Rookie earning respect
Denver • Rookie forward Gordon Hayward's minutes have not been consistent this season. But what has been consistent is the fact that the ninth overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft recently has produced when he's garnered a significant amount of playing time.Hayward made his eighth start of the season Wednesday, filling in for injured forward Andrei Kirilenko during Utah's 97-96 home loss to Houston. Hayward again responded to the promotion, registering 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. It marked the seventh time this year that the former Butler standout has recorded at least seven points. During each occurrence, Hayward has clocked at least 16 minutes of action.The rookie was held out of the fourth quarter against the Rockets, as Houston outscored Utah 18-14. But Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said there is no doubt that Hayward's game has reached a new, assertive level after dealing with some "cold, hard days.""When your teammates have confidence in you, you know that you feel that you have arrived to some extent," Sloan said during a postgame interview. "And he realizes that from practice. His teammates respect him. They respect his work habit, and certainly the coaching staff does. And that's a natural progression to try to work yourself up." Pogo stick Hayward's strong outing was paralleled by another impressive showing from high-flying rookie forward Jeremy Evans. The 55th overall pick of the 2010 draft poured in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, while grabbing two rebounds and recording two blocks.Evans has also left an impression on Sloan."He's progressed," Sloan said. "He's a wonderful player, a wonderful person and a wonderful worker. Everyday he steps out there, he seems to love to play basketball." Moving faster Jazz guard Deron Williams said that he has seen the team in a new and sometimes different light while watching the last four games from the bench, due to a strained tendon in his right wrist.One of the primary things that has caught his eye: The way that reserve point guard Earl Watson pushes the tempo at every opportunity.Williams prefers to run when possible. But he acknowledged that there have been times this season when he pressed the accelerator, only to wonder where are the rest of his teammates.
"At times I stopped pushing it, which is not what I want to do," Williams said.
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Jazz at Nuggets
P At Pepsi Center, Denver
Tipoff • 8:30 p.m.
TV • FSN Utah, ESPN
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Jazz 29-21, Nuggets 29-20
Last meeting • Nuggets, 110-88 (Oct. 27, 2010)
About the Jazz • Utah has gone 2-2 with guard Deron Williams out of the lineup, and the team is just 2-8 during its last 10 games. â¦ Williams (strained tendon, right wrist) and Andrei Kirilenko (sprained left ankle) are day-to-day and likely game-time decisions for tonight's game against Denver.
About the Nuggets • Denver has moved past Utah to take over second place in the Northwest Division, trailing Oklahoma City by 2Â½ games. â¦ The Nuggets are 21-5 at home, which is the second-best record in the Western Conference.