SALT LAKE CITY — The second stop on Gordon Hayward's free agency tour: Charlotte.
Although Hayward's visits won't garner the media attention of Carmelo Anthony's parade around the NBA, the 24-year-old restricted free agent continues to receive interest and invitations from NBA suitors.
A few days after meeting in Cleveland with Cavaliers' management, Hayward will visit with Hornets' brass in North Carolina early next week, according to the Charlotte Observer.
As previously reported, the Hornets, in need of a scoring wing, are among the teams the Jazz were expecting to court Hayward during this free agency period.
Hayward, one of five players in the NBA to average 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in 2013-14, has previously been contacted by others, including getting phone calls from Boston and Phoenix.
Next week, Charlotte will talk to the 24-year-old Hayward about teaming up again with old teammate Al Jefferson, who helped the organization return to the playoffs after signing with Michael Jordan's squad last offseason.
The Jazz, according to sources, fully intend on keeping Hayward in the fold and matching any offer that comes the swingman's way. Knowing this reportedly made Cleveland hesitant to immediately give the former Butler star a contract offer sheet during their get-to-know-you meeting Wednesday.
While other teams continue to show interest in Hayward, Jazz management made certain to express its feelings about the athlete Monday night. Coach Quin Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey both reached out to Hayward and his agent over the phone as soon as the free agency negotiating period began.
On Friday, Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said he preferred to not list teams that are currently expressing interest in the 6-foot-8 guard/forward. Like the Jazz, Hayward's camp would rather keep the free agency business dealings private.
"We're in the middle of the process and we've just got to kind of work our way through it," Bartelsein told the Deseret News. "He's a free agent. Obviously people are interested in him."
Although it's good for Hayward to have interest from elsewhere, Utah has the upper hand over other NBA teams in this contract negotiating process. Because he's their restricted free agent, the Jazz can offer Hayward more money and one extra year than anybody else. The max he could receive from other teams is about $63 million over four years, while the Jazz would be allowed to sign him for around $85 million and five years.
Some sources believe Hayward will ultimately receive upwards to a max offer from another team because this summer's free agency pool is limited and multiple franchises have money to spend. Getting a versatile player like Hayward is enticing to some squads because, even though his shooting has slipped every year in the NBA, he's considered to be above average at many aspects of the game even when not scoring.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey indicated recently that he believes the likelihood of Hayward returning to Utah is "very, very strong." He's also acknowledged that he wants Hayward to improve his leadership skills and to focus on having more fun while playing basketball in the future.
"We’re really pleased with Gordon, who he is, who he’s become as a player," Lindsey said. "We think that he’s got some unique skills. We think Coach Snyder’s system will bring out some of the skills he’s already shown, maybe even to a greater degree. We anticipate that Gordon will be with the Jazz for a long time."
In the meantime, the Jazz are willing to let the market dictate what Hayward's value will be.
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