I really like being the underdog. So when we play against a team that is considered one of the best in the NBA and everybody kind of writes us off, I enjoy those games. It’s a good feeling when you’re competing in a game when nobody gave you a chance to win, and better yet, you win it, like we did last week against the San Antonio Spurs.

That probably goes back to my days at Butler when we were almost always the underdogs.

In general, I’ve always enjoyed taking on challenges, which is good because this season has definitely had plenty of those. This past weekend was a good example.

Miami Heat v Utah Jazz

It’s not easy to win games in the NBA, especially against some of the teams we’ve played — teams with a lot of veteran guys and players that know how to win. Winning is something that you have to learn how to do. I’m not making excuses for the way our team has played early in the season. We need to be better.

But we do have a lot of inexperienced players, and experience in the NBA is huge.

Talent and effort can only get you so far in a game. Those things can definitely put you in a position to be successful and give you an opportunity to make plays in the closing moments of a game so you can get the win. But experience is what helps you close those games out, and a lot of times that’s where we come up just barely short.

In a lot of our close losses, we’ve been up against teams that have been together for a number of years, and know what it takes to get the job done. Teams like the Clippers, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and the Mavericks, with Dirk Nowitzki and all those other veteran guys. Those teams have proven over the years that they know how to win. We’re still learning to do that.

Ultimately, the situations we’ve been in can only help us in the future. The more times we’re put in those situations, the better we’ll get at executing, and eventually, we’ll learn how to close out and win games more consistently, just like those teams have.

You can already see that happening this year. We’ve played a pretty tough schedule so far. We’ve beaten some good teams when we made big-time plays, and had different guys knock down huge shots to help us win.

LEARNING QUICKLY

One of the bigger issues we’ve had is falling behind early in games, and putting ourselves in a hole. That said, I’ve noticed that when we get our backs against the wall, we want to fight. We come out and perform, and we make a run to come back. Unfortunately, when we do that, we often run out of gas and end up coming up short.

If we can learn to not let our back get up against the ropes before we start playing with that drive and that fighter’s mentality, I believe we can be a lot better.

When we put it all together, we have spurts where we look really good. I think we’re the number one scoring team in the NBA in the third quarter, which just goes to show we have that ability. When we come out of the locker room after halftime down big, everybody’s active, everybody’s engaged and everybody is trying to do everything they can to help us get back in. I love that urgency.

But we need to have that from the start of games.

1215_gh2

There are a lot of little things we’re still learning. We have these situations where we put in maximum effort for a short period of time, and then if it doesn’t pay off, we kind of hang our heads, and it costs us.

For example: There are 24 seconds in a shot clock in the NBA, and we’ll play really well on defense for 18 of those seconds, forcing the other team to take a tough shot. But then when the ball goes up, we kind of relax as a team. And while we’ve let off the gas, the ball gets bobbled around, the other team gets the rebound, goes up for a putback, and gets a foul call for the and one.

So all of a sudden, an instance of good defense that potentially could’ve gotten us a transition opportunity turns into the opponent getting three points and the ball stopping. Now we have to walk the ball up the court and go attack their defense which is already set.

It’s a big difference-maker, and it snowballs.

Three or four of those plays in a row, and all of a sudden, you’re looking at a 15-2 run.

Managing those deflating plays is something that we’re working on, and that work is helping. We’ve been looking at it on film, and recently, we decided as a group that we couldn’t tolerate that from ourselves any more. We have to pick each other up and say, “Move on. Focus on the next one.”

When we’re connected together like that, we’ll be a lot better.

San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz

Little things can change the game in big ways. In that same situation, if somebody sinks down from the weak side, blocks out the big and gets the rebound, we can hustle down to the other end to get a fast break score.

It’s a matter of execution, because we’ve got the preparation down. We are doing everything we can to get ourselves ready for each and every single game. We might be one of the most prepared teams in the NBA through the way we’ve been practicing, the detail that we’ve had, the film we’ve watched, and the individual work we’ve done with the coaches.

We are as prepared as we need to be.

Practicing it before the game, being prepared, knowing what you’re going to do is extremely important. But at some point, when the lights come on and we’re out there in front of everybody, we have to execute the game plan that we’ve prepared, and do the things we’ve been doing in practices.

Games are naturally a different animal. It’s a different speed and things don’t necessarily work out the way that you draw it up in the huddle. The defense may do something different that you’ve never seen before. So the more we’re out there on the floor together in different situations, the more a lot of these things that we have to do will become second nature for us too.

It doesn’t have to be a two- or three-year rebuilding process. If we can be quick learners, and grow from the mistakes we’ve made in the last few weeks, in the months to come, we’ll be a much better team than we are right now.

MOVING AND ADJUSTING

Off the court, the start to the season has been pretty hectic.

Our move into our new home is going slower than expected. I’ve never really moved before, so it’s been a new experience. I thought it would be a little bit easier than it has been, but I guess this is just how it is.

My schedule and being on the road a lot definitely makes things difficult because there’s a lot to be done, and it puts a lot of stress on my wife, Robyn, because I’m not here. She has to take care of a lot of things that she’s never done before either.

Eventually we’ll get it all together.

We did get our TV hooked up and got some of the furniture in, but we still have furniture that’s being shipped. Our dog is also slowly but surely trying to ruin all the furniture that we just got.

Other than all that, it’s been good so far. It’s good to have a house. Luckily, we finally got the Internet working, so I’ve been able to play some video games when Robyn goes to sleep. I did get back into the swing of things with League of Legends. The game just went through a huge update that changed a lot of things, so it’s been cool to see the new updates and changes.

The best thing about the new place is our big living room and kitchen. We wanted to have a huge, open area where we could just relax and the kitchen is right there. You can just kind of watch TV and kick back and relax.

GandRWe’ve been enjoying married life. It’s been awesome to have Robyn here to support me. I think she misses her family a little bit, and that’s been difficult on her because she’s never been away from her family like I’ve been away from mine.

But she’s made good friends with some of my teammates’ wives. Having other women who are in similar positions as her to help her and just be a friend to her has been great.

That’s definitely something I appreciate about the Jazz organization. They cultivate a family atmosphere in every way. We were able to spend Thanksgiving over at the Novak’s house, and that was pretty great. The team has also thrown a couple dinner parties for the wives, and they really do look out for the players’ significant others. That’s something that I think is overlooked some places, but it’s a huge part of the players playing well.

At the end of the day, the saying holds true: Happy wife, happy life.