Jazz match, Gordon Hayward to sign four-year, $63 million deal to stay in Utah
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — It's official. Gordon Hayward will be staying in Utah for quite a while.
The Jazz informed the Charlotte Hornets via email Saturday morning that they will match the four-year, $63 million offer sheet that Hayward, a restricted free agent, signed on Thursday, as had been reported would happen.
Hayward, who'd been in Utah for a basketball camp, then underwent a physical and formalized the long-term deal by signing the contract with the Jazz later on.
"We're just thrilled to have a player and a person of Gordon’s caliber," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said before watching his team's first NBA Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center. "We were very consistent that we wanted to have Gordon here for the duration of his career."
The versatile 6-foot-8 small forward will make $14.7 million this season and will have a player option heading into the final year of the pact in 2017-18. The deal also includes a 15 percent trade kicker, meaning Utah would have to pay an additional sum to send him elsewhere.
Although they're paying Hayward more now than they would've with a resolution last fall, Lindsey said the Jazz figured all along that he'd command a strong deal in free agency. They were just happy to have the final say because of the restriction rules.
"He tested the market and he did very well," Lindsey said. "It will not do anything to impede our ability to keep our team together and continue to build."
Both sides are happy to have a resolution.
"The Jazz made a gigantic statement about how they feel about Gordon by choosing to match this, and that’s really appreciated," Hayward's agent Mark Bartelstein said. "That speaks volumes about how they feel about Gordon as a person and a player."
Now that he's locked up, Utah is optimistic the 24-year-old will embrace new Jazz coach Quin Snyder and flourish in an up-tempo offense that will rely on good spacing and ball distribution.
This week, Snyder has been hesitant to talk too much about Hayward because of his free-agency situation.
"Gordon’s proven himself to be an integral part of what’s building here," Snyder said. "Obviously, everybody in the league knows he is a talent and a really good player."
Hayward was wowed by the Hornets, and was appreciative of their hospitality put on while wining and dining him earlier this week before agreeing on terms. Charlotte was hoping to team him up with old friend Al Jefferson, who took Hayward out to lunch on his second day in town.
The Hornets made a big effort to impress Hayward, including a Skype session with owner Michael Jordan, tours of the area, a personalized marketing vision for him in Charlotte, and visits with coach Steve Clifford and TV analyst Dell Curry (the former Jazz guard). Hayward and his family also spent time with Big Al and Charlotte personnel at a dinner at general manager Rich Cho's home.
One of the fun highlights of the two-day recruiting trip was right up the video-game afficianado's alley. The Hornets inserted Hayward into a Starcraft game, one of his favorites, and showed the entertaining video on the large scoreboard screen inside of Time Warner Cable Arena. Every screen inside of the building, by the way, welcomed Hayward to Charlotte.
Also, four different statistical analysts made presentations, showing how Hayward would excel in the Hornets' system.
Although fun and impressive, it proved to be all for naught.
The Jazz, despite not being able to come to terms with Hayward last fall, fully intended on matching any offers that he received during this free-agency period. Hayward attracted interest from multiple teams once the NBA allowed negotiations and talks to begin on July 1.
Cleveland flew Hayward to visit with the Cavaliers, who considered offering him a deal. Boston and Phoenix were among the others to show interest.
However, the Jazz have insisted all season that Hayward was a part of the franchise's future. Lindsey believes Snyder can help enhance the swingman's skills, so Utah isn't too concerned about paying his hefty contract.
"Relative to Gordon and the dollars, look we’re very comfortable with who he is," Lindsey said. "We’re very comfortable with the age that he’s at."
The Jazz GM mentioned Hayward's "pristine health" and then rattled off a list of his qualities: "24 (years old), versatile, athletic, compliant, hard-working."
Added Lindsey: "It just sounds like a natural fit for the Utah Jazz."
Hayward, the No. 9 pick of the 2010 draft, averaged 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his first four NBA seasons after leading Butler to the NCAA championship game.
Last year, Hayward struggled with his shooting, but he was only one of five players in the league to average 16 points (16.2), five assists (5.2) and five rebounds (5.1).
Lindsey added that he's glad to have both Hayward and big man Derrick Favors in the fold for the next four years. Favors signed a $47 million-plus deal last October before negotiations between the Jazz and Hayward ceased without a resolution.
Both players, the general manager said, will have key seats at the "decision-making table" as Utah shapes its future.
"We’re going to include Derrick and Gordon about the things that we’re going to do going forward," Lindsey said, "whether it's style of play or who we add to the team."
Hayward wasn't available for a comment, but his agent said he's glad to have the business part taken care of.
"The Jazz have made a wonderful statement about how they feel about Gordon," Bartelstein added. "Now he'll go back and play his heart out for the Jazz organization and the fans like he always has."
Asked if the Jazz-Hayward relationship needs to be repaired after this process Lindsey referred to a conversation the two had Saturday morning. Parts were serious, but there were light moments, too. By the end, Lindsey said both were "thrilled" about the situation.
"Gordon’s a smart guy. He understands negotiations. We went through that process," Lindsey said. "I think at the end of the day good people always rule the day. I think he understands that we’re an organization of our word and that we’re good for players and we believe in him."
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