Utah Jazz: Franchise's future rests squarely on the shoulders of its young Core Four
"I thought he showed growth in a lot of areas this year," Corbin said. "Gordon will be a guy that can carry us at times, and that process you have to grow into, and I think he's getting a better understanding from the first year he was here to last year to this year of how he can carry us on the offensive end, how he can make plays for us on the defensive end, how he can make plays with the ball in his hands or without the ball in his hands."
But it's not just scoring, passing and defense Utah wants from Hayward, who'll be in his fourth season.
On locker clean-out day, Lindsey was asked about Hayward taking on a more vocal leadership role — something that the 23-year-old previously has been reluctant to do out of respect for veterans on the team.
Jazz management "challenged" Hayward to take more of a leadership role in the future, Lindsey said.
"Clearly, Gordon's a core piece going forward and I think he has a lot of leadership qualities, but he's a respectful guy," said Lindsey, adding that Hall of Fame players like John Stockton, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Tim Duncan took years to develop those intangible skills.
"I think it's safe to say that in many ways Gordon's going to have to grab our team a little like he did at Butler and say, 'OK, here we go. This is how we do things,' " Lindsey said. "Not even so much taking shots and running plays as it is, 'This is the way the Utah Jazz do their business.' "
The Jazz are confident other players will follow the lead of the amicable but soft-spoken 23-year-old.
"It would be empty if Gordon wasn't a good example, but he's a very good example. So I think that's the start," Lindsey said. "We all have the guys that say, 'Do this,' but they're doing the exact opposite. He walks the walk. I think Ty appropriately laid that (leadership) challenge to Gordon, and I think Gordon will respond."
For Hayward, his biggest focus this offseason is on making enough improvements to ensure that the Jazz don't end their season on April 17 like they did this year.
"I go into the summer knowing there's a lot of things to get better on and a lot of things I can still improve on in my game," he said. "And not making the playoffs is obviously going to be some motivation for that."
Hayward is as excited as anyone about the possibility of playing a bigger role with the Core Four.
"It's fun playing with those guys," he said. "I think they have a lot of talent, and if we work hard we can do a lot of things."
For what it's worth, Favors was as ticked off as Hayward about not being in the postseason. The day after the Jazz were eliminated with a season-ending loss to Memphis, the 6-10 big man said he wasn't going to watch a minute of the NBA playoff basketball. After the postseason began, he even tweeted, "I hate not being able to play in the playoffs."
If the Jazz's gamble to trade D-Will for two of the Core Four pieces (and a first-round pick this summer) pays off like the organization's ownership and management are counting on, Favors won't ever have to tweet anything like that again. (Favors and Hayward, by the way, can both begin working out contract extensions with the Jazz beginning in July.)
"We've still got a lot of work to do," Favors added, "but hopefully we can have a big future."
Though it's uncertain whether he's the point guard of the Jazz's future, Mo Williams also gives a glowing endorsement of Utah's youth movement — with a twist, though. While many Jazz fans are eager to see a bright, young point guard brought in, Williams believes they still need some experienced players around them — perhaps him.
"Their ceiling is high," Williams said. "It depends on what direction they (Jazz management) want to go. They've got a lot of young guys, and we can be really good."
Williams lamented the fact that his season (and the Jazz's) got somewhat derailed by his thumb surgery, which kept him out for 32 games. He and the team improved down the stretch, winning nine of their last 12, but it was too little, too late.
"With those young guys, they're going to need some veteran guys around them," Williams said. "They're going to grow next year. How much? I don't think the front office knows. That's one of the things that I think is up in the air."
Interestingly, one of the players with the most optimism about the Jazz's future might never play for the franchise again. Veteran point guard Earl Watson, a free agent this summer, beamed while talking about the prospects of the young guys he's befriended and helped so much over the past three seasons.
"The young core is going to be amazing for the future," Watson said. "Enes Kanter is going to be a great player, the bigs with Fav, and Gordon and Alec — the future is bright."
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