Irving has experience in these matters: He played against the Cleveland Cavaliers in last years season opener roughly two months after news of his trade request leaked and he was moved to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and a pick. He experienced a hostile crowd, livid that he would choose to join another team.
Jazz set for Gordon Haywards return
“Just try not to get too caught up into what the outside is going on,” Irving said. “It really doesnt matter. It really does not matter — like, at all. I know the love and support that hes garnered there. Gordons a great person. Dont allow competition in basketball to be influenced by what everybody elses opinion and criticism and all that other stuff of what it should be like in an environment for him. If they boo him great. If they dont great. It doesnt matter at all. Its just basketball, like, you know what I mean? If anything, he gave (seven years) of his career trying to be the best he could in Utah, and I give him credit for that. And he made a decision in his career, and in his life, for his family, to be better. Ill leave it at that.”
Utah Jazz fans are still mad at Gordon Hayward, heres why
Hayward missed his first opportunity to return to Utah last season after he fractured his ankle in the first game of the season. While he is back and has put together a few relatively solid performances, he is yet to show the All-Star form he attained in Utah. Thats to be expected after a devastating injury.
“Its been a year so hopefully not as vicious a booing, but Im sure Ill get booed,” Hayward said last week. “It is what it is.”
“Great years in Utah,” he said. “I thank the Jazz for everything they did for me in my career. Im looking forward to being able to play there. I was really looking forward to last year, obviously, that didnt happen. Itll be a good game, they are a good team.”
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.
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.
Utah Jazz players treating Gordon Haywards return to Salt Lake as just another game
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.
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.
This same group of fans eagerly awaiting what the then Knicks unprotected lottery pick would become and watched as Gordon Hayward became its heir. They watched and rooted for the development of the scrawny kid out of Butler even as Paul George blossomed in Indiana and saw success sooner. They took his side as Ty Corbin and Kevin OConnor favored veterans over his and other youngsters development. They believed in his ability to lead them to the playoffs. They believed he would stay. They put up billboards. The believed him that he was really having second thoughts about leaving Utah even after every damn good reporter said contrary.
Jazzs Jae Crowder relives sad moment of Gordon Haywards gruesome injury
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.
The golden boy left for his college coach to a team—at the time—that was more a contemporary to Utah than a superior. Utah Jazz fans were left with a what if. Now with a playoff contender, Utah can only think of what if they had Gordon Hayward with this Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert core. Dennis Lindsey probably tries not to recall that terrible flight home he had after finding out Gordon Hayward turned them down. Not everybody believes Hayward should be booed.
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.
Monson: Gordon Hayward returns, even as the Jazz and their fans have found somebody else to love
Derrick Favors said he texted his former teammate soon after he made his decision, but hasnt contacted him since.
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.
I think it was important to do it, Gobert said. We dont talk a lot, but when its important, we do.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”