If Jeff Hornacek really had wanted to go old-school on his pals among the Utah Jazz, he wouldn’t have chatted them up till Saturday night.
After all, Hornacek’s Suns played 96 minutes of basketball against the club for which he previously played and served as an assistant coach. Yet here was Hornacek, after Phoenix’s victory in Salt Lake City on Friday, visiting Jazz coach Ty Corbin and his staff in their offices at EnergySolutions Arena. The former Jazz shooting guard had made a point not to fraternize prior to the game, as reported by the Deseret News’ Jody Genessy:
“I try and tell our players it semi-drives me nuts when guys are out there BS-ing with their buddies while they’re warming up for the games,” Hornacek said. “Maybe I’m too old school, but I usually don’t talk to the guys beforehand. After the competition, you go say, ‘Hello,’ and buddy up.”
The tricky part this weekend was the home-and-home quirk of the Suns’ and Jazz’s schedules, which put them on the same court 24 hours later in Phoenix. Maybe Hornacek figured a plane flight, a change of venue and a wake-up call was enough delineation between games. No one is suggesting that any secrets or strategies changed hands or that warm feelings softened up either side. But the end of one date’s postgame and the next one’s pregame did seem a little blurry.
Especially after Utah repaid the Suns by winning on their court. It was the Jazz’s first road victory of the season after an 0-9 start.
The much-needed streak-buster was driven by rookie Trey Burke, who scored 20 points and hit a late 3-pointer. Burke, whose early season was marred by a broken finger that sidelined him more than a month, had six rebounds, three assists and just one turnover. After being picked (No. 9 overall) and traded by a team (Minnesota) that could use some depth at point guard, Burke – an NCAA tournament hero – has begun asserting himself.
“He’s continuing to learn. It’s a tough situation for him. It’s a lot being thrown at him in a short amount of time,” Corbin said. “He missed a lot of training camp and the early part of the season, but he’s growing every night out there and we’re going to continue to help him grow.”
After this one, Hornacek went old-school again but in a different way. As Genessy wrote, he “was one playing-like-they-were-wearing-tuxedos-reference short” of a Jerry Sloan quote:
“We said it from the start of the game, ‘You can’t give them life,’” Suns coach Hornacek said. “You come back from winning [Friday] night and I think they thought they were good. Our guys thought they could just show up [Saturday] and win the game, and in this game it doesn’t happen that way. But they don’t want to listen to it. Coaches are telling them they have to be ready and that’s what happens.”
Not a moment too soon for Utah, which has four of the next five at home before embarking on stretch of eight roaders in 10 games