Crowd helps Hayward feel at home as free-agency looms
The lights inside EnergySolutions Arena dimmed and a cheer went up as Gordon Hayward's name was called over the speakers Monday night.
For the 24-year-old, there's a chance it was the last time as a Jazzman.
Because the Utah front office was unable to reach an extension with Hayward last fall, the swingman will become a restricted free agent come July. And while the Jazz will have the option and the cap space to match any offer Hayward might receive, his future remains uncertain.
"You hope not," Hayward said of whether it might be his last game in a Jazz uniform. "But you don't know what's going to happen."
Coming into Monday night, Hayward, the ninth overall pick out of Butler in 2010, had played 285 games in a Utah jersey, scoring 3,391 points and grabbing 969 rebounds.
This season, Hayward's fourth in the NBA, the wing player has led the team in scoring and could be the first Jazzman since Pete Maravich in 1976-77 to average better than 16 points, five rebounds and five assists for a season.
He needed 28 points and 10 boards over the season's final two games to reach that mark.
"Everybody knows he's a great player, great defender, great teammate to have," said shooting guard Alec Burks.
And to lose him would be a blow to the rebuilding franchise, his teammates said.
"Hopefully it's not his last home game," said rookie Trey Burke. "Hopefully he's back next year. He's meant a lot to this team. â¦ He's one of the leaders on the court. He's one of the guys we look to for strength."
Jazz forward Marvin Williams missed a third straight game with a bruised left knee bone. Burke, the point guard, said he'd been dealing with a sore ankle himself, though he said it wouldn't affect his status.