Las Vegas • During the final scrimmage of the day, Gordon Hayward found himself at the basket, going up for a shot, when he ran into a familiar face. The man who impeded his move to the basket at the Team USA minicamp? None other than Utah Jazz teammate Derrick Favors.
“I’m going to say he got away with a little bit of a foul under there,” Hayward grumbled, jokingly.
But the irony was unmistakable. Because the season that approaches for the Jazz is sure to test the patience of the fan base, and the mettle of a young core entrusted to guide the team through it. While they were on separate sides for the little bit of time the media was allowed to observe Monday at an auxiliary gym next to the Thomas & Mack Center, the two 2010 lottery picks are very much in this thing together.
“Knowing that next year we’re going to be taking on a much bigger role puts another smile on my face,” Hayward said, “and I’m proud that he’s here next to me. I think we’ve both come a long way.”
Hayward averaged a career-high 14.1 points in 72 games last season, including 27 starts. Favors averaged 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game. Those numbers were nice, but while Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter will all be expected to play key roles — and likely start — next season, none is considered as ready to carry a team as are Hayward and Favors.
The Jazz let seven free agents walk away, and added veterans Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and, on Monday, point guard John Lucas III. None is a sure bet to help the Jazz.
“It’s going to be a challenge for sure,” Hayward said. “We’re going to have to make sure we learn from our mistakes and not make them again and again.”
Favors is taking the rebuilding effort as a personal challenge.
“Once I seen the trades go down and the other guys signed elsewhere,” he said, “I knew it was my time now.”
Favors has spent the summer training alongside Jazz legend Karl Malone, who turns 50 on Wednesday and “could come out here and still hold his own,” Favors said.
Malone, who won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 as a member of Team USA, was notorious for his training regimens, and Favors said that holds true.
“When I’m with him,” Favors said, “the intensity picks up. Whenever you do 10 [reps], now you work out with him you got to do 20. You shoot 100 shots, now you got to shoot 500 with him. So, the intensity goes up when I work out with him.”
Favors had bulked up noticeably — a point observed also by Hayward — although the fourth-year forward said he has added muscle but maintained his playing weight. Last season, the 6-foot-10 Favors was listed at 263 pounds; on the Team USA roster, he was listed at 248.
Favors said conditioning is the key to his offseason, although he has spent about one hour each day working in the weight room, on skills and conditioning.
Hayward, meanwhile, said he has gotten a new skills coach this summer after the man he previously worked with, Ed Schilling, left Hayward’s native Indianapolis for a job as a UCLA assistant.
Penciled in as the Jazz’s starting shooting guard, Hayward said he is working on ballhandling and shooting, but also addressing his troubles with finishing at the rim. Hayward and Favors are among 28 young players working with Team USA coaches, hoping to earn spots on the squad for next year’s World Cup and then the 2016 Olympics.
Last summer, the Jazz leaders both played on the Team USA “select” team, which practiced against the team that eventually won the gold medal at the London Olympics. In 2009, Hayward played on the national team that won the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in New Zealand.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play for one of the youth teams,” Hayward said. “And there’s nothing like it. Playing in high school and college and the NBA, there’s nothing like playing for your country.”
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski declined to comment on the first day performances of individual players because there were so many.
Forward as one
• Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are participating in the Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas.
• Favors and Hayward are expected to carry the load for a rebuilding Jazz team.
• Favors has worked out daily since early June with Jazz great Karl Malone.