Gordon Hayward stepped into the center of the media scrum after Wednesday morning’s shootaround, ready for the same question he’s been asked just about every day for the last two weeks.
The Jazz and Hayward have until 9:59 p.m. MT on Thursday to reach a deal to extend the 23-year-old swingman’s contract; otherwise, Utah’s first-round pick in 2010 will become a restricted free agent this summer. So far, no deal has been reached.
If Hayward is thinking much about the ongoing talks, he’s not saying.
“The game is the only thing that’s on my mind right now,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
Hayward was the Jazz’s best player in the preseason, averaging 15.9 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. Hayward is set to make $3.4 million this season, but stands to see a substantial raise next year.
Both sides remain engaged in talks. But if a deal cannot get done, the Jazz will be able to match any offer sheet Hayward might sign at the end of the season.
With just 10 healthy players on the roster to start the season, there’s no shortage of injuries around the Jazz locker room. Don’t count Enes Kanter among them.
After seeing last season cut short because of a shoulder injury, the 6-10 center had surgery during the offseason. As a new campaign starts, Kanter says he’s good to go.
“My shoulder feels really good,” he said. “I don’t even feel it on the court anymore. I can go 100 percent. I can bang. I can do whatever. I’m not even thinking on the court about my shoulder.”
Still at it
Richard Jefferson has played through a dozen season openers in his NBA career.
But the Jazz’s veteran forward says he still gets excited for the opening tip.
“Every year you step on the court is a blessing,” the 33-year-old Jefferson said. “Especially the older you get, you start to see friends and other guys you either played in McDonald’s All-American games or played against each other in the Final Four, and you start to see them not have a job and not be able to play.”