Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward says 'no hard feelings'
Phoenix •Â After the 11th-hour negotiations ended Thursday night without a contract extension, Gordon Hayward is now assured of uncertainty.
The fourth-year Utah Jazz swingman will become a restricted free agent at season's end and be able to gauge his value on the market. But as he and the Jazz embark on a new season, each side says it remains committed to the other, each focused on winning now and getting a deal done later.
"I wish it could have happened," Hayward said. "[But] this in no way changes the way I feel about Utah at all. I love being here, love playing for them."
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said, "Time and circumstances dictated that this deal will get done at a later date," adding that Hayward "will be a leader of our team for a long time."
"He's someone we can see in a Utah Jazz jersey until he retires," Lindsey said. "That's our hope. We think there's a great fit."
Hayward spent Thursday night with his teammates at a bowling alley, playing pool and watching the other NBA games on TV.
"It was kind of like a normal day," Hayward said.
He and the team vowed there would be more normal days business as usual with the Jazz even without an extension beyond this season.
"No hard feelings at all," Hayward said. "I understand the NBA is a business, and they've got to make business decisions."
Jazz coach Ty Corbin said he spoke with his player about his importance to the team, and said he doesn't believe his contract status will be a distraction.
"Not getting it worked out is difficult for all of us, but we're going make sure we support him as much as we can," said Corbin, who is also without a deal after this year. "We love to have him here. We look forward to coaching him for a lot of years. We'll get through this."
The coach added: "He knows he's a huge part of who we're trying to become and who we are now."
Indeed, Hayward has long figured into the Jazz's future plans, Lindsey said.
"A big reason why we did what we did this offseason was with Gordon in mind," he said. "We let a lot of good veterans go to allow the younger core rise to prominence. We're now in a position where we have multiple first-round picks in the future. We're now in a position where we can match offer sheets in the future. â¦ We're still in a position that if we do have to match an offer sheet, that we can add to the group in a big way with another big salary cap allotment this summer."
There are risks for both sides in waiting until July to get a deal done. For Hayward, there's a chance his value could drop between now and the summer. Agent Mark Bartelstein indicated that Hayward was not seeking a max deal from Utah. So for the Jazz, there's a chance Hayward signs with another team for even more than he's seeking now, forcing Utah to either match or allow him to walk.
A lot of that will be dictated by the market and how Hayward performs this year.
Asked if he saw this as a gamble, a bet on his own abilities, Hayward said this: "I've always believed in myself a lot, and I have a lot of confidence in my abilities. So we'll let the chips fall where they may next summer."
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