Kragthorpe: Jazz should start Gordon Hayward
Published: February 25, 2013 09:26AM
Updated: February 26, 2013 05:26PM
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Utah Jazz's Gordon Hayward drives to the basket during the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, Pool)

The voice in my head is Jerry Sloan’s. I’m picturing the former Jazz coach, standing behind the trash can that served as his podium for interviews after the team’s game-day shootarounds. He’s reminding us that whether a player is in the starting lineup is irrelevant, because what matters is who’s on the court at the end of a game.

And once again, I’m not listening to him.

Gordon Hayward should start for the Jazz, beginning tonight vs. Boston at EnergySolutions Arena.

Coach Tyrone Corbin and his staff have gone long enough with Marvin Williams as their starting small forward. Certainly, Corbin has his reasons for sticking with Williams — including his own, Sloan-style stubbornness. I’m sure Corbin worries what a demotion would do to Williams, and whether the Jazz would get even less production from him in a reserve role.

There’s also danger in overreacting to Saturday’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles, where the Jazz were outscored by 25 points with Williams on the floor and were plus-12 when Hayward was playing. Consider that in last Tuesday’s win over Golden State, Williams had a plus-11 rating to Hayward’s plus-1. Williams’ defense justifies his playing time.

Yet if Hayward is going to play more minutes than Williams anyway, why not just start him? At this time last year, I was endorsing Hayward’s coming off the bench. At that stage of his development, with his team-first mentality, he needed to know his scoring was necessary to make him assert himself offensively. He’s grown beyond that point, to where he can thrive with the starters.

The move to the bench also might free up Williams to become the offensive leader of the second unit. It’s worth a try. Corbin can afford to experiment. The Jazz have 26 games to prepare themselves for the playoffs, and they’ll have to do something extraordinary to win a first-round series.

Why not take a chance and do something slightly different, right here and now?

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt