Gordon Hayward: Second-year Utah Jazz swingman shows plenty of promise

Published: Monday, Dec. 12 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

The 21-year-old didn't sit in his parents' basement shooting pixelized bad guys 24/7. He didn't live on a Cheetohs and energy drinks diet.

Becoming a futuristic human and alien warrior wasn't his only offseason focus.

Rather, Hayward was a two-game standout who honed skills in both of his professional ventures. Kinda like the Deion Sanders of the NBA and pro video-gaming.

Minus the doo-rag.

And with priorities straight.

"Basketball player first," he said.

Sure, Hayward had ample time for his StarCraft game while locked out, but he didn't just improve his thumbs' dexterity. He worked out the rest of his body twice a day, hooping in Indiana gyms, doing explosion drills with bungee cords for quickness and, yes, pumping iron.

The daily devotion's results: 10-plus pounds of muscle. His matured 6-foot-8 frame now weighs 220, up from a rookie listing of 207. He's even got some guns — no controller needed.

"I think it will help him tremendously," Corbin said.

Hayward can hold a better line to the basket. He can use shoulder shrugs to drop defenders instead of being pushed around. His driving balance has improved. He can guard bigger players.

The Jazz's 3-point-shooting leader from last season didn't Popeye up enough to lose his outside touch. His shot remains on the verge of becoming deadly.

"You don't want to get too big where you lose some of the stuff you have," Hayward said. "It's all just being out there and playing and making sure you're continually on the court."

Sounds like a future game plan the Jazz would love to follow.

"At this point (last year), Gordon was still in awe of being in the NBA," Hornacek said. "Especially with the way the season ended, he (now) knows that he's a big player in this league, and he can be. That will help his confidence."

Could boost his marketability, too.

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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