Gordon Hayward wasn’t alone in the 10 games he missed before the All-Star break.
The Jazz sixth man spent his time watching games from the bench and the trainer’s room alongside Mo Williams. Williams, the injured veteran point guard, broke down plays with Hayward.
“I can learn a lot from him and watching the game with him,” Hayward said. “He points out a lot of different things. He’s a savvy guy, a veteran — it was kind of a silver lining.”
Hayward has averaged 18.2 points in five games back since he was sidelined with a sprained right shoulder. The run of quality games included a 26-point outburst in an overtime loss to the Celtics on Monday.
“I think a little bit I’ve been more aggressive for sure,” Hayward said. “I’ve been more assertive, still there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Williams has not played since Dec. 22, when he tore a ligament in his right thumb against the Heat in Miami. He had two pins removed from the thumb on Feb. 13 in New York City, and has been gradually increasing his role in team practices. He said this week he hopes to play on the team’s upcoming four-game road trip to Milwaukee, Cleveland, Chicago and New York.
But as the Jazz await Williams’ return so he can once again contribute on the court, they can be grateful for his role off of it as he mentored Hayward.
“Defensively,” Hayward said, “we would watch something happen and he would say, ‘Right there you could have made this cut and got yourself open or made this read, the read was there.’ Someone just didn’t pass it or something like that.”
He said Williams also coached him on “different things offensively to find me a shot, to find someone else a shot.”
Advice from Big Al
Enes Kanter’s second career start was a memorable one. The 20-year-old from Turkey notched career highs in points (23), rebounds (22) and minutes (44) in Friday’s blowout win over Charlotte.
He became the first Jazz player to record a 20-and-20 night since his mentor, Al Jefferson, did it since April 16 in a triple-overtime win over Dallas and the first to accomplish the feat in regulation since Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 20 rebounds against Phoenix in 2010.
Kanter said on Friday he just tried to follow the advice of Jefferson, who missed the game with a sprained left ankle.
“In practice, I talked to him and he said he wasn’t going to go,” Kanter said, “so he told me when I catch the ball just go fast, get rebounds, try to be your best and don’t be nervous.”
In a sense, Kanter has been groomed to replace Jefferson if the center leaves this summer in free agency. But the potential awkwardness of that dynamic has been absent from the two players’ relationship.
“I appreciate him a lot,” Kanter said, “because he has helped me a lot.”