SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz have been without Gordon Hayward for the past ten games and produced interesting results, but with him back the Jazz can show off who they are.
Hayward was hurt Jan. 26 in overtime against the Pacers and his first game back was in the Jazz's 115-101 victory over the Warriors. And when he came back, he came back in a big way.
The night of his injury it seemed like a small injury. The team seemed to think that he would be able to come back after one game, then it became two, then four and suddenly the All-Star Break was over. His shoulder became something a little more than most expected, but he was able to come back and put it out of his mind.
"Really wasn't thinking about it at all," Hayward said. "The only reason I thought about it was because I had a big pad on it. That's all."
He came back to his usual spot off the bench and provided an aggressive nature and ball movement to the team. He had a pad on his arm, but at the end of the night it didn't affect him that much.
He ended the night with 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. When he took the court with the bench the ball was moving and everyone was involved in a way that wasn't there too often over the past 10 games.
The improved ball movement probably wasn't just on Hawyard's return. His injury gave other people time to develop, especially Alec Burks, and now with Hayward back the bench got to show off what it could do. Derrick Favors finished with 14 points on 4-7 shooting thanks to open looks. He said that it was a mixture of Hayward's return and just wanting to pass.
"Sort of both," Favors said. "Gordon comes in and he's a good passer and we were just sharing the ball tonight."
The ball was moving around freely for the team. This could be from the Warriors' suddenly awful defense, giving up 118 points per game the previous five game, or the team still finding their rhythm. Seven players hit double-figures and the team shot 50 percent.
Hayward probably isn't the sole reason for so many players scoring, but he can change the game with his ability to get people the ball.
"When he comes in and plays his game he makes it easier for everybody else," Favors said. "He's a good passer. So he get it into the lane he can throw it out to the open man and make it easier for everybody else."
When he comes in and plays his game he makes it easier for everybody else. He's a good passer. So he get it into the lane he can throw it out to the open man and make it easier for everybody else.
–Derrick Favors about Gordon Hawyard
Hayward basically played his usual amount of minutes. He played 25, and averages 26 on the season. He scored 12 or more point for the 15th time in his last 18 games. He came back and looked like he hadn't missed a beat.
"He is who he is," coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He was excited to be back. I was able to play him a little longer than normal for a guy just coming back after being out an extended amount. There were some timeouts in the middle of his minutes early so he was able to get a breather and be out there a little bit longer. He looked great. His pace was good. I thought he came out looking for his shots well. He favored his shoulder a little bit when he got into the lane. He had that first big foul and hit two big free throws. From there he felt 'I was okay.' He took a hit and was able to make his free throws and played well from there."
The first game back should be a little scary. Hayward isn't 100 percent. His sleeve shoulder pad showed that, but he still looked good. The team looked good with him.
With the emergence of Burks, the return of Hawyard and Randy Foye playing well the Jazz have a three-guard lineup that can be efficient with ball-handling and creating shots for others and deadly with how well they have been shooting.
Good first day back. It wasn't phenomenal for Hawyard, just another day on the job. But that is what he brings, consistently good games.