SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have until just after kids go trick-or-treating Thursday night to finalize a contract extension for Gordon Hayward.
Otherwise, the young shooting guard, considered a team leader and a key piece of a massive overhaul, will play the entire 2013-14 season not knowing if his future will be in Utah or with another NBA team.
With time running out, neither Hayward's camp nor the Jazz are close to getting what they’re asking for in the negotiating process, either.
By the way, you won’t see Hayward sweating — or yakking about — the contract situation playing out before he enters his fourth season and final year of his rookie contract. The ninth pick of the 2010 draft is set to make $3.45 million this season, with a significantly larger deal headed his way whenever or wherever it's worked out.
“There’s no sense in me stressing about it,” Hayward said at Saturday's practice. “I’ll let them handle that.”
Things can and often do change quickly in these business transactions, but the Jazz and Hayward’s negotiator, agent Mark Bartelstein, might be going back and forth until the 9:59 p.m. MDT deadline on Oct. 31.
“So far, there's been little progress or momentum,” Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Saturday, “but many of these deals need the pressure of a deadline to get sides to move.”
For now, the Jazz and Hayward are "far apart" in negotiations, according to Wojnarowski's league sources.
That report came on the heels of an ESPN story that claimed Hayward’s deal will be worth more than the $47.7 million extension Favors signed just over a week ago.
Interestingly, the Jazz are celebrating the power forward’s contract settlement in a pre-practice press conference Monday morning, with ownership, management and Favors expected to speak about their future together.
Though the timing is peculiar, considering Hayward’s ongoing negotiations, the belated presser is likely due to the fact the Jazz left town for a week right after Favors signed his deal on Oct. 19.
If nothing is agreed upon by Thursday’s deadline, Hayward will become a restricted free agent when his rookie deal expires at the end of this season. The Jazz would be able to match any offers from other teams.
Hayward won’t have a problem finding other suitors next summer.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ complimentary remark last week in Los Angeles was just one example of how much respect the shooting guard has garnered in the league.
"I have a man crush on that guy,” Rivers said. “He's really good.”
Then there was this from the well-connected Marc Stein of ESPN on Twitter: “Hayward has tons of fans in front offices around the league. Will draw tons of interest next July if he makes it to restricted free agency.”
Wojnarowski mentioned two potential front-runners if that scenario plays out.
“Two teams with ample salary-cap space have head coaches — Boston's Brad Stevens and Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek — who have history with Hayward and think highly of his talent,” Wojnarowski wrote. “Stevens coached Hayward at Butler University, and Hornacek was a Jazz assistant coach before taking over the Suns.”
If Hayward becomes a restricted free agent, Utah could potentially lose some control and leverage. Jazz fan Jason Wagner (@Sports_Junkie_J) aptly described this potential scenario as possibly playing out "Millsap style," a reference to “toxic” aspects that could be included like the one the team had to deal with when Portland gave Paul Millsap a front-loaded contract offer in 2009.
The 6-8 Hayward led the Jazz in scoring this preseason, averaging 15.9 points. Though he made just 37.8 percent of overall field goals, Hayward drilled half of his 22 3-point attempts. He had team highs in assists (4.9 per game), steals (1.5), minutes (29.3) and turnovers (2.63) in eight exhibition contests. Hayward also grabbed 4.6 rebounds an outing.
As for his team's play, the highly competitive Hayward wasn’t too distraught that the Jazz lost their final seven preseason games. Utah played some of its best basketball in the final losses to the Clippers and Lakers.
“I think you realize progress is being made,” Hayward said. “I think you realize it’s preseason, so it technically doesn’t count. You wipe the slate clean and you start over.”
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