Jody Genessy, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Forget that popular mantra about Sin City.
If the Utah Jazz are lucky, the bond that Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are showing and the team-building that continues to happen in Vegas will not, well, you know how it goes.
Hayward and Favors were wearing USA Basketball practice uniforms as the national team’s mini-camp began Monday, but you didn’t need to see "Jazz" spelled out on their jerseys to tell they’re tight teammates.
Before the day’s final scrimmage — the only one media members were allowed to watch at UNLV's Mendenhall Center — Hayward sat next to Favors for a quick breather even though their practice squads were about to face each other.
After the first of three training sessions this week wrapped up, it was Favors who sought out Hayward when their media interviews were completed.
Both times one Jazz player was sitting alone.
Both times one sought the other out so they could spend a moment together.
That camaraderie — off the court and on it — could go a long way for an overhauled Jazz team in search of a new identity.
“It’s always great to be here with a guy that’s on your team, so you can always talk to him, ask for advice or whatever,” Favors said. “Gordon, he’s a great guy. Every time I got a chance, I’d look over to see how he did in the scrimmage — and he did good.”
The compliment was returned from the other Jazz player in town who’ll be entering his fourth NBA season this fall.
Hayward grinned like he’d just hit a new high score on a video game when asked about being at another Team USA event with Favors, the 6-10 power forward he said “looks good so far.” Last summer, both players were on the U.S. Select Team, which acted as a pre-London Olympics sparring partner for the eventual gold-medal-winning national squad.
“It puts a smile on your face, for sure. Knowing that we’re going to be — next year — taking a much bigger role (in Utah), it puts another smile on my face,” Hayward said. “I’m proud that he’s here next to me.”
Having Favors’ company in Vegas isn’t the only thing making his heart smile.
Hayward reminisced about previous opportunities he’s had to play for his country, including his standout stint in 2009 with the gold-winning U-19 squad in New Zealand. (Favors was invited to play for Basketball USA in high school, but had to withdraw due to a family situation.)
“It’s a great experience,” Hayward said. “Any time you come here and you get to put 'USA' on your chest and compete against the best, play under the best coaches, you’ve got to soak it all up.”
Hayward and Favors are trying to continue making a favorable impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski this week. The Jazz players are among 28 young up-and-coming Americans — Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall are among the group's elite — who could earn spots on national teams, including for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Both Jazz players share a common desire to be Team USA teammates in the future.
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