SALT LAKE CITY — If not for a deal the Utah Jazz made back when Gordon Hayward was in junior high school, he could have ended up with the New York Knicks basketball team and been playing against the Jazz on Wednesday night instead of playing for Utah.
Not that he'd necessarily have wanted to play in the Big Apple.
But Hayward never would have ended up in Utah if the Jazz hadn't acquired New York's first-round pick back in 2004 as part of a deal involving Phoenix, some draft picks and some players who didn't stay in the league very long after that.
If you'll recall, the Jazz made a deal with Phoenix, which had barely acquired the Knicks' pick as part of a deal sending Stephon Marbury to New York. The Jazz got Tom Gugliotta and his expiring contract along with three draft picks for Ben Handlogten and Keon Clark. The Knicks' pick was "protected" for several years until last June, when they had to give it up. The Jazz used their only top 10 pick since 1983 (the other was Deron Williams in 2005) to choose Hayward, the sophomore forward out of Butler.
"It never really crossed my mind," Hayward said, when asked about playing the possibility of being drafted by the Knicks. "I've heard about it and some people from there have said 'You should have come to us.' "
However, Hayward has no regrets at all.
"I think it worked out good," he said. "I'm 20 years old and never lived on my own. I think it would have been a little crazy to go to New York."
PLENTY IN COMMON: Utah's Deron Williams and New York's Raymond Felton have had a close connection for a long time.
The two point guards have known each other since high school and, of course, they played against each other in the 2005 NCAA championship game, when Felton's North Carolina team edged Williams' Illinois team.
Then a couple of months later, Williams was drafted No. 3 by the Jazz, while Felton went No. 5 to Charlotte, where he played for five seasons before going to New York this year as a free agent.
But their close connection goes back even further.
Both were born the same day — June 26, 1984 — Williams in Parkersburg, W.Va., and Felton in Marion, S.C.
NO LATE OWL: With New York playing Portland late Tuesday night and winning 100-86, after a game in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday, the Jazz must have been paying close attention to the game to get a look at the new-look Knicks, right?
Uh, not coach Jerry Sloan. He was probably asleep when the Knicks-Blazers game ended.
When asked Tuesday if he'd be scouting the Knicks later that night, Sloan replied, "No. I'll focus on getting my rest, eating good food and going to bed."
SAME STARTERS: Utah's starting lineup of Deron Williams, Raja Bell, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko remained the same against the Knicks.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan continues to answer questions about making changes to his starting lineup to help avoid slow starts, and he might be getting tired of them.
"It seems like that's the biggest question people have is who is going to start," Sloan said. "No one ever asks who you're going to finish with."
So then the question was asked in the team's morning shootaround who Sloan would finish Wednesday's game with.
"I'm not sure," Sloan said to laughter. "If I knew what the other team was doing, I probably could tell you, but right now I couldn't."
INTENSE PRACTICES: With three days off from playing games, the Jazz had physically challenging practices on Monday and Tuesday. They scrimmaged and got after it so that complacency didn't set in while taking a break from facing opponents.
"It's been a good week for us," Millsap said. "We had two good days of practice."9 comments on this story
Sloan was pleased with what the Jazz got out of the two days of work.
"If they played three games in four days, we probably won't practice as hard," Sloan said. "Everyone came in with a great attitude and worked hard and tried to get something out of it."
Contributing: Andrew Aragon