Raise your hand if you saw Jazz in playoff picture now
Raise your hand if you had the Utah Jazz in the playoffs this year.
Go ahead, get 'em up there nice and high. Let everyone know you were on board from the very beginning.
C'mon, now. Don't be shy.
Just as I thought. Only a precious few, and even from you happy bunch of positive thinkers I suspect a little revisionist history. Going into tonight's road game in Boston, the Jazz are not only in the mix, they appear to be moving up the standings, not down.
As this weird 66-game, lockout-shortened season winds down, the Western Conference playoff picture is as wide-open as Mel Gibson's social calendar. As of Tuesday afternoon, playoff seeds No. 4 through 8 were separated by just one game in the win column.
The Jazz, with a record of 27-21, sat in seventh place.
Now, granted, there are still 16 games remaining on their regular-season schedule and eight of them are on the road, so anything can happen.
On the other hand, eight of them are at home, so, well ... anything can happen.
Frankly, at this point in the column I'd love to issue a guarantee: The Jazz Will Make The Playoffs.
But, honestly, what do I know?
A month ago I threatened to call them a bunch of -- hang on a second, lemme look up the exact words -- basketball schizophrenics. They began the season by winning 12 of their first 19 games, but then limped into the All-Star break having lost 10 of 13.
At the time they were out of the playoff picture and appeared to be in danger of becoming a doormat.
I even wrote that " ... it's difficult to imagine a miraculous change (on the horizon)."
But since the All-Star break they've gone 12-6 and they breezed through the trade deadline without making a single move. That, apparently, allowed trade-worthy veterans like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Devin Harris to breathe a collective sigh of relief, which in turn sent the team on a six-game, post-deadline winning streak.
Go figure, huh?
The Jazz made themselves viable in the second half by getting a charge from their veterans and an assist from their four youngsters, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Now with 16 games left, if they can maintain that balance, they'll make the playoffs.
Yes, if they make the playoffs they'll miss out on not one, but two lottery draft picks in June.
However, they'll also gain a great deal in the way of experience and confidence.
"It's hugely important (to make the playoffs)," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's a great accomplishment it's a great experience (to see) the difference between regular season and how the intensity level changes during the playoffs."
In the mind of general m anager Kevin O'Connor, the simple act of being in the playoff hunt this late in the season is a good thing for the Jazz.
"The thing that's a key for us, and we said it from the beginning, is to play meaningful games (in March and April)," he said.
"These are meaningful games ... the intensity picks up, the quality of play picks up and those are the things that you get improvement on with your players."
O'Connor and Corbin are right. While having a couple of lottery picks would be nice -- and with a number of assets in hand, who's to say the Jazz can't find their way into the lottery anyway? -- experiencing playoff basketball would be invaluable for Utah's young players.
I'm still not about to offer a playoff guarantee.
But just for fun, raise your hand if you had the Jazz in the playoff chase on March 28.
Now keep it up there so I can give you a high five, because you saw something I didn't.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at email@example.com. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247