Utah Jazz notebook: Gordon Hayward debuts in starting lineup
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward is getting to know just how bizarre the business of basketball can be.
Because of an injury to Raja Bell, the rookie swingman went from recently being entrenched at the end of the bench to having his named called in the starting lineup Monday night.
Bell was unable to play against Oklahoma City due to a strained left adductor (groin muscle) that he tweaked at Miami on Tuesday and said got "sorer and sorer" over the Jazz's recent four-games-in-five-nights Tour de Comeback.
That injury prompted Jerry Sloan to insert a youngster in the starting five as he's previously done. Most recently, C.J. Miles and Wesley Matthews have seen starting time early on.
Hayward thought he did "all right" in his starting debut. He scored four points with two assists in 22 minutes in the 115-108 loss.
"This year's going to be a learning process," Hayward said. "I just go out there and try to play hard and compete, and so I felt like I competed out there."
Sloan believes the rare start — and rare playing time, for that matter — will give Hayward a chance to "hopefully get some experience" alongside Utah's veteran starters.
"That's part of the job, trying to play and try to continue to work with guys and help them get better," the Jazz coach said. "We've had guys get better and hopefully he'll continue to try to improve himself."
Hayward's 10 first-quarter minutes were more than he'd logged in the last three games combined — a stretch that included one game (Friday at Atlanta) in which he didn't leave the bench.
As for Bell, the usual starter said rest might be the best option so he can return at full strength rather than risk prolonging the healing process.
"It's one of those things," Bell said, "if you're not getting rest for something like that, then it could linger a little bit."
D-WILL HONORED: The Jazz's road trip caught the NBA's attention. The league named Deron Williams as its Western Conference player of the week two days after the team returned from its incredible 4-0 road swing.
"It's an honor," Williams said after earning the award for the third time in his career.
For the four games, Williams averaged 23 points, 11.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds, and his play was one of the big reasons Utah was able to rally back from consecutive second-half double-digit deficits.
"Good choice," Sloan said.
The All-Star point guard capped the unbelievable Southeastern sweep with a game-winning floater with 0.8 seconds to go against Charlotte. Paul Millsap, who had a career-high 46 vs. Miami, was also nominated.
"(Williams) made shots and done things that he's got to do to help us win," Sloan said. "He's got a tremendous amount of ability."
STRANGE STAT: By halftime, the Jazz had the same amount of free throws as they had stitches received: seven.
Center Kyrylo Fesenko needed four stitches for a cut on his chin, while Earl Watson required three to mend a split outer lip.
Watson returned to play in the second half, while Fesenko came back to the bench but didn't play after halftime. Fesenko ended up in the locker room for good with a headache midway through the fourth quarter.
It wasn't an OKC player who injured him. Teammate C.J. Miles inadvertently smacked him with his elbow while going up for a rebound.
"I extended with (my left) arm to try to tip it and the other arm hit him right under his chin," Miles said. "I didn't know who it was until I saw him bent over and I was 'Uh, oh.' "
A chuckling Miles said he razzed Fesenko at halftime: "I told Fes if he would've got the rebound it never would've happened."
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