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Utah Jazz: For GM Dennis Lindsey, offseason is all about hanging on to Gordon Hayward

First Published      Last Updated May 18 2017 10:50 pm


Utah Jazz » For GM Dennis Lindsey, the offseason is about “player retention” — starting with Gordon Hayward.

The plight of a small market basketball team can be frustrating. Just ask the Jazz.

Beyond drafting Trey Burke, Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey has made very few missteps during the last five years of what has been a meticulous rebuild. He has gathered assets, his staff has developed players, he has lured some key free agents and pulled off some shrewd trades.

And yet, the direction of the franchise awaits Gordon Hayward's pending decision in free agency. And that, for the most part, is out of Lindsey's control.

"Our biggest step this summer will be player retention," Lindsey told a group of reporters Thursday, his first public comments since the Jazz's season ended. "We want to have player retention and then complement the group."




With June around the corner and July closer than one would think, the Jazz are in a bit of a holding pattern. Fresh off a 51 win regular season and a playoff breakthrough — Utah took out the L.A. Clippers in the opening round before being swept by Golden State in the conference semifinals — Lindsey knows the roster he has built is capable of more. Should Hayward stay and the team remains reasonably healthy, a 55- or 60-win season could be in the cards, along with a push beyond the second round of the postseason.

Lindsey believes he has given Hayward some compelling reasons to stick around. Here are a few more:

The Jazz are armed with two first round picks and four draft picks overall, in what Lindsey feels is a pool deep in talent and ability. He has $13 million in cap space he has to use by July 1. He has potentially two first round picks in next year's draft. The Jazz are in the midst of renovating their home arena and practice facility. And he has an ownership group in the Miller family that has given him the financial freedom to make the moves needed to keep things rolling.

"I'm completely satisfied with the Millers' commitment to keep the team together" Lindsey said. "We feel the quality of this team was that of a three seed. There were a few more wins left on the table this year that impacted our seeding. But we wanted health to supersede seeding."

Even with all the Jazz have going for them, is it enough to hold off the Boston Celtics in their reported quest for Hayward?

On Tuesday, Boston won the NBA's draft lottery and the right to the No. 1 pick, which they can use to acquire another star, such as Chicago's Jimmy Butler, or to draft someone like Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. On Thursday, Hayward was left off the three All-NBA teams, which means he won't qualify for the new super max contract, which financially shrinks Utah's advantage as an incumbent.

Lindsey knows all of this, but maintains his confidence. The Jazz have developed Hayward, and have forged a positive personal and professional relationship with the All-Star forward and his family. And like Boston, the Jazz have a solid basketball argument. Utah was a 50 win team, despite being the most statistically injured team in basketball. With a still-young core, the Jazz feel they can one day challenge the Warriors for the Western Conference crown.

"It goes without saying that every fiber in our collective being wants Gordon back," Lindsey said.

The Jazz have others who are entering free agency. Point guard George Hill is coming off a solid statistical season that was cut short by a nagging toe injury. Lindsey wants him back, but also knows the market may be robust for a veteran of his caliber.

"George is obviously a good fit," Lindsey said. "We want to let him rest and recover, and then we want to have open and honest conversations. George is a terrific player and a terrific guy. He's one of my pride and joys. If he gets a crazy offer somewhere else, we won't have one poor thought about him. There's also a very good chance we're each other's best option come July."

Valuable shooting guard Joe Ingles will also be a free agent. But his status is restricted, meaning the Jazz can match any offer, and both sides want to get a deal done.

Lindsey has always been known as a patient and calculating general manager. The Jazz are at a crossroad this summer. Will they emerge as an even stronger contender? Or, like ongoing construction at Vivint Smart Home Arena and the Zions Banks Basketball Center, will Lindsey have to build again?

 

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