I love being in Utah. I really wish it could’ve happened. This in no way changes the way I feel about Utah at all. Hopefully it will get worked out next summer. —Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz guard
PHOENIX — The Utah Jazz and Gordon Hayward couldn’t agree on a contract extension before Thursday night’s deadline.
The two sides were, however, lockstep in agreement the morning after negotiations were put on hold until July 2014.
While a deal didn’t get done before the early extension period for the 2010 draft class ended, ensuring that Hayward will become a restricted free agent next offseason, they hope the relationship is far from over.
“I love being in Utah. I really wish it could’ve happened,” Hayward said of his contract extension following the Jazz’s shootaround session at US Airways Center ahead of tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns.
“This in no way changes the way I feel about Utah at all,” Hayward added. “I love being here. I love playing for them.”
And the former Butler star still wants to play in Utah beyond this season.
“Hopefully,” Hayward said, “it will get worked out next summer.”
Both Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Tyrone Corbin emphasized how much they continue to appreciate Hayward and what he brings to the organization — a relationship they hope continues well past the time his rookie deal expires at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Utah, which drafted Hayward ninth overall in 2010, will have first right of refusal on matching any offers that potentially come from other NBA suitors next offseason.
“I’ve been reading and hearing opinions,” Lindsey told Utah media in Arizona. “One thing that we want to make clear: Gordon Hayward is a valued member of the Utah Jazz.”
While exact details of the negotiations haven’t been made public, it was reported by Yahoo Sports that the sides were millions of dollars apart when talks ceased. Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client was not seeking a max deal, but it’s been reported that Hayward’s camp was hoping for more than the $47.7 million extension Jazz power forward Derrick Favors signed two weeks ago.
“No hard feelings at all. I understand the NBA is a business,” said Hayward, who'll make $3.45 million this season. “They’ve got to make business decisions.”
And, of course, so does he.
“Both sides made great efforts. Both sides were strong in their arguments and negotiated hard. There’s no ill will because of that,” Lindsey said. “Mark’s been one of the best agents in the business because he negotiates hard. He was fair. He played by the rules. He’ll continue to play by the rules. We’ll be fair as well, and we’ll come back and start talking in July.”
The Jazz GM reiterated that this past offseason's moves to let six veteran free agents go elsewhere and to pick up future first-round picks were made with the intention of having Hayward around long term.
That point, Lindsey said, remains the same.
“Just because (Hayward) said no to our last offer, his character hasn’t changed. He is an outstanding person,” Lindsey said. “He’s someone we can see being in a Utah Jazz jersey until he retires. That’s our hope. We think we’re great fits.”
Corbin offered his advice and encouragement to Hayward before shootaround this morning. The coach, who’s also in the final year of his deal, had to go through multiple contract situations during his 16-year career.
“We love who he is. He’s a great character guy for us,” Lindsey said. “He’s a huge part of what we’re doing here and we support him in his decision and not getting it worked out is difficult for all of us.
“We’re going to make sure that we support him as much as we can,” the Jazz coach added. “We love to have him here. We look forward to coaching him for a lot of years. We’ll get through this.”
Corbin also told Hayward, “This is not going to be a distraction.”
That might be one positive about this deal not being done for Hayward. At least he doesn’t have to deal with daily questions about his contract situation. Those will be put on hold until next year sometime.
Hayward admitted there is a “relief” and that he’s looking forward to “just go out there and focus on what’s really important, and that’s helping us get wins.”
The 23-year-old maintained that he allowed his agent to deal with the nitty-gritty details. As an example of that, Hayward talked about spending Thursday night, leading up to the extension deadline, playing pool, watching teammates bowl and catching NBA games.
Hayward knows it was a gamble to not take the deal on the table, but he said his focus is to simply go help the Jazz win. A good season could increase his stock next offseason. A rough year or injury could take a toll on his potential earnings.
“I have a lot of confidence in my abilities,” Hayward said, “so we’ll let the chips fall where they may next summer.”
With a smile, Hayward warned reporters what will happen when questions about his contract come up again.
“I’ll probably be giving you guys the same answers,” said Hayward, who is always guarded with his answers to contract questions. “They’re not going to be any different.”