We don’t have to worry about the chemistry with him or anything like that. I know he’s a good guy, a smart player and I think he’ll fit really well with us. —Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward on newly acquired guard Shelvin Mack
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward admits it’s a bit “weird” that he’s once again teammates with Shelvin Mack, one of his buddies from their days at Butler University.
It could be stranger.
Mack, traded to the Jazz on Thursday in a three-way deal that cost Utah a 2018 second-round pick, could be sleeping on Hayward's couch.
“I think he’s at the Grand (America Hotel), which is probably better than my house,” Hayward said, laughing. “He’s got the better end of that deal.”
Nah, this is a good weird for Hayward, who played with Mack on the 2010 Bulldogs team that earned a Final Four berth in the same Utah arena they now call home.
“It’s exciting,” Hayward said before Friday’s late game against the Boston Celtics. “We don’t have to worry about the chemistry with him or anything like that. I know he’s a good guy, a smart player and I think he’ll fit really well with us.”
The Jazz needn’t look any farther than the Celtics bench Friday night to get another credible basketball mind to vouch for that. As Butler’s coach back then, Boston coach Brad Stevens was a big fan of both Hayward and Mack, individually and together.
That Butler team chemistry?
“Pretty good. Pretty good,” Stevens said with a big smile. “I liked that team. It was a pretty fun team to coach.”
Stevens, who left Butler after two NCAA championship appearances with Mack and one with Hayward, poured on the praise for the Jazz’s new point guard, too.
“I think that Shelvin is first and foremost a great worker and a great guy,” Stevens said. “I’ve always had a great fondness for him. He is a self-made player. He really cares about people. He is a great teammate.”
Stevens was touched that Mack went up to greet his kids, who are traveling with Boston on this trip.
“I think that just says enough about him,” Stevens said. “He will do really well. I hope that starts after tonight, but he is a good player and an even better person.”
Because of some trade complications, Mack’s Jazz debut was delayed until probably Sunday at Portland. The point guard passed his physical, but Atlanta-bound guard Kirk Hinrich had not been examined in time for the three-team trade to be finalized by the NBA.
Mack got pictures taken — wearing his new No. 8 Utah uniform, by the way — but he was placed on the inactive list and unavailable for comment, per NBA rules.
The 6-foot-3 combo guard’s stats certainly aren’t gaudy this season — 3.9 points and 1.6 assists per outing — but his new team is confident he’ll bolster Utah’s point guard platoon and potentially contribute at shooting guard as well.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder knows Mack well from when they were together in Atlanta during the 2013-14 season. Snyder, who was an assistant with the Hawks, thought Mack did a nice job behind starter Jeff Teague.
“He played well and was able to play in short stints and then was able to start some games and really play well,” Snyder said. “I think he’s an intelligent player. He’s a team player and a guy that I think our group will embrace.”
Snyder is glad to have a third healthy point guard on the roster and a big, physical player who can muscle up against guys like Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday.
“He’s a little different than those other guys (the smaller Raul Neto and Trey Burke) and a good fit,” Snyder said. “I look forward to him contributing.”
JAZZ NOTES: The Jazz’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, March 14, was picked up by ESPN. The nationally-televised game, replacing a New Orleans-Golden State contest, will now tip off at 8:30 p.m. The NBA allows teams to place only three players on the inactive list, so the Jazz had to put Tibor Pleiss on the active list even though the rookie center is on a D-League assignment in Idaho. Mack (trade pending), Alec Burks (leg) and Dante Exum (knee) were inactive. For the record, Hayward said he’d offer his Butler buddy shelter if needed. He laughed and added, “It (the couch) would definitely be available.”
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