SALT LAKE CITY — Enes Kanter is a bit confused.
He expected boos from the Utah Jazz fans — for both he and Gordon Hayward when the two made their returns to Utah on Wednesday in Boston's 114-103 win over the Jazz — and boos is just what he got.
But he’s not sure if those are still merited.
Yes, he said some things back in the day after being traded from Utah (a trade that he himself requested). He passive-aggressively slammed the fan base, the organization and the city Wednesday night.
And yes, Hayward left in less-than-ideal fashion — stringing the team along and moving East the summer after the Jazz finally got back to the playoffs.
But after all these years, Kanter implied it might be time for Jazz fans to bury the hatchet.
That hasn't happened yet. And it probably won't ever. And that's OK.
If Jazz fans have shown anything over the years, it's that they have a very good memory. You cross them and they won’t forget it. Carlos Boozer and Derek Fisher are just two examples, and both are still villanized a bit in Salt Lake City for how things ended in their time with the Jazz.
To be fair, the opposite is true, too. If you embrace the fan base, they will love you forever. Ricky Rubio was greeted with thundering applause in his return on Monday, and Jae Crowder has been welcomed back with cheers multiple times this season.
So while it’s been more than a few years since Kanter uttered his infamous words about the only thing he missed about Utah was the mountains, and while it’s been nearly three years since Hayward left the Jazz high and dry, the fans aren’t ready to forgive and forget.
When Hayward was introduced in the Boston starting lineup Wednesday, boos rained down on him. And those continued every time he touched the ball during his 12-point, five-rebound performance. Kanter got the same treatment as he scored 8 points off the bench.
“It’s just silly. It was like, seven or eight years ago, whatever,” Kanter said. “People make mistakes, and what I said was crazy, of course. I feel like it’s not hate anymore.”
Last season, when Hayward made his first trip back to Utah, the crowd was more angsty, ready to unleash over a year's worth of pent up aggression. This time around, it was a calmer environment.
Sure, there were cheers when he missed shots (Hayward was 4 of 12 on the night) and jeers when he did just about anything else, but it never felt out of hand. It was just a fan base showing they hadn’t forgiven him for how he left a team (and held a Fourth of July holiday hostage in the process).
“I feel like they’re just enjoying it,” Kanter said. “It’s good for them because it just keeps them in the game, so the game becomes more exciting, I guess.”
Some might call it silly, some might call it petty, but for Jazz fans, it’s all about being just that: fans. And the same reason they boo is the same reason the Celtics had a bit of extra motivation on Wednesday.
“I’m happy we got this win for G,” Jayson Tatum said, speaking about Hayward. “Glad we got that for him.”
Maybe it’s not all that confusing after all.