Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward will compete for Team USA spot
Gordon Hayward strolled into the locker room at the Jazz's practice facility Thursday morning and ran into French teammate Rudy Gobert.
Let the trash talk begin.
USA Basketball has named a 28-member player pool including Hayward which will be used to determine rosters for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
A likely member of France's national team, Gobert could end up playing against Hayward and Team USA somewhere down the road. So could another Jazz teammate, Turkey's Enes Kanter.
"Rudy said something to me about it right when I walked in," Hayward said. "That would definitely be pretty cool to play against them. Maybe in the World Cup or whatever. .. But, yeah, Rudy definitely said something to me."
Asked to repeat Gobert's message, Hayward declined.
"No, I can't," he said."But Rudy is extremely patriotic. Any time somebody does something [well] even if he's on another team he's the first one to tell us. He's proud of his country."
This is Hayward's third invitation to participate with USA Basketball, including the U.S. Select Team and last year's U.S. men's team mini-camp.
"I'm certainly excited," Hayward said. "It's a great opportunity for me. It's something I've been working for. â¦ Every time I go there I just try to do my best and work hard and I've been rewarded each summer by them inviting me back."
Hayward's next goal is making it to the World Cup or the Olympics.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be invited, but you're still not on the team," he said. "You're just on the roster. Hopefully, I can go our there and play well enough to get selected."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was happy for Hayward, who averages 17.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists this season.
"A tremendous accomplishment," Corbin said. "I'm seriously happy for him. He's deserving of it. He's worked his tail off to get better every year. He brings a lot of things to the table. I think he'll be a good fit for the U.S. team."
Teammate Trey Burke agreed: "That's great. He deserves every honor he gets right now. â¦ I'm proud of him."
In a conference call Thursday morning, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo called this player-pool roster "the strongest we've ever had." He emphasized other players might be added to the original 28, depending on injuries, contracts and personal situations.
Team USA will begin practice in July.
"Our job is to make sure we take nothing for granted," Colangelo said. "There will be major challenges ahead because that's just the way it is. â¦ But we're very upbeat."
Besides Hayward, other players with Utah tied included in this player pool are Weber State product Damian Lillard, former Jazz point guard Deron Williams and ex-Jazz swingman Kyle Korver. Jazz big man Derrick Favors, who had previously played with Hayward on the Select Team, did not make the initial USA roster.
Team USA roster
USA Basketball's pool of NBA players who will compete for roster spots the 2014 World Championships and 2014 Olympics:
• LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail); Carmelo Anthony (New York); Bradley Beal (Washington); Tyson Chandler (New York); DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento); Stephen Curry (Golden State); Anthony Davis (New Orleans); Andre Drummond (Detroit); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City); Kenneth Faried (Denver); Paul George (Indiana); Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers); James Harden (Houston); Gordon Hayward (Utah); Dwight Howard (Houston).
• LeBron James (Miami); Andre Iguodala (Golden State); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland); Kyle Korver (Atlanta) David Lee (Golden State); Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio); Damian Lillard (Portland); Kevin Love (Minnesota); Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers); Derrick Rose (Chicago); Klay Thompson (Golden State); Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City); Deron Williams (Brooklyn).