SALT LAKE CITY — While celebrating Derrick Favors’ contract extension at a press conference Monday morning, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey leaked part of a conversation he had with the power forward’s agent during negotiations.
Wallace Prather, the man Lindsey described as being a “father figure” to Favors, opened the talks with a query that caught Utah’s lead negotiator off guard.
“You guys may not believe this,” Lindsey said, “but the first question that Wallace had for me was not, ‘How much money is Derrick going to get?’ It (was), ‘Can you keep the young core together?’ ”
Lindsey smiled relating the story and added, “That question was very much appreciated by ownership.”
It set the tone for an amicable resolution, which came almost two weeks ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline for extending contracts for 2010 draftees. A week ago Saturday, the 6-foot-10 Favors signed an incentive-based four-year deal worth at least $47.7 million. It kicks in after this season, when the fourth-year player will make $6 million, and keeps the Atlanta native in Utah through 2017-18.
“I want to stay in Utah,” Favors said. “I’m happy being here.”
Though this conference was about the 22-year-old Favors securing his future in the Beehive State, the bigger question looming over the Jazz organization is the same one his agent asked Lindsey.
Will the Jazz be able to keep the young core together?
Lindsey said the team will exercise options to keep center Enes Kanter and guard Alec Burks on board through 2014-15, but shooting guard Gordon Hayward’s future remains up in the air.
“If,” Jazz CEO Greg Miller said, “we have players that we think have the skill and the ability that it takes to win a championship or at least show promise of that and we can get all of the negotiations and contract speculation behind us so that we can focus on playing the game of basketball and getting better every single game, that’s going to be a good thing for all of us.”
Hayward’s camp and the Jazz have a lot of work to do before coming to an agreement that’d keep the former Butler star in a Utah uniform for another four or five years after this season.
Lindsey wouldn’t comment on the process, but, after pouring praise on Favors, Miller admitted he hopes to have Hayward’s situation settled this week.
“Gordon is a player who shows a lot of promise. I think we’ve seen a lot of growth and development with him over the last few years, and I’m very interested in keeping him as a member of the Utah Jazz,” Miller said. “The sooner we can get all that worked out, the sooner it’s not going to be a distraction. I’m hoping that we can get that done sooner than later.”
The clock is running down.
If the sides don’t strike an extension deal by 9:59 p.m. MDT on Halloween, Hayward will become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season. Utah will be in the same situation with Kanter and Burks next offseason.
“I’m still in the same spot, letting them (agent and Jazz) worry about it,” Hayward said before Monday’s practice. “Today, I’m going to focus on getting better in practice.”
Moments after Favors’ press conference, Hayward was asked if he hopes the Jazz will be holding a similar one for him this week. He deftly deflected the question to congratulate his teammate and the franchise.
“It’s great for him. I’m really happy for him,” Hayward said. “Great for the organization. Derrick’s going to be good for Utah for a long time.”
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin is another one who’d like as much certainty and stability as possible. This Utah team only has four players with guaranteed deals past this season (Favors, Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans), and Monday’s Man of the Morning is the only one past that.
“I’m very hopeful that it will come soon. We love the guy,” Corbin said of Hayward. “Hopefully, things can get worked out and (we’ll) get the deal done, and he’s with us for a long time.”
Incidentally, Corbin is also in the final year of his contract.
“I would love to be here,” said Hayward, the ninth pick of the 2010 draft. “That would be great, especially playing with Fav and be a part of this franchise. It’s a great franchise. I would love that.”
The guy who was selected six spots prior to him and who came to Utah in the Deron Williams deal in the middle of the 2010-11 season hopes so as well.
Favors, now a Beehive State homeowner whose Atlanta-based mom is thrilled he’s settling in “peaceful and quiet,” has become quite fond of Hayward.
“It’s very important (to sign him). Me and Gordon, we’ve been together for going on three years. We’ve been to the USA Camp together, so we’ve got a good chemistry going,” Favors said. “With Enes and Alec and all those guys, they’ve been wonderful teammates. It’s important to keep the young core together, so we can build the chemistry and move forward to the future.”
Favors, the NBA’s third-leading rebounder in the preseason, believes he can help lead that group to some lofty heights.
“What do I expect from myself?” he said, repeating a press conference question. “Just come out there and be a leader on the court, try to lead this team to the playoffs and hopefully one day to a championship. Those are my expectations.”
That’s what the Jazz have in mind, too.
Plus, the organization — from owner Gail Miller to the coaching staff — loves the man that Favors has become over the past three years.
“We think he’s a really good fit,” Lindsey said. “Just to reduce it simply, we wanted to keep a very talented player and a really good person in the fold.”
Question remains: Will they be saying similar things about Hayward at a contract-extension press conference later this week?
For now, they're ecstatic that one major piece of the puzzle is in place.
"This is one of the first of many steps that we’ll take," Miller Sports Properties president Steve Miller said. "With his (Favors') talent and his leadership, we believe our future is very bright."
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