Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward clearly doesn’t want to talk about it, perhaps believing the more he talks about it, the more he’ll think about it.
“It’’ is the second big shooting slump of the season for the fourth-year guard from Butler, who lately can’t seem to find the ocean from the shoreline for the Jazz.
Hayward has played six games since returning from his hip injury on Jan. 21 and after a 10-for-17 night in his first game back, he has struggled mightily, going just 18 of 61 from the field.
That’s 29.5 percent for those who don’t have a calculator handy. It’s not quite as bad as the five-game stretch in mid-November when he shot 28.5 percent on 22 of 78 shots, which included those awful 5-of-23 and 1-of-17 nights. But it’s close.
“I haven’t shot the ball well — hopefully I’ll shoot the ball better tonight,’’ Hayward said before Monday night’s game against Toronto.
He didn’t, going 3 of 11, which came on top of a 3-for-13 performance against the Clippers, a 3-for-10 game against the Warriors, a 4-for-13 outing against Sacramento and a 5-for-14 game against Washington.
You can blame it on the injury or the time off, but that doesn’t explain his 10-for-17 performance right out of the gates after sitting out for a couple of weeks.
Hayward acknowledges it’s a confidence thing. He said a player can’t stop shooting because he’s in a slump and has to believe it’s going to get better.
“You just keep shooting the next one’s going to fall,’’ he said. “I’ve been through rough patches before, so this one’s not a big deal. Don’t take any bad shots and if the shot’s not falling, try to get to the free-throw line, get yourself going in transition, do the little things to help yourself.’’
Hayward isn’t the only Jazzman to be mired in a shooting slump. Rookie point guard Trey Burke has even worse numbers over the past five game and his shooting woes extend back a couple of games beyond that.
Over the last five games, Burke has shot just 15 for 59, which is just 25.4 percent, and in the two games prior, he went 4 for 10 and 2 for 10. Burke might get a little bit of a pass since he’s a rookie, but still, he has dropped off considerably since a strong December when he averaged 14.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting. Over his last seven games, Burke has only hit double-figure scoring once and has averaged 8.0 ppg.
The rookie from Michigan is well aware of his struggles and like Hayward, he’s trying to work through it and help the team in other ways.
“I don’t want to lose confidence — obviously some of the shots I feel like I can make haven’t been falling the last couple of games,’’ he said. “Basically I want to go out there and do what I can do and try to make plays and not press and force the issue. It’s all about continuing to play through mistakes and play through misses and just stay positive.’’
In Burke’s case, it may be because he has hit the proverbial rookie wall, when a player is suddenly playing more games than he’s been used to as a collegian. After sitting out the first 12 games with a finger injury, Burke has played in 34 games this year, which is the same number he played as a college freshman (last year he played in 39 in Michigan’s run to the NCAA title game).
“It’s a long season and it takes a toll on your body,’’ he said. “But this is where you have to be mentally strong and persevere.’’
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