Moving On: Hayward’s Out, Lindsey’s Back to Work

July 5th, 2017 | by Denim Millward

Andrew D. Bernstein via utahjazz.com

At 5:48 p.m. on Tuesday, Gordon Hayward created enough salt among the online Jazz community to line margarita glasses stretching from the Stockton and Malone statues to Fenway Park.

After what appeared to be a premature leakage of the news that Hayward was Boston-bound and a subsequent retraction, Jazz fans waited for what felt like eons. Countless grilled meats across the greater Salt Lake area grew cold as they were ignored in favor of relentlessly updated electronic devices. Finally, the now-infamous Players Tribune soliloquy was posted, confirming Jazz fans’ worst fears.

It’s an oft-repeated tale: the rare, just-reaching-his-prime talent plucked from the small market where he was nurtured, coached and subsequently blossomed, nabbed by a big-city team that can seemingly acquire all-stars at will. Despite Adam Silver’s desire for parity, Hayward’s departure following Kevin Durant bolting OKC for the greener pastures of the Bay Area gives plenty of ammunition to the argument that small-market teams are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to competing for titles.

This brutal, salt-in-the-wound reiteration of just how frustrating it can be to support a small-market team combined with what many feel was an unnecessarily drawn out and poorly handled sayonara from Hayward to set Jazz Twitter ablaze with a smorgasbord of negative emotions ranging from depression to seething rage.

It’s understandable. Utah had just gotten back to the playoffs for the first-time in four years. Not only that, but they dispatched the perennially touted (if also perpetually underachieving) Clippers team, triumphing in a Game 7 at the Staples Center. Optimism was arguably at its highest point since the star trio of Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur took the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs ten years ago.

And the delay? Well that just transformed what would’ve been a mere dumpster fire for Jazz fans to a toxic waste dump inferno. Hayward apparently made the decision to draw out Jazz fans’ suffering for several extra hours to finish a blog post that was widely criticized as pandering and disingenuous. It was like getting a rejection letter for the job of your dreams, but having to download it over dial-up internet.

The blowback was swift and severe. We’ve already had our first jersey-burning video in circulation, and the general weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth has been widespread and has continued through the time of this writing. (One silver lining of Hayward leaving was Rudy Gobert’s incredible Instagram post, which only served to further cement his universally-loved status in Utah.) The sympathy has also been pouring in from everyone from fans of other small-market teams such as Oklahoma City and Milwaukee to TNT’s David Aldridge, who summed up the frustrations of small-market teams nicely.

While the validation is nice, it does little to take the sting out of Hayward’s abrupt and yet excruciatingly drawn-out departure.

Utah is down, to be sure. But out? Far from it, actually.

While it’s easy to be pessimistic about a Jazz future sans Hayward, the quality of the remaining roster, front office, and ownership shouldn’t be overlooked. Amid the vociferous backlash against Hayward, Jazz ownership/management once again handled the departure with class, simply thanking Gordon for his time with the Jazz and wishing him well in the future.

From media reports, Dennis Lindsey wasted no time in getting back to work. Hours after the official announcement was at last made, the Jazz had already reportedly started working on finding Hayward’s replacement. Names such as Otto Porter and Rudy Gay were connected to Utah. Yes, Porter has signed an offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets, and yes, the Wizards are virtually guaranteed to match any max offer thrown his way, but the willingness to pursue a player who was all but certain to get a max offer sheet is a crystal-clear indicator that Lindsey and the Jazz are still willing to make major moves.

One potential immediate improvement of the roster was quickly overshadowed by Hayward’s departure. Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell electrified the Jazz Summer League crowd Monday night, leading all scorers with 23 points and also dishing out 5 assists in Utah’s victory over the Spurs. Mitchell’s pre-game dunks also had the Huntsman Center crowd swooning like a collective Blanche Deveraux over a wealthy and handsome new gentleman caller.

Losing Hayward is tough, there’s no doubt. Ultimately, he made what he felt was the best decision for himself and his family, albeit in a way that was tone deaf at best. It’s a setback, and a considerable one, but it’s not crippling. One thing remains clear.

