LAS VEGAS — For different reasons, both Utah Jazz players participating in Team USA’s minicamp were somewhat upset at the end of what had been a great experience.
Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, who’d rather have his fingernails ripped out than lose, was less than pleased with the fact his Team Blue was defeated by Team White 128-106 Thursday night in the USA Basketball Showcase.
“We got smashed, but it was just good to be out there competing with ‘USA’ on your chest,” said Hayward, who made a post-Butler name for himself at minicamp. “It’s pretty frustrating (to lose), but what can you do? When I was out there, I played hard.”
Jazz power forward Derrick Favors, on the other hand, had an even more frustrating night because he wasn’t able to be on the Thomas & Mack Center court to play hard for very long with Team Blue.
Favors tweaked his lower back at practice Wednesday — no shocker, he didn’t tell anybody — and then quickly realized Thursday night that his mobility was impacted by the injury.
The 6-10 big man spent the entire second half in the training room, getting treatment on his back while 23 other Team USA hopefuls played an entertaining exhibition game.
“I couldn’t really move, couldn’t really jump, couldn’t run, so I just sat out,” Favors said, hunched over in obvious discomfort. “I was mad. I was mad as hell about it.”
Though ticked about the inconvenient timing of his back issue, Favors isn’t too worried about it keeping him sidelined from his goal of entering training camp in prime physical and mental playing shape.
“You’ve just got to regroup, rest a little bit and get back to it,” Favors said. “It just tightened. It ain’t that serious.”
The lower-back injury certainly explains why Favors looked sluggish in his short stint of just eight minutes (only player with single-digit PT). He didn't get in until the 8:09 mark of the second quarter, and he had a couple of turnovers, including one in which he bobbled away an on-target pass inside the paint from Hayward.
By the time halftime arrived, Favors had a very Vegas-like boxscore line. His statistical straight included one steal, two turnovers, three rebounds, four fouls and five points.
Despite his back and playing struggles, Favors said his second experience with USA Basketball — he and Hayward were on last summer’s Select Team that trained the gold-medal-winning national team — was definitely a positive one.
His takeaway from Vegas?
“Just how to bring it every day in practice, being around a lot of other good basketball players,” he said. “Just working hard and just bringing it every day.”
His two-team teammate, Hayward, is one of the guys who did that this week during three days of training sessions with the bulk of the best young American basketball talent — from Kyrie Irving (game-high 23 points Thursday) to Olympian Anthony Davis (22 points) and Weber State alum Damian Lillard (nine points, three assists).
Hayward made a strong impression in the practices and then continued his two-way solid effort in this intrasquad scrimmage in front of 9,513 patriotic basketball fans.
The versatile 6-8 wing, who started with Lillard, Davis, Dion Waiters and Greg Monroe, began the game with a steal, then pushed the ball upcourt and dished to Lillard for a strong dunk.
A moment later, Hayward swished a 3-pointer as Team Blue took an 11-1 lead.
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