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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward is more concerned about defense than shooting

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 1:36 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, left, shoots over Phoenix center Garret Siler on Thursday night. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, left, shoots over Phoenix center Garret Siler on Thursday night. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The numbers are nothing to write home about.

Especially not when you hail from basketball mecca Indiana, as is the case for Jazz first-round rookie Gordon Hayward.

But forget the two points and 1-for-5 field shooting Hayward had while making his first preseason start in Utah's 108-97 win over Phoenix on Thursday night at EnergySolutions Arena.

And ignore, Hayward might suggest, his 2-for-8 shooting when the Jazz beat the Suns on Tuesday in Phoenix.

"I missed some shots (Thursday) I would have liked to have hit," he said. "But I think as the game slows down it will come back. I'm not worried about that. I've been in the gym enough, and seen those shots go in."

What has Hayward more concerned, even beyond the speed of NBA play compared to college ball at Butler, is precisely what Jazz coach Jerry Sloan likes most: defense.

"It will continue to slow down for me, eventually. And I'm not worried about that," Hayward said. "Right now I'm more worried about the defensive stuff — when to help, when to stay, things like that. I think it will all come, though."

So does Sloan, who still is toying with wing combinations.

The Jazz coach remains uncertain if he prefers C.J. Miles or Andrei Kirilenko at small forward next to shooting guard Raja Bell at shooting guard, and in four games so far has opened with four different pairs: Bell and Kirilenko in the opener, followed by free agent Ryan Thompson and Miles, then Othyus Jeffers and Miles, and on Thursday free agent Demetris Nichols with Hayward at small forward.

Nichols had a nice showing with nine points while Miles added 10. But Hayward remains in the mix, despite not hitting double digits yet.

"He'll get a chance to play," said Sloan, who deemed Hayward a likely rotation regular. "He knows we haven't given up on him because he doesn't score 40 points a night."

Sloan especially likes subtle stuff Hayward does, like when he drove baseline and made a nifty scoop move Thursday — only to kick a pass out to Miles for a 3-pointer.

"He does a lot of things that don't show up in the stat sheet," the Jazz coach said of Hayward, who was matched often Thursday with veteran Grant Hill. "He'll pass the ball, or try to do little things. He just has to learn how to read certain things.

"He's 20 years old, trying to figure out what's going on. It's not an easy thing."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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