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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward looks to upgrade game — not car

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 28 2010 11:40 p.m. MDT

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — He has a new ride.

No more driving the family minivan like during high school back in Indiana, no more sharing the wheel with twin sister Heather.

Gordon Hayward recently purchased a vehicle, one he can truly call his own. And what did the No. 9 overall pick in last June's NBA Draft select? Tricked-out Cadillac Escalade, perhaps? Luxury Lexus sedan? Maybe an over-the-top Maybach?

Oh no.

Still unaccustomed to the actual purchase power of his newfound riches, Hayward — 20-year-old Hoosier, Jazz rookie millionaire, newly minted Larry H. Miller dealership loyalist — is not nearly spoiled enough yet to think so ostentatiously.

He got a Honda Accord.

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"That's a good, practical car for me," Hayward said Tuesday, after his first session of fall two-a-day training camp. "The first car I've ever owned, so that was real exciting when I drove off with it the first time."

The Accord — most sticker well under $30,000 — is a little more low-to-the-road than the minivan, but not far removed from the class in which he's been rolling.

"I had a (Honda) Civic growing up, too," said Hayward, who nicknamed his old van White Warrior in a futile attempt to make it cool. "So it's an upgrade from the Civic."

Grounded by his Heartland upbringing in the Indianapolis suburb of Brownsburg, it should come as no surprise — even though he didn't buy American — that the Butler University product will blend anonymously into I-15 traffic.

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Nor should it be any great shock that he opted against a muscle car.

Because if there's one thing Hayward must work long and hard to have, but so far lacks, it's a body with bona fide NBA definition.

With just 207 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame, he knows he must add mass — and he's hardly alone.

"'Be strong'," point guard Deron Williams said when asked what he planned to tell Hayward about camp's upcoming weeks.

Williams' initial answer referenced mental strength more than anything, but it came lined with overtones linked to physicality.

"He's gonna figure it out," Williams said. "He's been through Coach (Jerry) Sloan's practices in summer league, so he knows a little bit of what to expect, and he'll be fine.

Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Alex Menendez, Alex Menendez) Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward made a practical car purchase, but he hopes to do more than blend in on the court. (Alex Menendez, Alex Menendez)

"He's just a typical rookie," the Jazz point added. "He's gonna have to learn the ropes, learn to compete harder, learn to get stronger. You know, he's gonna be in for a shock, I think, just as every rookie is, how fast, how strong, guys are."

Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor is confident the baby-faced Hayward can contribute eventually, jokingly that he "is going to turn into a very good basketball player, you know, as soon as he gets to shave."

Neither Williams nor Sloan discount Hayward's promise, either.

"You put a young guy out with guys who've obviously been here, he's behind in that," Sloan said Tuesday. "But he'll learn. He'll pick things up. He's smart enough. There's not any question about that." "What's gonna contribute to his playing time," Williams added, "is how well he can defend, because that's probably the only weakness he's gonna have out here."

Being able to muscle up the man he's guarding, though, is something the Jazz really hope Hayward can do sometime before he must take his Honda to Walmart to buy a razor

Hayward knows having the physical wherewithal to do so is a priority, and it's one — especially now that the wide-eye experience of camp's opening day has passed — on which he plans to focus.

"I was a little nervous at first just coming in, because it was, you know, the first practice, first NBA practice," Hayward said. "But it was good to get out there.

"There are so many great players out here that you can learn so many things. So I'm just trying to soak it all in right now."

Add newfound muscle to the sponged-up knowledge, then, and the new Accord owner should be headed in the right direction without even having to spring for the optional GPS.

"I tried to add some weight (over the past three months), but sometimes it's hard to put those pounds on," Hayward said. "But I definitely added strength. I know that. I worked hard in the offseason, and hopefully will continue to work hard."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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