SALT LAKE CITY - The frustration over the Utah Jazz's disintegrating season reached the top of the organization last week.
Owner Larry Miller isn't happy. He spent like never before last summer, but the Jazz are likely headed for their first losing season since 1982-83.
Miller made a brief but loud locker room speech after a 102-99 overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Monday. And he didn't back off on the criticism later in the week.
"I can understand his feelings. It's kind of not what he expected for the season. What everybody expected. Actually, what I expected," forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "Right now, we have (a) tough time."
The Jazz fell to 16-33 Tuesday with a loss at Denver, their fifth in six games. Miller appeared at a news conference the next day to announce a shuffle in the Jazz's broadcasting lineup and afterward elaborated on his locker room rant. The Jazz responded to Miller's challenge by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-82 on Friday night to improve to 17-33.
Miller said he was disappointed with the effort from all the players. But he singled out forward Carlos Boozer, who signed a six-year, $68 million free agent deal over the summer. Boozer is a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate who spent his first two seasons in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I like Carlos a lot. I try to remember he's only 23. But he's here because we need a big presence at power forward and I just hope he will play the way he ought to for 82 games," Miller said after the news conference.
Boozer and Miller met Thursday and resolved any hard feelings. In Friday's game, Boozer recorded his first double-double since Jan. 23, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Jazz beat the slumping Timberwolves. Boozer, who has 22 double-doubles this season, also had four assists and a steal.
"This is one of the best times we have played as a team all year, especially against a good team like them," Boozer said Saturday. "I just wanted to go out and get back on track. I have been a little bit of a tough spell these last few games. I just wanted to pick it back up and try to get back to the level of play that I usually am."
Although he led the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game (he now averages 17.9 points and 9.0 rebounds a game), Boozer had reached double figures just twice in the previous six games leading into Friday night's contest. He scored five against the Knicks and just four on the Nuggets the next night.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Utah's problems are deeper than Boozer's slump.
"I expect more from everybody. I don't think specifically that I can say that (about) one guy," Sloan said. "Whatever the reason is, we're not getting it done, so that responsibility falls in my hands."
Sloan defended his young team, noting many of the players are in roles they've never had before. But they're getting a painful lesson in what is expected of them, and as long as Miller is paying them, Sloan said the owner is entitled to vent.
"I've never really had a problem with somebody getting upset. Because I've been upset myself," Sloan said. "Losing is tough. Unless you like it. If you don't mind losing, then it's probably not that difficult."
The Jazz visit Phoenix on Monday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday before taking a week off for the All-Star break.
Sloan said he's considering some lineup changes, but Boozer will continue to start at power forward. He hopes to get the right combination soon to revive the Jazz.
"All we can do is try to show them and teach them," Sloan said. "If that doesn't work, then we'll see what happens. I don't like the possibilities of the consequences that come after that."
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