Five random but related ramblings about rookie Gordon Hayward, who tried hard, earned praise from teammates and his coach, and who took mercy on the bottom of the nets in two starts this weekend:
1. Earning the coach's trust
Jerry Sloan knows people will look at stat sheets and see that the 20-year-old rookie went scoreless in his last two games. (Which equaled his offensive production in the previous two games that he didn't play in, for those keeping track.) But while Sloan was grumpy over the Jazz's pitiful start Saturday and didn't specifically comment about Hayward, he spoke positively of how the high-profile rookie handled himself against Vince Carter on Friday. "I thought he did well," Sloan said. "Didn't back away from him. He stayed in there and battled him a little bit. That's how you make yourself better - if you get beat, you get beat. ... Just go play."
2. Learning to fit in
Deron Williams recently admitted Hayward is in a tough position, seeing as he was a high pick (No. 9 overall) but was added to a playoff team with good players. D-Will also praised "G" for working hard. Andrei Kirilenko believes Hayward, who only took three shots in his two weekend starts will improve as the butterflies go away. "He was trying. He was playing aggressive. He was playing hard. That's all you can ask from him," Kirilenko said prior to Saturday's game. "He's worrying about results. He's worrying about teammates. He doesn't really realize which is good shot, which is not. I think it just come. It's just a matter of how many games he has played."
3. Yeah, what he said
Though his came with a Midwestern accent, not a Russian drawl, the former Butler star sounded an awful lot like Kirilenko, one of his mentors. "I think it just comes with playing more with the guys. It's difficult kind of being thrusted in there and knowing kind of the chemistry of where I should space, when I should take my time, things like that," Hayward said when asked if he was passing up shots. "Obviously, I think I need to be a little more aggressive … but it's hard when you haven't played with those guys that much. I think there's room for me to be more assertive, more aggressive, but I think that will come."
4. He's got company
On draft night, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said disgruntled fans might change their minds about Utah's pick in two years. But Hayward (1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) isn't the only top 10 selection who's struggling. Second pick Evan Turner (6.9 ppg on 41.1 percent shooting) has only scored two points in the past three games for the 76ers. The Nets' Derrick Favors (6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg) has scored four or fewer points in six of his last eight games. And the Warriors' big man Ekpe Udoh (No. 6) has only played once — Friday when he scored two points in three minutes — because of offseason wrist surgery.
5. On the other hand ...
Then there's the list of rookies who are excelling but were picked below Hayward and whose names will be brought up in could've-would've conversations. Some from that exceeding expectations group include: Knicks forward Landry Fields, the No. 39 pick who's averaging 10.3 points and 7.5 rebounds; Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe, the No. 18 pick who's averaging 8.2 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 boards; and Denver's Gary Forbes, the Spurs' Gary Neal and Cleveland's Samardo Samuels, who were all on the board at No. 9 and are each averaging 6.5 points.