Injuries too much for team to overcome

By Bryan Chouinard, Staff Writer1

If anyone cares to remember what I said on Oct. 29, 20088212;”It’ll be the same old song this year”8212;then we shouldn’t be very surprised by where the Jazz stand at the halfway point of the 2008-09 NBA season.

Now, I’ll admit no one could have predicted the injury woes that the Jazz have suffered through this season. At the halfway point, Utah has had to use 14 different starting lineups and has limped to a 30-23 record at the All-Star break. The numerous starting lineups are attributed to major and well-documented injuries to Utah’s top three players.

Deron Williams missed 19 games because of a severely sprained ankle suffered in the preseason, Carlos Boozer has only played in 12 games all year thanks to knee surgery and Andrei Kirilenko has missed 15 games because of ankle surgery. With Boozer, AK-47 and guard Brevin Knight all out, the remainder of the season is shrouded with uncertainty.

The biggest question mark that the Jazz face during their last 29 games of the season is their chemistry. With so many different starting lineups, the team has struggled to develop individual roles on the court. With the return of AK and Boozer looming, the team will be hard-pressed to not only reincorporate the stars back into the rotation, but also to do so in a way that will allow them to ease their way back into game-time shape. There will be too much expected of them too quickly and while AK may not have a hard time adjusting to game speed again8212;having already played in 38 games this year8212;Boozer will struggle to get back up to speed in time to make a push for a top playoff spot. In addition to the injury to Boozer’s knee, Jazz fans must be anxious about the big man’s commitment to the team, considering comments he made earlier this season as well as the fashion in which he left Cleveland for Utah.

The biggest obstacles Utah will face in achieving preseason expectations might be completely out of its control. Utah is third in the Northwest Division behind the Denver Nuggets and the up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets made possibly the best trade of the season to this point when they dealt the beleaguered Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups, and the Blazers don’t seem to be slipping despite Greg Oden’s constant battle with various knee injuries.

Another obstacle Utah faces could be the improvement of another team fighting for the West’s final playoff spot.

With the firing of Terry Porter in Phoenix, it remains to be seen how the Suns will perform from this point forward. If they decide to keep Amare Stoudemire and resort back to the “run-and-gun” style of play that they used under Mike D’Antoni, the Suns could be rising in the desert. With the Suns battling the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the two remaining games against Phoenix could prove to be crucial.

When it’s all said and done, will the Jazz make the playoffs? Probably.

Will they live up to preseason expectations of challenging the Lakers or Spurs as a top team in the West? Not likely.

Injuries killed the Jazz and the team just won’t have enough time to gel before the playoffs get under way.

Injuries or not, preseason expectations were simply too lofty for the Jazz to live up to. Injuries aren’t their fault8212;then again, being overrated isn’t a fault either.

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Bryan Chouinard