Kragthorpe: Jazz, Hayward still can stay together
NBA • His challenge now is not to let contract situation become a distraction
Published: November 1, 2013 02:14PM
Updated: November 8, 2013 06:52PM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward (20) dunks the ball, as the Utah Jazz host the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA Basketball at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Wednesday October 30, 2013.

Now that the Jazz have successfully extended Derrick Favors’ contract and failed to reach an agreement with Gordon Hayward, my natural response is thinking how the outcome of those October negotiations is the opposite of what I recommended to the Jazz.

It also makes me wonder what would have happened if Hayward had made that tying 3-point attempt Wednesday against Oklahoma City and the Jazz had gone on to win. I had wryly observed the shot was potentially worth millions of dollars — and who knows, maybe it was.

What matters at this point is where the failure to meet Thursday’s deadline leaves Hayward and the Jazz, from both perspectives. I’m saying nothing’s really changed, and Hayward is almost certain to remain in Utah for a long time. But some variables come into play here, and I’ve learned not to be too cavalier about the whole issue.

The bottom line is Hayward will become a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season. The Jazz can match any offer he receives from another team. Remember when Paul Millsap signed the offer sheet with Portland that everybody labeled “toxic” and wondered how the Jazz could match it? By the end of deal, it was a bargain.

The Jazz will have plenty of money to pay Hayward, and maybe it’s healthy that his performance this season and the interest he attracts will help establish his value. There’s risk for both sides, in that sense. The team may end up overpaying for him and the offer sheet may have provisions that enable Hayward to become an unrestricted free agent relatively soon. And Hayward is gambling that he will increase his stock leaguewide — or least with one team that’s willing to pursue him, with no guaranteed hope of landing him.

So these are the questions as of today: How will this development will affect Hayward’s play? How fans should view him?

During a news conference to celebrate Favors’ contract, general manager Dennis Lindsey said the deal showed the Jazz were willing to “pay market prices.” So in Hayward’s case, it’s obvious the two sides differed about the player’s value. That happens.

Personally, I wanted Favors to prove more this season, and I thought Hayward would respond better than Favors to the security of a new deal. But the reverse may be true as well. Favors may be motivated enough to keep improving and Hayward is mature enough to not let the uncertainty bother him.

There will be questions all season, starting next week when the Jazz visit Boston — coached by Brad Stevens, Hayward’s former coach at Butler. Hayward will have to deal with the issue all season, publicly and privately.

Fans naturally will wonder what’s going to happen, and question the commitment of the Jazz and Hayward to one another. But without knowing exactly what happened during the negotiations, it’s probably unfair to blame either side. The reality is that the collective bargaining rules give them another chance to stay together, probably for just as long as if they had agreed to a deal now.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt