Utah Jazz fans showed their appreciation of Gordon Hayward by chanting his name several times near the end of Tuesday’s Game 4 loss, letting the impending free agent know one last time just how beloved he is on this team.
Much to the dismay of Utah Jazz fans, the exhilarating 2016-17 season came to an abrupt end on Monday night as the Jazz fell to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the second round of the playoffs by a score of 121-95 in what was a four-game sweep. Despite the discouraging ending, this was still a successful season in terms of Utah’s growth process and there’s plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.
Of course, a great deal of that optimism hinges on the offseason decisions of Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward. Set to become a free agent this summer, the Jazz will obviously do everything in their power to get him to stay with the Jazz and continue to build what he has been such an integral part of forming.
Jazz brass and the team have done an excellent job of making a case for Hayward to stay as he has been surrounded with a talented group of guys that earned a 51-win season and burst into the second round of the playoffs despite being a lottery team the year before. The Jazz are still young for the most part, have ample cap space and some solid assets that could be used to help further improve the team next year.
In other words, the future is bright for the Jazz and in all reality, outside of one of the league’s current title contenders (who likely couldn’t afford Hayward anyway), he’d be hard-pressed to find a much better situation, not only from a basketball standpoint, but also financially speaking (the Jazz can pay him more than any other team).
That all will certainly weigh heavily on Hayward’s mind as he looks to make his decision, but as if that wasn’t impactful enough, the Jazz have one other wild card up their sleeve for making an argument that Hayward should stay put: He is absolutely adored by his fans.
That adoration was in full effect last night in the waning minutes of Game 4. As it was already apparent that the Jazz’s season was coming to a close, Gordon Hayward checked out of the game and was met by a resounding chant of his name throughout the arena.
The “Gordon Hayward” chant picked up a couple other times, including as the Jazz All-Star exited the court at the end of the game, to which he acknowledged the crowd support and the place went nuts for the final time of the 2016-17 season.
But hopefully it won’t be the last time that Gordon Hayward is the one to send them into such a frenzy.
Following the game, Gordon Hayward had nothing but good things to say about the Jazz organization, the fan support for the team and his love for the community.
Per KSL’s Andy Larsen, here is what Gordon stated regarding his reaction to the crowd chanting his name:
"“That was really cool. I’ve done a lot of growing up here in Salt Lake City, and for them to stick with me and stick with us through the downs that we’ve had, it means a lot. I have nothing but love for this community, and that was pretty special.”"
He also had the following to say in his post-game interview, per Basketball Insiders’ Ben Dowsett:
"“With everything that we’ve fought through, the adversity of guys being injured – key guys being injured, missing multiple games, missing long stretches of the season – for guys to step up and play the way they did, for us to still have the season that we did, I think it says a lot about our character. I think it says a lot about who we are as people. We’re fighters. I’m thankful that I got a chance to play with these guys, and we had a great season because of that.”"
As several fans and others pointed out on social media, the last part of that statement is a bit ominous and seems as if perhaps Hayward is talking in past tense…but hopefully that’s nothing more than paranoid speculation. He could very well be saying he was thankful for that chance and looking forward to more such chances in the future with his Jazz teammates.
That’s a nice thought, but there’s still no questioning that his future is very much in doubt. As a result of that, so is the future of the Utah Jazz. However, as Jazz fans showed overwhelmingly last night, Hayward is very much loved in the Utah community. They clearly want him to stay with the team and are ready to continue to support and praise him throughout his Jazz tenure. That could and should hold some sway over the Jazz All-Star.
Several different factors will undoubtedly influence Hayward’s final decision and of course at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he feels is right for him. Nevertheless, I have to say that I agree 100 percent with the Utah Jazz’s David Locke in the tweet below:
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From all of Jazz Nation, Gordon Hayward, you’ve become our leader. And we hope beyond all hope that you stay.