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Utah Jazz: Rookie Gordon Hayward has 'a sense of where he is'

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 4:07 a.m. MDT

MAITLAND, Fla. — Amazon.com's review of "A Sense of Where You Are" calls John McPhee's 1965 biography of former NBA star Bill Bradley "the literary equivalent of a harmonic convergence" between author and subject.

After Utah's opening game at the Orlando Pro Summer League here, well-read assistant coach Scott Layden dropped the reference in suggesting that something about 2010 first-round draft choice Gordon Hayward's presence with the Jazz simply sings.

Hayward, Layden said, has "a feel for the game and a sense of where he is."

On Monday, the swingman out of Butler University — especially late, after an initial slow start — was in a comfort zone.

He wasn't standing high above the rest.

He even had zeroes across his stat line following six first-quarter minutes, a short span in which he got dunked on twice.

And the two guys he was guarding most — Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson, both bit players for the Charlotte Bobcats last season — did tie for team-high scoring honors with 20 points apiece.

But by the end of an 85-83 Utah loss, Hayward had eight points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and a healthy feel for the best way to endear himself to head coach Jerry Sloan and the Jazz.

"I'm just trying to do what the coaches wanted me to do," Hayward said.

"Help the team win as many games as possible, hopefully win the championship," he added when asked what he hopes to accomplish this season. "That's what I'm about. I'm about doing whatever I can do help the team win."

That's the Jazz way, and it's why Utah — much to the dismay of its many fans who were hoping to draft a big man — took Hayward at No. 9 overall in the June 24 NBA Draft.

"In Coach Sloan's system … it's necessary that you have a feel for the game and that you know how to play, and clearly Gordon has that," said Layden, the ex-Jazz and New York Knicks general manager. "He knows how to space the floor; he knows how to feed the post; he knows how to use screens.

"I think he's gonna be a player that plays within the system," Layden added. "Clearly he did that at Butler, and that was one of the things I think the Jazz liked."

On Monday, defensive woes notwithstanding, Hayward did several things the Jazz seemed fond of.

Mostly, he merely blended in — and didn't do anything crazy, like jack up bad shots.

He played with knowledge of the offense — something Layden suggested is harder than one might expect for a rookie, but not at all surprising considering what a "quick study" Hayward's been since the Jazz opened their summer camp here last Wednesday.

He made a nifty short pass to free-agent big man James Augustine for a late-game dunk, which Layden called an "instinct play" on Hayward's part.

And he made something of a gutsy play as time wound down, beating Brown on the drive but passing up his own runner from just outside the lane for a pass to an open Sundiata Gaines — and the possible win — in the right corner.

That would be the same NBA Development League call-up Sundiata Gaines, whose last-second 3-pointer during the regular season beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hayward knows that shot well thanks to "SportsCenter," and he's seen Jazz point guard Gaines hit similar ones in practice during the past week, too.

"If I've got a good look and I think it needs to be taken, then I'll take it," Hayward said. "But, for me, I think the extra pass to a wide-open shooter like Yatta (Gaines) is always gonna be a better look than a contested jump shot."

So no going for the glory, not on a day there not need not be. No trying to stand out, even if he was the No. 9 pick. No nuttiness, in other words.

No need, really, for any of that for someone who really does seem to have a sense of just what the Jazz want from him.

"Being a part of a team," Hayward said, "is definitely what I enjoy most."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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