Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward returns to his home — to Hinkle Fieldhouse
Mike Terry, Deseret News
INDIANAPOLIS — Gordon Hayward couldn't help but smile when he entered the gymnasium Thursday night prior to Jazz practice.
For one reason, he no longer has to participate in early morning workouts there.
For another reason, the Brownsburg, Ind., native used to call the place home.
"It's real weird," Hayward said about returning to the famous Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time since leaving Butler to become a pro last fall. "It's good to be back and walking in."
Being welcomed by several of his old Butler teammates and coaches also made for a nice homecoming for the 20-year-old Hoosier hero.
"It's a weird feeling," Hayward said. "Especially seeing the guys and seeing coach."
The Butler guys and coach, that is.
With a day off before their game at Indiana on Friday, the Jazz arranged to work out in the same building where Hayward spent countless hours in his two college seasons en route to helping the Bulldogs become a national championship contender a year ago.
The main court was being gussied up for a post-practice meet-and-greet starring Hayward, so the Jazz borrowed Butler's auxiliary gym. A banner above the court featured a photo of a fresh-faced Hayward from his college days.
"I got a call from our trainer that said we were going to practice at Butler," Hayward said, "and a smile kind of came across my face to be able to come back here kind of where it all started, so it's really cool."
While traveling from the team hotel to his old stomping grounds, Hayward played the part of tour guide for rookie Jeremy Evans at the back of the bus, telling the Western Kentucky product what all of the buildings on campus were as they drove through.
Said Hayward: "(I told him) this is this, this is that, this is where I did this. ... It's really fun to be here."
Giving high-fives and being around his Bulldog buddies brought back a flood of memories for the Jazz rookie.
"I haven't been here since September. It seems like it's such a long time ago," Hayward said. "But at the same time, when you walk back in here it's like we're ready to have 6 a.m. practice all over again."
Fortunately for the Jazz, this practice had a 6:30 p.m. starting time.
"Don't miss those that much," Hayward joked about the 6 a.m. practices. "Those are probably what made us better and what got us to where we were, but it's nice to sleep in a little bit."
Other big differences in his life now that he's a multi-millionaire NBA player and not just a college kid?
"Well, I don't have school. No homework, no class. That's a big, big difference. I've been doing that my whole life," Hayward said. "And I have a job. It's every day you have something to do. You're a professional, so it's definitely a change."
Though busy with the NBA, Hayward told a mass of Indiana media he still keeps tabs on Butler.
"I'm definitely keeping track of them," he said. "Those guys are my best friends, so we text all the time. I try to see what's going on in their lives."
DONE DEALING: Jazz management had what coach Ty Corbin called a "pretty busy" day Thursday before the trading deadline, but Utah didn't pull off any more deals after sending Deron Williams to New Jersey in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and cash on Wednesday.
STILL HOPE: Corbin admitted his game plan has to change now that Harris will be his All-Star point guard, not Williams. But the new coach remains optimistic that the Jazz can make good things happen down the stretch.
"We still have a good team. We have to find ourselves," Corbin said. "We had a lot of changes real quick, but we have some quality players on this team and we have some guys in some spots that can do some things. We'll see how it all meshes together."
WELCOME TO ... UTAH?: Corbin admitted Favors' head was spinning after being traded, and it might have affected the 19-year-old's sense of geography.
Asked if he'd ever been to Salt Lake City or Utah before, Favors responded (from Indianapolis, mind you): "This is my first time."
Don't mind him if he's not impressed with these Utah mountains.
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