CLEVELAND — The Utah Jazz will have a new starting lineup when they take to the court tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Raja Bell has improved enough to return to action after missing the past six games with a groin injury, and he'll keep his starter job.
For that matter, Josh Howard will keep his spot in the first five as well, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin announced at this morning's shootaround at The Q. He believes the move can help the Jazz make a playoff push and improve their 3-13 road record.
That means second-year swingman Gordon Hayward will join the second unit off the bench after being the only player to start every game this season.
Corbin believes it's a move that will help the starters, who are now a well-seasoned experience bunch, while also infusing versatility and firepower in the second unit with Hayward.
"I like what we're getting from Josh with the starting group, the way he cut off with Al (Jefferson) posting up," Corbin said. "He can read situations a little better. Coming off down screens, he gives us another option there.."
Corbin had a conversation with Hayward about the move, and he thought the 21-year-old took the news well.
"He understand. It's not like a demotion," Corbin said. "It's a thing where we can probably get a chance to go to him more with that second group, get the ball in his hands, pick the tempo a little bit for us with the other group."
Hayward is taking a team-first attitude. He didn't look at Corbin's decision as a benching.
"Just come in with the same mindset and be aggressive and help the team win," Hayward said. "Whatever it takes to win."
Bell was unavailable for a comment this morning, but Corbin said the 35-year-old "looked pretty good" at a practice Sunday. The Jazz wanted to make sure he's mobility was back and that he didn't feel sore the day after being physically tested after he'd been out so long.
"He had a good workout yesterday," Corbin said, "and he's not feeling sore today."
Hayward has averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds as a starter this season. He played the last six games as the starting shooting guard with Howard taking the small forward spot.
After struggling for a few weeks, the move to the starting five ignited Howard. The nine-year veteran has averaged 13.3 points in his six straight starts.11 comments on this story
The move creates some interesting dynamics as far as experience goes.
The starters — also including Devin Harris, Paul Millsap and Jefferson — each have between 5-12 years in the league.
It's possible now with Hayward on the bench that the reserves will feature four players 21 years old and under, with Hayward, Derrick Favors (20), Alec Burks (20) and Enes Kanter (19).
Hayward laughed when it was mentioned the team might look like it's a March Madness club.
"We're going to have a young group for sure," he said. "It could be pretty fun."