Jazz remain in chase for 2013 NBA playoffs

Feb 18 2013 - 11:47pm



SALT LAKE CITY -- The midway point of the season has come and gone and the Utah Jazz remain in the chase for the 2013 NBA playoffs. For them, that's a positive sign and a reason to feel optimistic looking ahead to this week's trade deadline and, beyond that, the final 28 games of the regular season.

On the heels of a four-day All-Star break, the Jazz returned to practice Monday in preparation for tonight's home game with the Golden State Warriors.

Third-year swingman Gordon Hayward (right shoulder sprain) will be a game-time decision tonight. Point guard Mo Williams (right thumb) is out.

Hayward went through a full practice on Monday. Williams also returned Monday for non-contact drills for the first time since undergoing surgery on his right thumb in early January.

The Jazz (30-24) have won in a row and five of their last eight. They are in third place in the Northwest Division and in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference playoff chase.

"We can play against anybody on any floor," said center Al Jefferson, noting the Jazz picked up victories over title contenders Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City during the first half of the season.

Utah went into the All-Star break having won two in a row. However, those consecutive wins followed a two-game skid.

"We didn't want to just back our way into the All-Star break," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We wanted to play our way into it and play our way into the best record that we could have at that point."

With the Feb. 21 trade deadline looming, the team is being cautious with its decision-making.

"Look, we all want to be (a) championship contender right now," general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "We're striving towards those goals. We're trying to build and maintain a culture, maintain the culture that (former coach Jerry) Sloan started."

Lindsey recently praised Corbin for maintaining the culture which first began with former coach Frank Layden and was carried on by Sloan.

"The best way to keep your culture is add great people that are very professional, that are passionate about being here," Lindsey added. "But winning goes along with that. Look, we understand that the public -- as are we -- are excited about the young guys. But we've got to bring them along at the appropriate pace."

The "young guys" Lindsey was referring to are Hayward, 22, Derrick Favors, 21, Alec Burks, 21, and Enes Kanter, 20. They appear to be Utah's foundation going forward, yet Jefferson, 28, and Paul Millsap, 28, are the team's top scorers.

There has been trade chatter regarding each player.

Lindsey said he would not comment on rumors. He also said he and vice president Kevin O'Connor are always looking to improve the team but would not mortgage the future.

Asked whether the Jazz are fielding more or making more phone calls, Lindsey offered a no comment.

"I wouldn't comment on the nature of how we're handling it," he said.

"Look, we've got good players that have been very professional," he added. "They know the nature of this business. They've seen trade deadlines come and go, they've seen drafts come and go, they've seen free agency come and go. They know what that means relative to their careers."

Lindsey was asked if he's confident there are trades available that could take the Jazz closer to their goal of being title contenders. In response he said he is optimistic about the team's future because of its strong ownership and stable organization.

"I'm very optimistic about the future of the Utah Jazz for this reason: we have quality organization led by (team owners) the Millers," Lindsey said. "Our fundamentals in and around the organization are very strong. I'm optimistic that we have a really good leader and good man in Ty Corbin."

Williams has no timetable for his return. He wants to ensure there is no setback as he regains mobility in the joint.

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