In a recent podcast discussion between The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks, the two of them had some reassuring things to say about Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz.
Lately there have been several Gordon Hayward rumors that have seemed to point in an unfavorable direction for Utah Jazz fans. Originally, in spite of the allure of other teams pursuing his services in free agency, many viewed the Jazz as the front runners to retain Hayward this offseason. However, lately it seems that recent rumblings have caused a shift in that perception.
Between Boston, Miami and other teams that are sure to arise, it appears that Hayward will have some tough decisions to make this summer and many have resigned to the fact that he could very well be on his way out.
However, yesterday our very own Drew Mackay finally gave us some good news about the Hayward situation, relating the report that Gordon is rumored to be concerned about playing with Isaiah Thomas. There’s definitely some valid reason for concern there as the ball-dominant guard could take away from Hayward’s typical and effective style of play.
In the process, Drew also called me out for my pessimism regarding the Hayward situation which those of you who have followed my recent posts may very well agree with. From my point of view, I’d like to think I’m just delivering the news as it comes, and it just so happens that there certainly have been more negative reports than positive, but I’m happy to announce that today I’ll be bucking the trend and joining Drew with some good news of my own.
What is that news you ask? Well, in a recent episode of The Vertical podcast hosted by Adrian Wojnarowski where he chatted with Yahoo! Sports NBA Front Office Insider Bobby Marks, the two of them had some very reassuring things to say about Gordon Hayward and his impending decision.
It wasn’t all roses, as they recognized that Hayward could indeed leave, but they were both quick to point out that if Hayward left, it would be no fault of the Utah Jazz’s as they have done and are doing basically all they could possibly do to keep him. If Hayward leaves, it will strictly be for personal reasons, however, even if that ends up being the case it will be far from an easy decision for him.
In fact, Woj went as far as to say that Hayward would be “tortured doing it.” Below is a transcript of what Wojnarowski had to say in regard to that decision:
"If Hayward leaves, it’s not going to be because of what they have there or what they aren’t, it’s going to be geography, it’s going to be maybe, “I want to play in the East and get out of the West”…it is pretty rare and I know that there seems to be this growing speculation that Gordon Hayward could really leave. I’m not so sure.I think if Gordon Hayward were to leave Utah, he will be tortured doing it. It will be a tortured decision because of what he has there.He’s got a great coach, an elite NBA coach in Quin Snyder, who by the way, he’s played longer for than he played for Brad Stevens at Butler and who’s helped him become an All-Star, who he’s grown, developed, gotten better, and a general manager in Dennis Lindsey who has surrounded him with really terrific talent that is all on the upside."
All of those arguments are ones Jazz fans are very well familiar with, but hearing Woj’s take on how excruciating it would be for Hayward to leave really brings it all to life. Sure, there could be perceived greener pastures on other teams around the league, but it would be extremely difficult for Hayward to simply part ways with so many great aspects of playing in Utah.
Woj then went on to contrast Hayward’s situation to that of guys like Al Horford and Kevin Durant, commenting on how those two likely felt that they had done all they could do with their former teams, whereas Hayward’s Jazz team is just starting to show what they’re made of. Here’s how he put it:
"It’s a team on the uptick, usually guys don’t leave that. Now sometimes, like Horford…he knew maybe Atlanta, they had done all they could do. I think Kevin Durant felt, “I’ve done all I can do.” I think he believed that. I think Horford believed that leaving Atlanta.I don’t think Gordon Hayward can believe that.This was the year they broke into the playoffs, they beat the Clippers, won a seventh game on the road before they played the Warriors and you look at who’s around him – Rudy Gobert – and this team they have in Utah, there’s lots of reasons for him to stay.And I just think for them, if it ends up being about something else – geography, “I want to live somewhere else”, “I want to be in the East vs. the West” – that might be why he leaves. If it’s Boston, maybe he gets caught up in the history, the tradition, being a part of it, I get all that. But you look at what Utah has, what they’ve done, what they’ve put around him, I’m not sure they could have done much more for him."
