Surely you don’t want to put too much stock into Summer League games, but if you saw the game between the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic today, you have to be encouraged by the performance of Gordon Hayward. Hayward, who led all Jazz scorers with 14 points (on 3-5 shooting), came up with the biggest shot of the game when he hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left in the game. At the time, the Jazz were clinging to a 1-point lead, and they were hoping for a bucket to make it at least a 3-point lead. When Hayward received a pass from Sundiata Gaines, he released the 3-point shot, which resulted in a swish and a 2 possession lead (Larry Johnson was NOT in the building) for the Jazz. This turned out to be the eventual game-winner, and the Jazz had themselves their first win since closing out the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the NBA playoffs last season.
Now, of course, this is just a Summer League game, and you can’t really tell much about most guys. However, the total performance by Hayward, which includes his clutch 3-point dagger, shows me why the Jazz felt compelled to choose this guy. I know it’s early, and the games are meaningless, but when I watch Gordon Hayward on the floor, he just seems to know his role in the offense. He has not tried to do too much, and he has shown that he is willing to take and make the big shot during crunch time. As long as Hayward can continue to learn and grow, which I believe he will because he appears to be a true student of the game, I think he can have a nice first year with the Utah Jazz in Jerry Sloan’s proven system.
He seems like the kind of player who possesses the intangibles that are so important for an NBA player to have. So yes, his numbers might not be off the charts when you look at his stat-lines, but when he is in the game, the Jazz have definitely played better than when he has not been. In the long run, when teams are able to collect these type of players, they are usually well on their way to having a lot of success in the near future.
After the game, Hayward talked about his second game in the Summer League, and how he felt more comfortable the second time around:
“Today was a lot better. I felt a lot more comfortable out there. After getting that first day out of the way, overall as a team we were more comfortable.
“Everything is faster here, a little stronger. It’s a different game. For me it’s an adjustment. But I’ve got to keep learning and keep getting better every day.”
In their next Summer League game, the Utah Jazz will take on Gordon Hayward’s childhood hometown team, the Indiana Pacers.
FUN SIDE NOTE
– In Tuesday’s game, Patrick Ewing Jr. led all scorers with 17 points. Do you think it is a coincidence that his father was coaching the team?