SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward will be the sole Utah Jazz player at All-Star Weekend.
Jeremy Evans is the latest Jazzman to get snubbed from the league's midseason festivities in Orlando. Despite a #LetJeremyDunk campaign and Evans' insane hops, the Jazz small forward was not invited to participate in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest.
The dunking contestants will include Iman Shumpert (Knicks), Paul George (Pacers), Chase Budinger (Rockets) and Derrick Williams (Timberwolves).
High-flying Evans' gracious response to the slight was less surprising than the inclusion of some of those dunkers. The second-year Jazz forward said his limited playing time likely factored into the NBA's decision.
"Obviously you do want somebody who's been playing and the fans, they want somebody they know," the Western Kentucky product said. Added Evans: "(I'm) not really disappointed. If I would've made it, I feel like it would've been a shock."
Evans' teammates were disappointed that the Jazz's push to get the athletic leaper into the contest didn't pan out.
"I was sad," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward said.
"I think he was cheated," said Jazz center Al Jefferson, who was Utah's best All-Star reserve bet along with Paul Millsap. "But they want who they want. Everybody know he a great dunker. Maybe one day he can show it on a high level."
Veteran Earl Watson was also bummed, but he figured the playing time was the issue. But he isn't giving up hope.
"I think his heart was set on it. I think it's something he wants to do and I think he has the potential to win it," Watson said. "At the same time, he did his job. He got his name out there. People are now aware of him and he can keep building on it and eventually it will work out for him."
Evans said extra time will allow him to fine-tune his dunks, too.
"There's always next year," Hayward said.
Let the #LetJeremyDunk2013 campaign begin.
FLYING SOLO: Hayward will play in the Rising Stars Challenge, which now includes 20 top rookies and sophomores after the NBA added that other Jeremy (the Linsanity one) and Miami's Norris Cole. That game will be played on Friday, Feb. 24, two days prior to the All-Star Game.
As for Utah's sole participant, Hayward said he didn't have a preference as to which team he ended up on or what players he's aligned with. He wasn't complaining, but he isn't sold on the change of format the NBA made to split up first-year and second-year players.
"I wish it was still Rookies vs. Sophomores. I think that's kind of cool to be able to go against rookies — rookies go against sophomores," Hayward said. "It's cool to be involved, so it doesn't matter."
The 21-year-old was picked up by Charles Barkley in the draft.
Other members of Team Chuck:Kyrie Irving (Cavs, R); DeMarcus Cousins (Kings, S); Paul George (Pacers, S); Derrick Williams (Timberwolves, R); MarShon Brooks (Nets, R); John Wall (Wizards, S); Tiago Splitter (Spurs, S); Kawhi Leonard (Spurs, R); Evan Turner (76ers, S).
Team Shaq:Blake Griffin (Clippers, S); Jeremy Lin (Knicks, S); Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves, R); Greg Monroe (Pistons, S); Markieff Morris (Suns, R); Kemba Walker (Bobcats, R); Landry Fields (Knicks, S); Norris Cole (Heat, S); Brandon Knight (Pistons, R); Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers, R).
Hayward when asked about being the only Utah player at All-StarWeekend: "No pressure, but I'll try to do my best to try to represent the Jazz."
DISSTHEDISH?: Jefferson explained why the Jazz bench exploded during the Memphis game on Sunday. It was simply because he passed up a shot, choosing instead to assist RajaBell, who drained a 3-pointer.
"Y'all act surprise that I passed the ball," Jefferson told his teammates. "I said I need to do it more often because the way the team jumped up when I passed it."
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