Derrick Favors is one of the young core players for the Utah Jazz who they hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

Derrick Favors is one of the young core players whom the Jazz hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

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The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a tight race at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture as the regular season comes to a close. Andy Larsen, a beat reporter for KSL.com and managing editor of Salt City Hoops on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, joins us to explain why making the playoffs this season is especially important for this young, up-and-coming Jazz team. He delves deeper into whether Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors still have room to grow, how sophomore Rodney Hood has exploded onto the scene and the next steps for the Jazz in trying to become a championship contender. Finally, he discusses Jerry Sloan’s legacy in Utah and how one of the all-time great coaches in NBA history might still be underrated. Excerpts below:

2:11-3:10 on the value of making the playoffs for these Jazz:

“Obviously you hope that playoff experience gives them some idea of how much room there is to still to go… you kind of show the young players how much work there is left to still be a championship-caliber team. I think that’s valuable even if you do get swept or lose in five games… I think it’s helpful for free agents to see that they are a playoff team on the rise and can be part of something good… Then you look at Gordon Hayward, who can opt out of his contract next summer. I think you have to start to put together a case of why he should stay on the Utah Jazz, and that starts with multiple playoff appearances.”

4:12-4:52 on the Jazz’s potential first-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors:“

You look at [the two close losses to the Warriors during the regular season in Utah] and really both games they were one shot away. I think what’s really interesting is they didn’t need a bad shooting game from the Warriors in order to get it… They (the Warriors) actually shot 35, 40 percent from 3 in both of those games. It’s just the Jazz were able to lock down the inside shots and play some good switching defense on the outside, and that kind of frustrated the Warriors… I think that would give you hope for maybe being able to steal one at home and maybe play the Warriors better than the other teams at the bottom of the Western Conference would.”

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