The Jazz made Gordon Hayward. Gordon Hayward didn’t make the Jazz. With the complement of still-impressive assets, second-to-none leadership and proclivity to aggressively yet intelligently make moves, there’s still plenty of reason to get excited for the 2017-18 Jazz.

They’re in good hands.

Denim Millward

Denim Millward

Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
Denim Millward

  • Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive
    Utah Jazz
    1
    November 11th, 2017

    Salt City Seven 2017-18 Archive

    Since the start of the 2015-16 season, the Salt City Seven has been our weekly, multi-faceted way of catching up on all things...Read More

4 Comments

  1. Joel says:

    “The Jazz made Gordon Hayward. Gordon Hayward didn’t make the Jazz.” I love that line.

    • IDJazzman says:

      I’ll second that, great line.
      The other great line, “Ultimately, he made what he felt was the best decision for himself and his family, albeit in a way that was tone deaf at best”.
      Nice article.

  2. Doug Gray says:

    I am upset and sad about losing Gordon Hayward. Big Loss. Frustrating.
    A few things to consider:
    1) We talk about players we develop “owing us”, but on the other hand, we cut players all the time who give us everything they got. If Neto got cut, would we say that we “owed him” a contract? He changed countries and cultures to play for the Jazz. Huge sacrifice. He seems to give us everything he has – but we seem to “owe” him nothing.
    2) In the corporate world, when a big job is available, often there are 3 candidates and the employer can play them against each other to negotiate a deal with one. My guess is that Hayward and his agent understood they ONLY had power to dictate wants/needs to an organization ONCE, and that time was NOW. Whatever he asked of Boston, having the leverage of the trips to SLC and Miami, probably allowed Gordon to shape his new team to benefit his odds of a title. Don’t be surprised if the Celtics trade draft picks for players to win sooner than later – a likely Hayward need. Maybe they negotiated with the owner to go over the salary cap. If Hayward had declared “I’m a Celtic” too soon, he would have had ZERO bargaining power.
    Yes, his one chance to shape his future hurt the Jazz and Miami. This sucks, but it IS understandable.

  3. Spencer says:

    Great article. Much more accurate and well-thought-out than the guys at DN and the Trib. One day I hope to see another player who, like Dirk, Duncan, sees as much value in building something as getting a ring for jumping on a bandwagon that was already built.

    I believe there will come a day when Durant and Hayward look at the excellent situations they left and ask themselves what might have been.

    Durant could have possibly beat the Warriors in OKC this year if he stayed. The Jazz could have competed with both next year if they both stayed. Instead we can now watch the NBA much like we watch summer league. Only wondering and imagining what things will be like in 3-5 years when the other 29 teams have a chance.

    Finally. If Hayward were to make this move for basketball reasons I can only assume that he means a going to the place where it will be easier to win and be an all-star and play in conference finals. BUT HE COULD NOT MEAN PLAYING ON THE BEST TEAM. Boston has very big holes in rim protection, defense wherever IT is playing and rebounding. Five of their best 7 players play the same position. Thomas and Harford will NEVER be as good as they have been in the past. And Thomas was never as valuable as he appeared in the regular season. (Remember the only game they won vs Cleveland he was out and Smart played an outlier game on both ends to sneak by).

    Nobody on that team a compliments Hayward like Gobert. The Jazz had no holes (except for Rubio’s shooting) with regular health. So I believe they had the more clear better team now. The future we don’t know. We do know what we have.

    So Hayward is betting on rookies and future picks to be ready in the next three years or he is betting on easy. I think he chose easy, not hard and definitely not great. Like Durant. Could have created something great, instead rode someone else’s coat-tails.

    Lifting that trophy the forst time for a team is much heavier lifting that working on #18. Especially when most of the heavy lifting is done for you.

    Too bad. Could have done something singular. As it turns it. May just bepart of something, a third wheel, to a group playing on an eneven field with distinct advantages.

    You could have been Rocky. No more. Now your best hope is to not be a disappointment to spoiled fans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *