When Gordon Hayward was moved to the bench 10 games into the season, there was a feeling that it would be temporary. A former lottery pick by the Jazz, Hayward represented the rare opportunity for the Jazz to build through the draft.
Can a player like that come off the bench?
He can, and in 36 games backing up Randy Foye, Hayward has thrived as the Jazz’s sixth man.
Hayward scored 23 points in Saturday’s 107-94 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, serving as a mismatch against Clippers backups.
“This notion that you have to start to be a good player,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said last week, “everyone needs to look at Manu Ginobili, who I think is a Hall of Famer, and the notion that you need to speed up development — for us, it doesn’t fit with our standards.”
So, what of it? Might this be the role in which Hayward thrives going forward?
“For me, it doesn’t matter,” Hayward said. “It’s whatever the team needs me to do.”
The Jazz originally moved Hayward to the bench because wing players Mo Williams and Marvin Williams demanded shots and coach Tyrone Corbin found it was difficult to get the ball in Hayward’s hands. However, the starting unit could use a lift with Marvin Williams slumping and Mo Williams likely weeks away from returning after thumb surgery.
However, Hayward’s performance off the bench has been one of the Jazz’s greatest bright spots this season.
“I think when you come off the bench you need to be sure to provide a spark,” Hayward said, “lift your team up a little bit. For the most part I think that’s what we did [against the Clippers], especially when we all got in there and brought us back for a little bit there, that’s our job.”
Burks buckles down
Corbin may have a headache to deal with when Mo Williams returns to the Jazz lineup. In his absence, second-year guard Alec Burks has surged. In February, Burks is shooting 47.5 percent (38-80) up from just 37.1 percent in January and a dreadful 4-of-22 November.
“He just continues to grow,” Corbin said.
The coach and Burks both credited one-on-one sessions with assistant coach Jeff Hornacek and player development assistant Johnnie Bryant as well as film sessions. However, Burks said he is “more hands-on, I’ve got to see it,” so watching film isn’t the best way for him to learn.
Burks complemented 12 points against the Clippers with six rebounds and three assists.
Corbin said he is still finding the best ways to coach and teach the popular combo guard, whose sophomore season has been complicated by switching between point guard and shooting guard. While the most noticeable improvement in Burks’ game has been a solid, confident jump shot, among the things Corbin said he still coaches Burks on are properly getting through screens and proper defensive stance.
“In games, you’ve got to remind him at times,” Corbin said. “Situations during the course of the game you’ve got to talk him through it — if he’s close to the bench, he can hear you. But he’s got to be able to play once the game is on, so it has to become instinctive to him.”