Utah Jazz almost on the clock to match Gordon Hayward's contract

Published: Wednesday, July 9 2014 9:35 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward speaks with the media as Jazz players clean out their lockers for the season in Salt Lake City Thursday, April 17, 2014.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Things got a little interesting in regards to Gordon Hayward on Wednesday after he agreed to terms of a max contract with Charlotte owner Michael Jordan and the Hornets.

Utah Jazz fans debated about him. Teammates expressed a desire to continue to play with him. The man who could be his future coach gave a compliment but also deftly deflected questions about him.

And the company running his basketball camp in Salt Lake City this week canceled a media availability for him.

The NBA team that Hayward has played for the past four seasons now has three days to officially match the Hornets' $63 million offer sheet to keep him.

Utah, which has first right of refusal on Hayward's contract, was expected to be put on the clock late Wednesday night when the 24-year-old signed with Charlotte, which hopes to reunite him with former Jazz center Al Jefferson.

Hayward agreed to terms with the Hornets after two days of being wined and dined by Jordan's organization, but that lucrative decision was made with the understanding that the Jazz have the option to retain him if they so choose within the next three days.

Expect that to happen.

Multiple sources have insisted the Jazz both anticipated that Hayward, a versatile 6-8 swingman, would receive a hefty offer and that Utah management would match it.

That point was reiterated again late Tuesday when another person with knowledge of the situation told the Deseret News that Hayward agreeing to a max deal with the Hornets is a "nonissue for the Jazz."

In other words, Utah will match.

Simply put, the Jazz would consider it a step back to begin anew with a different small forward.

Don't be surprised, however, if the Jazz wait until the end of their 72-hour period to formalize Hayward's signing, if for no other reason than as a mild form of retribution to the Hornets. Charlotte will have $14.7 million (Hayward's 2014-15 earnings) worth of cap space tied up until Utah finalizes its decision, temporarily hindering what it can do with other free agents during a critical juncture.

Asked about Hayward's free agency situation, Snyder punted on answering while being interviewed following Wednesday's summer-league practice.

"It’s probably not the right time to react to any of that," Snyder said. "It’s a situation that the club will comment on in due time. Probably, that’s for Dennis (Lindsey) to comment on right now."

The Jazz general manager, however, has stated that he is unable to talk about any personnel matters during the NBA's moratorium from July 1-10. Two of Hayward's former teammates admitted they'd love to have him back on the team.

"I think whatever he decides to do, he has my best of wishes," Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. "If he decides to come back, that will be great. If not, I wish him the best of luck. Whatever he decides to do, I’m sure he's going to do great."

Added second-year center Rudy Gobert when asked about Hayward: "Yeah, of course (I want him back). He's part of the process."

Interestingly enough, Hayward returned to Utah for a youth basketball camp he runs after being courted by Cleveland and Charlotte in the past week. He was going to hold a Q&A session with the media before the camp started Thursday in Salt Lake City, but the organizers sent a press release announcing the interview's cancellation.

"Due to recent developments surrounding Gordon in the free agency process, ProCamps has decided to close the Gordon Hayward ProCamp to the media in order to keep the focus of the event on the camp and the children attending."

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