Gordon Hayward’s two-ish years in the NBA have been marked with spells of brilliance, periods of vanishing acts and an unresolved debate over whether the former No. 9 overall pick will become a first-choice scorer, or a reserve equally capable of big nights as forgettable ones.
However, the 22-year-old’s oeuvre is not limited to his time with the Jazz. He is known as a big-shot small-school star, a relatable hero who only ever missed one shot.
Nowhere is that more true than Indianapolis, the metropolitan area of which includes his hometown Brownsburg, his alma mater and the Final Four to which he guided Butler in 2010.
Hayward returns to Indiana for the time with the Jazz, who play the Pacers at 5 p.m. Mountain at Bankers Life Fieldhouse third. Hayward has won and lost in games at Indiana, which for Hayward are always just a parade away from jamboree status.
“Any chance to play in front of friends and family like that is pretty cool,” Hayward said before scoring 7 points in the Jazz’s 92-90 win in Brooklyn. “A lot of people had that date marked and were telling me about that in the summer. It should be good.”
Two years ago, Hayward said, there were of Hayward’s jerseys in the stands than those of the Pacers.
“I’m from eight miles from Indianapolis,” he said, “and the fact they got to see someone they knew play in the NBA was cool for them and, obviously, pretty cool for me.”
Games back at home haven’t exactly been slump-busters for Hayward, who in previous trips has made visits to Butler to observe practice, spoken at the campus and been hosted at gatherings. In 2011, Hayward’s rookie year, the Jazz earned their first win without Jerry Sloan, two days after trading Deron Williams, but Hayward scored only 2 points in 14 minutes.
Last season, the Jazz lost 104-99; Hayward scored 11.
There won’t be much time for distractions, however. The Jazz are in Indianapolis for fewer than 24 hours. They arrived early Wednesday morning after flying in from Newark, and will immediately head to Miami post-Pacers.
Hayward averages 12.9 points per game since being moved out of the starting lineup 10 games into the season. However, he was 0-for-5 in Friday’s loss at Phoenix, and the next night struggled through a 3-for-8 night on Saturday against Memphis.
- Bill Oram