SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward might've earned himself a permanent position as Enes Kanter's sparring partner.
Because of the Utah Jazz's short-handed situation the past few days — with bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap out due to sprained left ankles — the shooting guard filled in at center during practice Thursday.
A night after dueling with Hayward, Kanter had a heyday against the Charlotte Bobcats, racking up career-highs of 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 22 rebounds and 44 minutes in the Jazz's 98-68 win.
The Jazz gave players Saturday off, but they'll go again today before taking off for Milwaukee, where they begin a four-game Eastern Conference road trip Monday night.
If Tyrone Corbin's superstitious, the Jazz coach just might call Hayward's name for big men drills. He did say the team will likely need players to play out of position and do whatever it takes to get through this medically challenging stretch.
"We didn't have any big men, so he went against me. He did pretty well," the 6-11 Kanter said of the 6-8 swingman. "I think if Coach Ty put him in as center, he could play."
It wouldn't be the first time. Hayward was a guard until a growth spurt made him more of a forward. But he did see some defensive action as center when he played in the NCAA Tournament his sophomore season.
"When I was at Butler, we had moments where I was forced to guard the five," Hayward said. "In the national title game, I guarded (7-foot-1 Brian) Zoubek for a lot of the game because of switches and stuff. I'll go down there and bang with the guys."
"He's pretty tough. He doesn't care about his body," Kanter said. "He just like throw himself out there and just fighting for his team. He's just playing hard every minute he's on the court."
Hayward, as he's shown by excelling off the bench, certainly has that whatever-it-takes mentality.
"I think we all just have to be ready," he said. "We can use our depth and we've got to pick it up for them (missing players)."
Hayward didn't get a chance to show off his version of a hook shot or Big Al-esque post moves in the mix-and-match practice, which only included nine fully healthy players and a rehabbing Mo Williams.
"I was hedging some screens, calling out picks and stuff, setting some monster screens, too," Hayward said. "You never know."
Williams laughed when admitting the Jazz "actually had to call travel on Turk" at one point.
"We had to help out a little bit," Williams said, laughing.
"I don’t think it was a travel," Kanter claimed.
It was apparently quite the prep session, though.
UNCERTAIN AVAILABILITY: Utah's 30-point Friday came on a night that marked the first time the durable duo of Big Al and Millsap each missed the same game in their three years together in Utah.
It's unknown whether or not the team's leading scorers will play Monday against the Bucks.
Their fill-ins had the time of their lives in the limelight. Along with Kanter's crazy-good showing, DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 19 points, Jeremy Evans totaled career-bests of 14 points and nine rebounds, Hawyard added 14 points and Alec Burks chipped in with 10 points.
Power forward Derrick Favors was shaking his head in the locker room about fouling out, but he said the youngsters had a great time.
"We just wanted to come out and break the losing streak. It was a big win," said Favors, who had a relatively quiet start with eight points and seven boards before fouling out. "Turk had a big game, so it was just going out there and having fun, basically."
And giving Jazz fans a glimpse of what the future might hold in store.
"Everybody stepped up," Favors said. "It was just fun out there."
THIS AND THAT: Because of the injuries, Corbin was forced to use his 11th different starting lineup of the season and the fourth different one in four consecutive games. Charlotte's nine-point quarter was the lowest for the Bobcats and a Jazz opponent this season. Utah was up 47-24 at halftime, giving the team its biggest lead after a first half and the lowest point total for an opponent. Ex-Jazzman Carlos Boozer had the team's last 20-20 game in regulation, totaling 21 points and 20 rebounds against Phoenix on Jan. 25, 2010. Jefferson had 28 points and 26 boards in a triple-overtime game vs. Dallas last April. Utah outrebounded Charlotte 62-24, a season-high night on the boards for them and a season-low for an opponent.
EMAIL: [email protected]