Kyrie Irving Gives Gordon Hayward Advice on Returning to Utah for 1st Time

Theyve waited to scream, to boo, to chant, to let out all of their frustration that came from the infamous Fourth of July over a year ago.

On July 4, 2017, Hayward left Utah. He walked away from the franchise where he grew from a skilled kid from Indiana to an All-Star forward to head East. It was a day filled with early reports of his departure, then denials, before Hayward finally released his Thank you, Utah post on The Players Tribune announcing he was signing with Boston. Come Friday night, Jazz fans will likely have their own unique way of saying, Youre welcome.

It was huge. After losing four straight, you kind of need that confidence going into Friday, Mitchell said. Obviously, its going to be a grind on Friday and were fully aware of that but we know we can do it. Thats the difference, we always know we can do it and we went out there and did it and weve got to continue to do it and not just be satisfied that we did it today, weve got to be able to do it Friday and on the road.

Donovan Mitchell smiled wide and then laughed after he was asked what he thought the crowd would be like for Haywards returns. He never played with Hayward, but hes been around long enough to know how Utah fans feel about him.

I dont know what to expect, to be honest, Mitchell said. Obviously, he did so much for this organization, for this state. Hes a great player. … We are just going to go out there and treat it the same way. We arent going to go out there and go crazy.

I think there was a rivalry between Boston before that anyway and I kind of felt that so this just adds to it but were going to go out there and treat it the same way, Mitchell continued. Were not going to go out there and do something crazy. Were going to stay with what weve been doing, build off tonights win and be locked in and focused.

Hayward has been limited to playing just one game of back-to-backs this season, as he continues to recover from a gruesome leg injury he suffered in the first game of last season. Friday will be Bostons second game of a back-to-back. On Thursday, the Celtics announced that coach Brad Stevens assumes Gordon Hayward will play both games of this back-to-back, but that has not yet been decided.

Utah snapped a four-game losing streak with Wednesdays 117-102 victory against the Dallas Mavericks, behind Donovan Mitchells 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds after returning from missing the previous contest with a left ankle sprain. The Jazz capitalized off Dallas 25 turnovers with 31 points while leading by as many as 26 on the night.

Monson: Gordon Hayward returns, even as the Jazz and their fans have found somebody else to love

We as an organization, me as a coach, our players appreciate the time he spent here and what he gave this organization and team, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. It was a pleasure coaching him. He did a lot for us.

Hayward is expected to make his much-anticipated return to Vivint Arena in Celtic green and white on Friday, when Utah hosts Boston at 7:30 p.m. However, that is barring any unforeseen health concerns following the second night of a back-to-back in Phoenix with the Celtics medical staff closely monitoring him.

Its been some time since a number of Jazz players have even been in contact with Hayward, with some silences going all the way back to that day 16 months ago.

Derrick Favors said he texted his former teammate soon after he made his decision, but hasnt contacted him since.

Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving knows a thing or do about what its like to go back to the place where ones professional career began. So as Gordon Hayward prepares to do so, Uncle Drew used his personal experience to pass on advice to his teammate.

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Rudy Gobert said he reached out to Hayward following his gruesome leg injury in the opening game of last season, but the moments of communicating with Hayward are few and far between.

The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Hayward spent the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz. He left in free agency after the 2016-17 season to reunite with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, in Boston.

I think it was important to do it, Gobert said. We dont talk a lot, but when its important, we do.

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We are friends, Ingles said. Weve always been friends. Thats about it really. You talk to your friends sometimes and sometimes you dont. Hes got his own life and a family. Ive got my own life and a family.

“Gordon is a good guy,” Gobert said. “I think Im a good guy. It is the way it is. You make choices you think are good for you. Im not here to judge anyone. Its just a game. We are going to go play basketball and thats it.”

The Utah Jazz look for another win after losing four of their last five games. The Utah Jazz are averaging 110.5 points on 46.3 percent shooting and allowing 109.5 points on 47.7 percent shooting. Donovan Mitchell is averaging 22.4 points and 4.4 assists while Rudy Gobert is averaging 16.4 points and 13.1 rebounds. Jae Crowder is the third double-digit scorer and Joe Ingles is dishing 4.2 assists. The Utah Jazz are shooting 34.8 percent from beyond the arc and 72.4 percent from the free throw line. The Utah Jazz are allowing 36.2 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 42.5 rebounds per game. The Utah Jazz have lost four of their last five home games.

Jae Crowder was never a teammate to Hayward, but he has a strange connection to the former Jazzmans departure. On Jan. 3, 2017, Hayward and the Jazz faced off against Crowder and the Celtics in Boston. During that game, the Celtic fans cheered for Hayward. In Crowders mind, they may as well have booed him.

Sports loyalty among fans in Utah is a powerful thing. Tucked between the mountains here, they pour their hearts and souls, so much passion — and a good bit of money for tickets and jerseys and other assorted gear — into supporting the players on their team, so much so that when those players dont feel the same about them, when those players walk away, fans react as though theyve been betrayed. Nobody likes betrayal, even if one understands at least at some level the realities of free agency in modern sports.

I heard the cheering (for Hayward) before the game, Crowder told reporters after that contest. I didnt like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans. That sparked a little fire in me.

“Probably a lot of emotion, fans cheering us on, Crowder said. Very, very, very, very into the game, obviously, with the ties they had with Gordon. I think there will be fans that will be very pleased with a win.”

And so, Jazz fans will greet him now as though he does exactly that, as though he left their love hanging, which he did. Still, the thin line in this case isnt so much between love and hate. Its between the combination of love given/love taken and love aimed elsewhere. But as the months have gone by, 16 of them now, those fans have redirected their emotion, their adoration, too, toward Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.

PHOENIX — The Boston Celtics take on the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, the third contest in their five-game road trip.

1. The Celtics will start their normal opening lineup, with Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving.

But the improprieties have faded over the past year and a half, since those events took a turn for the worse, along with Haywards ankle. Thats not a cheap shot. Its a fact that when Hayward suffered that difficult injury in the first few minutes of his first Celtics game, rancor around here toward the man who jumped ship changed to sympathy. Not all of it, but some, anyway.

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Hayward missed one back end of a back-to-back earlier this year, but he told ESPNs Tim Bontemps if he would miss one of the next two games, it wouldnt be his return to Utah. The Celtics play the Jazz on Friday.

Gordon Hayward will play tonight against the Phoenix Suns. Unless he has a physical setback during tonights game, he also will play tomorrow in Utah. Hayward told me earlier this week if he could only play one of them, there was no way hed miss the Utah game.

2. Brad Stevens was asked about Deandre Ayton — the Suns rookie big man who was picked No. 1 overall.

“Special talent, skilled, knows how to play, hes huge in there,” Stevens said. “Hes great rolling and ducking in, above the rim, but can also pass, skilled from the perimeter, a heck of a player. As you assume the first pick would be.”

“Weve played well, but in a lot of cases havent come close to playing a 48-minute game,” Stevens sad. “Weve been against two really good teams back-to-back, three including Milwaukee, where the most weve hit is in the high thirties, so our intent, focus, desire is to be a lot more complete moving forward.”

4. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov joked before the game that former Milwaukee Bucks coach Joe Prunty — an assistant on his staff — gave him all the tips to beat the Celtics. Prunty coached the Bucks last season when they pushed Boston to seven games.

5. Terry Rozier often plays 1-on-1 with Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen pre-game for a point or two. Today, Rozier had Allen locked up, but Allen lofted a mid-range jumper over Rozier and through the net.

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