carlos Arroyo was the team's second-leading scorer!
I understand that Corbin isn't Jerry Sloan, but he should've accomplished more with this group. Let's hope he learns from this experience and meets with team officials during the offseason to discuss ways he can improve.
3. Find a true point guard
I'm not saying Mo needs to go. Williams is a solid basketball player, and he hit some clutch shots for Utah this year, including this buzzer-beater. However, the team was 22-24 with him as the starter. Plus, he's a shoot-first-pass-second point guard. What the Jazz need is someone who can create, someone who can get the bigs and wings some easy looks.
With plenty of salary cap space, general manager Dennis Lindsey should be able to find a formidable floor general. Two suggestions: Jose Calderon, who averaged 11.3 points, 7.1 assists and just 1.7 turnovers per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor for the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons last year; and Jeff Teague, who collected 14.6 points, 7.2 assists and 2.9 turnovers per contest while shooting 45.1 percent from the field for the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks.
Jared Bray, a graduate of Brigham Young University's broadcast journalism program, has followed the Utah Jazz since 2008, when he covered the team as a sports correspondent for KBYU-TV's Daily News at Noon.
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