NEW YORK — The Utah Jazz were in one of the culinary capitals of the world, and they had Sunday night off in the Big Apple.
You know what that meant for Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans.
Yep. The Olive Garden.
Last year as rookies, the Jazz players received ribbing, even national attention, for choosing the pasta restaurant chain over a nice eatery in Little Italy or elsewhere (anywhere!) in New York City.
They couldn't help themselves. The O.G.'s all-you-can-eat breadsticks and salad at the midtown Manhattan location are apparently THAT enticing to their appetites.
They even brought a recruit: rookie Alec Burks.
"They wanted to walk around Times Square," Hayward explained. "We were already down there. We just figured we'd stop in."
Of course they did — just as offseason New Yorker C.J. Miles teased them they would.
Though "Olive Gordon" gets grief about his New York dining decision, the 21-year-old said it isn't his usual spot.
"I can't even remember the last time I went to Olive Garden," he admitted. "Just the fact that we were here … we just wanted to do it just to rile things up a little bit."
With all due respect to the haute cuisine savants and food snobs, bien sur.
Per their New York tradition, Evans ordered the "Tour of Italy" and Hayward opted for spaghetti with meat sauce.
"The original," he said, smiling.
Burks went for chicken alfredo.
"It was good, too," the 20-year-old said. "Real good."
And, no, OG-Time & Crew — or Burks and "those clowns," as the rookie jokingly called buddies Hayward and Evans — do not have an endorsement with this particular restaurant.
"We paid in full — again," Hayward said.
Thirteen dollar check, please?
"It was good, though," he said, laughing.
Asked about the fine-dining experience, Evans shook his head and laughed.
"I was following these guys," he said. "Of course, I'm not going to separate and eat by myself."
Now onto more pressing matters: Olive Garden for lunch between shootaround and the Jazz-Knicks game?
"No," Hayward said. "Subway."
And for the record, Burks is well aware other palette-pleasing places exist in New York City other than the Olive Garden.
"There's a lot of other restaurants," Burks said. "I wanted to go to Friday's or Applebee's."
HAPPY HOMECOMING: Hayward can't wait for Tuesday night's game in Indiana, which will be his second visit home as a pro player. Last year, hundreds of fans at Canseco Fieldhouse sported his No. 20 Jazz jersey to support their hometown hero from Brownsburg and Butler.
"It should be fun. The Pacers are a good team, so first and foremost (I'm) thinking about getting a win," Hayward said. "It's always fun playing in front of your friends and family, especially (in) a place where you grew up watching a team, so it should be exciting."
Hayward fondly recalls the loud love he got from Pacers' faithful last season — from the jerseys, to widespread booing when he got called for traveling, to going absolutely bonkers for his posterizing dunk over Paul George.
"I had two points the whole night and it just happened to be a SportsCenter No. 1 play," Hayward said, grinning. "It was just one of those things. You're out there playing and you happen to make a good play."
Fans for both teams hope that happens again Tuesday night.
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That doesn't mean Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin isn't trying to help his two most deserving guys, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
"I campaign for them every day," Corbin said before Monday's game, laughing. "They're two guys who continue to get better.
"They worked extremely hard in the offseason and come back to camp in great shape," he added. "They're doing all the great things for this team and these young guys we have are following what they do."