Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward likely to play Tuesday
NBA • Utah’s top scorer prepares to play against Minnesota.
Published: January 21, 2014 11:51AM
Updated: January 21, 2014 11:15AM
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Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) goes one-on-one with Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5), in NBA action, as theJazz faced the Chicago Bulls, at the EnergySolutions Arena, Monday, November 25, 2013.

Two days after scoring a career-high 37 points in a victory over Oklahoma City, Gordon Hayward was so sore he had difficulty moving.

As it turned out, the Jazz’s leading scorer strained a hip flexor against the Thunder.

Hayward has missed five straight games because of the injury, but he likely will play for the first time since Jan. 7 on Tuesday night, when the Jazz face Minnesota at EnergySolutions Arena.

“You’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad,” Hayward said. “It [allowed] some rest and your whole body gets to recover a little bit, too. But as a competitor, it still sucks.”

After more than a week of inactivity, Hayward practiced Sunday and Monday. He probably will start against the Timberwolves barring a setback before tipoff.

“We’ll make sure he’s ready to go before we put him back out there,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Hayward said, “You want to make sure I’m 100 percent before I start playing. You want to be out there, but you have to let your body heal.”

The Jazz went 2-3 during Hayward’s absence.

They dominated in wins over Denver (118-103) and Detroit (110-89) and played decently during a 109-105 loss at San Antonio. But they struggled in losses to Cleveland (113-102) and Minnesota (98-72).

Utah shot a franchise-low 28.8 percent against the Timberwolves, who led 79-46 going into the fourth quarter Saturday night at Target Center.

Asked in general how his team played without Hayward, Corbin shrugged.

“Some good and some bad,” he said. “Obviously, we need him. We need all the guys we have. He’s a key piece to what we’re doing. ... But if we execute and trust each other, we’re OK. That’s with anybody [who’s] out.”

Corbin does not sound tempted to keep starting Alec Burks, who played exceptionally well in place of Hayward. Burks averaged 20.8 points, including a career-high 34 in the victory over Denver, in the five games.

Referring to Hayward, Corbin said, “Coming off an injury — and he was a starter for us — he’ll probably go while he’s warmed up. We’ll probably start him. ... But we’ll see what gives us the best chance and what’s best for him.”

Burks certainly will continue to get major minutes.

“He played really well,” Hayward said. “It was good to see him out there ... playing at such a high level. We need that.”

Hayward was injured while out-dueling Kevin Durant down the stretch of the Jazz’s victory over Oklahoma City.

He scored Utah’s final 17 points. He ended up making 13 of 16 field-goal attempts and also contributed 11 rebounds and seven assists.

“That’s part of the frustration,” Hayward said. “It would have been frustrating either way, to be honest, but I was playing well.”

Oddly, Hayward’s injury didn’t flare up until 36 hours after the game.

“That’s the weird thing,” he said. “I didn’t feel it the next day. I think I must have had some adrenalin still going. ... The next morning is when it was sore.”

Hayward couldn’t do much to speed his recovery except get treatment and try to avoid frustration over being unable to help his teammates.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “You feel like you’re not doing anything, like you’re just standing around. At times, you feel like you aren’t really part of the team because you don’t go through practice.”

Of course, Hayward endured some good-natured teasing from his teammates — even close friend Jeremy Evans.

“Jeremy said I was on vacation,” Hayward laughed, “and he’s supposed to be my boy.”

Jazz vs. Minnesota

P At EnergySolutions Arena

Tipoff • 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT Sports

Radio • 1280 AM, 1600 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 14-28; Wolves 19-21

Season series • Timberwolves lead 1-0

Last meeting • Timberwolves, 98-72 on Saturday

About the Jazz • This is their most leisurely stretch of the schedule. They play four home games over the next 12 nights. ... At 8-11, they own the worst home record in the Western Conference. ... G Trey Burke has scored at least 11 points in 22 of his last 27 games. He had nine at Minnesota on Saturday night.

About the Timberwolves • They have lost seven straight games in Utah, going back to Dec. 14, 2009. ... They rank second in the NBA in scoring (106.4). ... F Kevin Love averages 25.1 points — fourth among individuals behind Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.