CLEVELAND — After he found out that he was no longer in the starting lineup, Gordon Hayward said he didn't view the move made by Tyrone Corbin as a benching. The Jazz coach insisted that was the case, too.
"He understand it's not like a demotion," Corbin said. "It's a thing where we can probably get a chance to go to him more with that second group, get the ball in his hands, pick up the tempo a little bit for us with the other group."
Hours later, Hayward went out and played a game that can be filed in the strong-actions-speak-even-louder-than-receptive-words category.
The second-year swingman responded to his new role — one he understood Corbin made to try to get the Jazz more wins — with a 23-point performance.
"You can't control how much time you play, when you play," Hayward said. "You can control what you do when you're out there, so (I) just try to focus on that."
Hayward focused on playing aggressively, attacking on transitions and asserting himself in the multiple pick-and-rolls that were called for him by Corbin and platoon leader point guard Earl Watson.
"Whatever it takes to win," Hayward said.
Both Watson and Raja Bell, whose return to the lineup led to Hayward being sent to the second unit, compared the 21-year-old to Manu Ginobili. Hayward is versatile, smart, athletic, can shoot and is trusted enough by his coach and teammates to be the focal point of the important reserves.
"In some respects, it's actually a tribute to his game," Bell said. "When you're playing with the second unit, a lot of times you've got to be able to create for yourself and you've got to be a potent scorer to get those numbers.
"So," Bell added, "a coach will entrust a Manu Ginobili or a Jason Terry, somebody who's maybe the best player on their team to come in as that sixth man and be able to create and carry that second unit. So I guess it's all in how you look at it. But bottom line is, he's a player."
Watson called Hayward "a really intelligent player," but said the youngster occasionally overthinks the game. With the starters, Watson noticed that Hayward has passed up shots to distribute the ball to teammates.
"He sees the pass every play down," Watson said. "With Gordon he has to find that balance to be like that scorer like a Ginobili. (He) came off the bench early in his career doing the same thing, so I knew (Hayward) has the ability to do it. He's a very creative player. He's better with the ball in his hands."
Hayward still added five assists and grabbed four rebounds in nearly 28 minutes. The Jazz turned a two-point lead into a 56-41 halftime advantage after he first entered the game with three-plus minutes remaining in the first quarter.
"Like I told Gordon, it wasn't nothing personal against him going to the bench," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "Coach was trying something new, but at the same time that show that you're just as good as a starter and he did that. Sometimes coaches do stuff like that just to see how a player react, and he reacted well."
BACK AT IT: As for Bell, well, his night wasn't quite as productive offensively. The 35-year-old had two points on just three shots, while also turning the ball over three times. "It felt like I hadn't played in two weeks," Bell said.
Overall, though, the starting shooting guard was happy to be back on the court after missing the past six games with a strained left adductor.
"I'm not upset about it. I didn't know what to expect today, it had been such a long time since I had competed with the ball in my hands," Bell said. "I was going to be OK with whatever happened tonight."
Bell had his 18-game 3-pointer streak snapped, going 0-for-2 from beyond the arc.
STARTING OVER: Corbin said he'll stick with the same starting wings — Bell and Josh Howard — for the foreseeable future.
"Raja missed some shots, but that's to be expect until he gets his legs back under him," Corbin said. "But I liked what I saw in that (starting) group."
The Jazz aren't sure whether Devin Harris will be able to play Wednesday. He left Monday's game early in the second half after spraining the MCL in his right knee.3 comments on this story
"It's day-to-day. I don't think I'll be out too long," Harris said. "Just rest it, let (trainer Gary) Briggs work on me. Hopefully, I can try to give it a go the next game."
HAPPY WITH HOWARD: Howard not only started for the seventh straight game — he also ended up with his seventh consecutive game in double figures after scoring 14 points.
"I like what we're getting from Josh with the starting group, the way he cut off with Al (Jefferson) posting up," Corbin said. "He can read situations a little better. Coming off down screens, he gives us another option there.."