Back in June I remember looking at my smartphone in disbelief. The only thing I could mutter was:“Gordon Hayward? Really, Gordon Hayward?”
The kid who had broken America’s NCAA brackets, the kid who no one knew about before the year started, the kid who looked like Andy from Toy Story 3, the Jazz drafted him? What were they thinking?! They could have drafted Xavier Henry (still arguing over a rookie salary), Ed Davis (Al Jefferson or Ed Davis, you decide), or Cole Aldrich (Tag 2.0). But for some reason all those choices made more sense in my head than Gordon Hayward. I kept thinking:
“We needed to get bigger! All we did was get skinnier!”
Then I heard that the crowd at ESA booed him. Now this made me feel like an awful fan. I can’t imagine walking into a new job on the first day of work and getting booed by everyone. Can you imagine that? Booed by an entire arena filled of fans hundreds of miles away only because you were not 7’0″. Jazz fans at Energy Solutions Arena booed a kid pursuing his dream. Afterwards, I called my Dad and asked him what he thought. Expecting him to be full of gloom I was surprised by his answer:
“We booed John Stockton. What do we know?”
He was right. Darrell Griffith, Karl Malone, and Deron Williams all got cheers from Jazz fans when they were drafted. John Stockton? Not so much. I think we all know how that panned out. Turned out Stockton was a decent basketball player.
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What did Kevin O’Connor say of this Andy look-a-like?
I hear all of the fans and you can appreciate what the fans are saying. They wish and we wish that we had the third or fourth pick; we didn’t. We think we got a player that’s going to be a really terrific player in the NBA……The only thing I hope is that in two years you’re not booing. -Kevin O’Connor-
Well, I know it hasn’t been two years but summer league has been played. Now the analysts are talking about how they think these draft picks will pan out after seeing them in summer action. What have they said about Gordon Hayward?
Get used to lofty praise for Hayward, despite somewhat pedestrian numbers. He does all the little things that don’t show up on stat sheets — smart help on defense, toughness in digging out loose balls inside and great awareness of whom to move the ball to in their offense. He’s really a 2 who can play the 3 and even some 4 within a few years. How many guys can we write that about?
Flash Gordon Hayward
With Kyle Korver gone, Utah could use outside shooting, and the situation is almost perfect for Hayward. Unless he’s a total bust, it’s hard to imagine him not pushing for starter’s minutes at some point this season. Hayward isn’t just a spot shooter, either; he can score in other ways, as he showed in summer league. And it helps to have Deron Williams around to create shots for you. Utah has a solid history in Draft decisions and this looks like another one.
Coach Jerry Sloan had high praise for Gordon Hayward (ninth pick) after watching him in Orlando. “He’s not a mistake-free player,” Sloan told the Desert News. “This is a game of mistakes. He’ll make a mistake here or there. But he just plays. He just plays basketball. “We had another guy here years ago who did the same thing, and he ended up being a pretty good player — John Stockton. “I don’t mean to put that kind of pressure on [Hayward], but he plays.”
So far Hayward has looked like a solid player. Jerry Sloan even invoked a reference to hallowed Stockton. I was impressed with his summer league debut. Watching him one could see he was willing to do the little things to help his summer team win. While the rest of the players were ball hogging and trying to show they were worthy of a call to a training camp, Hayward was unselfish and played within the system. Just imagine what will happen when he plays with a team of guys who all play within the system.
Sloan was right when he said, “He just plays.” While I may have been disappointed when I first heard the Jazz drafted him, I’m now excited to see him in action. I think the Jazz might have found another diamond in the rough. After this summer, I have decided with my Dad’s philosophy:
“We booed John Stockton. What do we know?”Follow Mychal on twitter: @My_Lo