There are a bunch of cool little bits in Jody Genessy's new Deseret News feature on Gordon Hayward. The rookie Utah Jazz swingman has drawn a lot of attention of late as his minutes have increased with the Jazz looking toward the future, and his alma mater making an improbable run to its second consecutive NCAA title game sure hasn't hurt matters. Genessy's piece paints a nice portrait of Hayward's development over the course of his inaugural NBA campaign.
The profile features quotes from teammates and coaches about the former Butler Bulldog's ambitious desire to advance his all-around game, a note on Hayward's improving long-range shooting (he's hitting 44.8 percent of NBA 3-pointers this year, after hitting just 29.4 percent of college-distance long balls last year), jokes about him bench-pressing 600 pounds and loving the Olive Garden — a little something for everyone.
It's also got this neat anecdote from teammate Earl Watson, intended as evidence of rising opinion around the league that Hayward could become a special player for the Jazz in the years to come:
Hayward also happens to have a fan in Oklahoma City. The talented guy who pumped up BYU's Jimmer Fredette for being the "best scorer in the world!" also thinks the Jazz have a talented youngster.
"Kevin Durant was talking to me during the game (at Oklahoma City)," Watson explained. "He was like, 'Man, (Hayward) should be starting.' Kevin Durant loves him. He was talking about how good he was in the game."
The fact that Hayward had his worst shooting night as a pro during that March 23 game — going 1-for-10 from the field on his 21st birthday — when he received the compliment speaks volumes about his all-around game.
I'm sure you're right, Jody. Durant singing Hayward's praises to his point guard in the midst of a rough night is probably indicative of just how much he respects the rookie's contributions in other facets of the game.
"Man, Earl, this Hayward kid's great. Everything he throws up looks pure."
"I'll tell you from experience, Earl: Scorers just need to find their rhythm. You keep feeding them, no matter what. And this kid? He's a scorer."
"It's like Kevin Ollie once told me: The only shot that matters is the next one. And true marksmen like me and your boy Gordon here always believe in our hearts that it's going in. That's why you need to keep getting us the rock."
"And don't even get me started on this kid's defense. He's a swarmer, let me tell you. People would pay more attention to his D if he wasn't so smooth with the J. It's alphabet stuff, Earl, you know?"
On an unrelated note, Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder scored a pretty breezy 12-point win on the night in question. The NBA's reigning scoring champion — who was checked by Hayward on multiple occasions during that March 23 game, including the possession shown above — popped for 29 points on 7-for-12 shooting. A real clever boots, this Durant.