Patrick Kinahan: Former All-Star's NBA career has languished since leaving Utah

Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Generational wealth and not much by way of accomplishment on the basketball court basically has defined his seven seasons since Gordon Hayward left the Utah Jazz.

At 34, Hayward has been banished to the end of the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the second-round series that OKC lost to the Dallas Mavericks, he played a total of 15 minutes spread over three of the six games.

Utah's former lottery pick took only two shots in the series and did not score a point. He also recorded a DNP-coaches decision in the final three games.

Mirroring his career away from the Jazz, the playoff run did not go as he and probably the Thunder preferred. Admittedly, after the Charlotte Hornets traded him in February, Hayward wasn't expected to play a vital role for the contending team in the Western Conference.

"Obviously, disappointed with how it all worked out," he told reporters during the team's exit interviews. "This is not what I thought it would be. Certainly frustrating. But it is what it is."

Before suffering a calf injury, Hayward had decent numbers (14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists) for the perpetually losing Hornets. After the trade, he averaged 5.3 points in 17.2 minutes per game.

Given his age and a bevy of injuries the last several seasons, to quote another entertainer who peaked early (The Doors' Jim Morrison), the future's uncertain, and the end is always near.

Whatever the future holds, Hayward likely will never again come close to matching his Jazz production. Maybe he should have stayed with the organization that developed him into a budding star.

Drafted ninth in 2010 three months after leading Butler to within one shot of beating Duke in the national championship game, Hayward needed time at the professional level to develop his game and body. Following the departure of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson in 2013, he started to flourish as the team's new offensive threat and best player.

Becoming a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 season, Hayward signed an offer sheet with the Hornets for a maximum four-year, $63 million contract. Two days later, perhaps with Hayward annoyed he had to shop around, the Jazz matched the deal.

Three seasons later, Western Conference coaches voted him to the All-Star team. As Hayward's stock increased throughout the league, so did his desire to play in a larger market that garnered more attention.

As the clock dwindled down to the final seconds of Utah's playoff-eliminating loss to the Golden State Warriors, with the fans aware of Hayward's impending free agency, the hometown crowd chanted his first and last name to shower him with love. But by then, visions of big-time stardom were dancing in his head.

Sure enough, Danny Ainge's Boston Celtics offered a reported four-year, $128 million contract. On Independence Day in 2017, in an ill-advised attempt to placate Jazz fans, Hayward announced via The Players' Tribune his intention to join his college coach, Brad Stevens, in Massachusetts.

In retrospect, Jazz executives learned a hard lesson that plenty of outsiders saw coming. By going last on the Hayward recruiting tour, management wasted valuable time that assuredly cost the franchise the chance to sign other free agents.

Hayward got the money, which roughly would have been the same had he stayed in Utah, but the glory didn't follow him to New England. Less than six minutes into Boston's first game, he suffered a fractured tibia and was lost for the season.

With the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown at his position, Hayward was dispatched to Charlotte for the 2020-21 season. Saddled with numerous injuries that limited him to no more than 50 games in each season, he had moderate success for the perennial loser.

"I feel like as a player I have a lot to offer," Hayward said. "I just wasn't given much of an opportunity to do that (with OKC), and I thought I was going to get that opportunity."

For sure, the money has been just as green even if the grass wasn't.

Most recent Utah Jazz stories

Related topics

Utah JazzSportsNBA
Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.


From first downs to buzzer beaters, get’s top sports stories delivered to your inbox weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast