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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Hayward Project

On the day of the 2010 NBA Draft, Christmas Day seemed to have come early for Jazz faithful. Jazz fans were licking their chops in anticipation of unwrapping that coveted Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, à la A Christmas Story, in the form of a number 9 NBA lottery pick. Santa Claus Isiah Thomas, in yet another bumbling deal as the Knicks GM, had somehow dropped this number 9 present into the lap of the Jazz five years prior. The highly anticipated 5-year wait had come. Finally, the missing piece of the puzzle could be plugged in. The Jazz could now pick up the player to get them over the hump, a player that could propel the organization past the juggernauts of the Western Conference. When the pick was announced it was not exactly the savior Jazz fans were looking for:

The image of the baby-faced Butler University star, Gordon Hayward, was reigned down with boos by Jazz fans gathered outside Energy Solutions Arena, like children huddled around the Christmas tree. Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor could only retort, “My hope is that you aren’t booing in two years.” As an unexpected and demoralizing season carried on, with the loss of head coach Jerry Sloan and the trading of Jazz icon Deron Williams, the boos that day seemed to be justified. With almost three quarters of the season done, Hayward was averaging less than 4 points per game and had little to no impact in games he received plying time. But with a never-say-die resilient attitude, a driven Hayward began to pick up his game. He’s made a surge in the last stretch of the waning season that has sparked hope in the hearts of dispirited Jazz fans. He put up 22 points, 2 steals, 5 assists and 6 rebounds in an 87-86 win in Los Angeles against the Lakers. And put up similar numbers against Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans, all Playoff teams. Not to mention, gave a hard-nosed defensive performance against superstar Kobe Bryant (see below), holding him under 6 points of his regular season average and forcing 7 Black Mamba turnovers (Gordon “Kobe-Stopper” Hayward?). When we look back at this season, a season that fans could easily wallow about, let’s look at one positive aspect.Though a late-bloomer, Hayward has made monumental steps to become an influential NBA player. And could be a great asset to a solid new Jazz cast. As Kevin O’Connor predicted, maybe we won’t be booing in 2 more years. Maybe Hayward is the Red Ryder Carbine-Acion Two-Hundred-Shot Range model Air Rifle we were hoping for all along. Once upon a time, Jazz fans booed a risky 1984 pick, and that guy ended up doing pretty well, ever heard of John Stockton?

Court is adjourned.

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