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Aaron Guile: Gordon Hayward — the emerging point forward

By Aaron Guile

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17 2013 9:47 a.m. MDT

Trey Burke, catching a long pass from Gordon Hayward, slides to the right under pressure and whips a pick-and-roll bounce pass to Enes Kanter, who makes the shot from the foul line. During the pass, Burke breaks his finger and leaves the game.

Crunch.

I feel sympathetic pain every time I watch the video on YouTube. Basketball players' fingers are as crooked as a cat’s tail from vindictive, hateful basketballs.

Crunch.

Fortunately, Burke will be back. His finger will heal. He’s young and he’s smart. He’ll practice without the ball, stay in shape and watch tape until his eyes burn. He just won’t be the starting point guard for the Jazz until the doctor, the voodoo enchantress living in the EnergySolutions Arena basement and the insurance adjusters sign off on him.

I have to admit, Burke’s bounce pass scintillates, but Kanter’s two points were just not worth a broken finger.

That leaves John Lucas III, Scott Machado, Ian Clark and Lester Hudson to run the Jazz system as point guards. Crunch. They’ll be adequate with Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin yo-yoing their strengths and weaknesses in and out of the Jazz rotation. Alec Burks will also bounce in the occasional point-guard dribble.

But what about Gordon Hayward?

I’ve jammed my fingers playing church ball and in the Army. I’m a terrible basketball player with no athletic skill, but I do know the meaning of the word “crunch.” Crunch is the onomatopoeia equivalent for “Dang! I just broke my finger on a basketball!” Crunch also means crisis, difficulty, trouble, test, critical point, calamity, catastrophe, misery, misfortune, hour of decision and moment of truth.

This moment of truth here is not for Burke. Burke remains a rookie point guard with amazing potential. This moment of truth rests on Gordon Hayward. Quoted in panegyric “We are Utah," Hayward said, “fans are passionate in general, but Jazz fans absolutely love their team. I know that if I play hard and leave everything on the floor then fans will appreciate it. My effort has changed their opinion and it feels good.” Hayward’s right, if he plays with passion, heart and ferocity, Utah fans will continue to support him. Still, a few wins would be nice.

Hayward could lead the imminent merry-go-round backcourt rotation. I think a Burks/Hayward backcourt would be brilliant. On Oct. 6, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey wrote, “on media day, (coach) Corbin indicated that he wants to use Hayward as a playmaker. … So, it looks like it's definitely going to happen. The questions are: How effective can Hayward be in the role? And what's the benefit of even having a point forward?” The Jazz plan on Hayward handling the ball. They kind of have to. Hayward is the Nellie-ball lynchpin for the Utah Jazz.

Nellie-ball is a problem. Putting players in nontraditional positions is an admission there is a gap in team balance. Don Nelson, interviewed by ESPN.com’s Henry Abbott on Sept. 6, 2012, said of Nellie-ball, “you only play Nellie ball when you don't have a very good team, or when you have a bunch of good small players and not many good big players. When you have bad teams, you've got to be creative to win games you're not supposed to win.” Nelson perfected the point forward position, turning forwards into primary playmakers. He did this to compensate for weaknesses at certain positions.

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