I agree one hundred percent. The Jazz were the worst team in the Western Conference – the absolute, dead-last, worst team in the West – just four seasons ago. You look at teams like Minnesota or Sacramento that have seemed trapped in the lottery, or the Brooklyn Nets whose future looks doomed for years to come and it’s incredible that Hayward has been able to be a part of one of the greatest (albeit largely under-the-radar) turnarounds in the league in this decade.
A large part of that has to do with the incredible work that Dennis Lindsey has done. He’s drafted well, added key players and allowed the organization as a whole to do a terrific job of developing guys like Hayward and Gobert. There’s really not much more that the All-Star could have asked for.
And although the Jazz (as well as the rest of the league) are far from reaching the Warriors, and while, yes, moving to the East would provide a somewhat easier path of reaching the NBA Finals given that a team wouldn’t have to deal with Golden State until then, I still think the Jazz are one of the better-equipped squads to challenge the Warriors if a few things can fall into place for them.
One of those things obviously would be Gordon Hayward staying put. Hopefully in his inner debate of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference, he realizes that the Cleveland Cavaliers are almost as daunting of a foe as the Warriors and that at the end of the day, while reaching the Finals could be easier in the East, actually earning the ultimate goal and coming away with a championship will be just as difficult.
In the aforementioned podcast, Bobby Marks closed up the Hayward conversation by essentially praising the Jazz for where they’re at and echoing Woj’s sentiment that Hayward would be leaving several positives behind if he were to spurn the Jazz this summer. Here’s what he had to say:
"They’ve only scratched the surface, I mean that’s how I look at it. If this Jazz team had gone to the playoffs the last three years and lost in the first round, then, yes, I can understand where from a Gordon Hayward perspective, you know maybe somewhere else, a change of scenery is in the best interest for me and my family and my future.I mean this team, you lose in the second round here without George Hill for most of that Golden State series and, no, they wouldn’t have beat that Warrior team, but I think it would have been a little bit different here."
Marks then went on to discuss all the incredible resources that the Jazz have right now such as updated training facilities, an excellent player development staff and a solid roster, before closing things up with his final take on the current state of the Jazz:
"If this was maybe three years from now and this Jazz team was kind of running into a wall and hadn’t really maybe taken a step or had lost in the first round, then I would say yeah, sure I think the options are bound for him, but I look at this Utah team and they’re on the cusp of doing something really good here."
And in my mind, he hits the nail on the head right there. Hayward leaving the Jazz now would be like leaving a theatre right before the climax of the movie. It would be like deciding to stop the roller coaster and get off just as it had made its initial ascent before cascading into the fun part of the ride. It would be like working extremely hard for years to build a beautiful mansion, only to walk away from it and leave it abandoned and empty.
When looking at it that way, you can see why Woj said it would be a tortured decision for Hayward to leave.
The Jazz have finally broken through and have a chance to be an elite team in the West. While they certainly still have work to do, they can secure that status by simply retaining their All-Star. If Gordon Hayward stays, there’s no telling what new heights this Jazz team could reach and what kind of legacy he could leave in Utah. But if he leaves now, I imagine he’ll live forever with at least some amount of regret and a curiosity of what could’ve been had he stayed.
As the Hayward rumors continue to surface, it’s important to remember that virtually all news – good or bad – is likely only speculation and hearsay at this point. In fact, in a recent interview with 1280 The Zone, Utah Jazz radio voice David Locke was quick to say that no decision had been reached by Hayward.
Clearly, he still has a lot of figuring out to do and the Utah Jazz are bound to make some big moves between now and the start of free agency to put in one final plug for Hayward. But despite potentially conflicting reports that have and will surface, the only one that truly knows Hayward’s future is the man himself.
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And given all the positives he has with Utah, how torturous (as Woj put it) the decision would be to leave and the fact that the Jazz have done everything in their power to convince him to stay, Jazz fans most definitely shouldn’t count out the possibility that he may very well do just that.
Now how’s that for optimism?