Wayward Hayward makes his way back to Salt Lake City, now its game on

Wayward Hayward makes his way back to Salt Lake City, now it\s game on
Jazz set for Gordon Haywards return
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.

Video: Will Jazz fans boo Gordon Hayward in his return to Utah? | PROPS

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.

The success of Mitchell has been part of the healing process for Jazz fans post-Hayward as he led Utah back to the Western Conference Semifinals during his rookie season. Before heading to Boston, Hayward was coming off his finest pro season yet, also leading Utah to the second round of the playoffs in 2016-17, where he averaged a career-high 21.9 points and 5.4 assists while becoming an All-Star.

NBA — Donovan Mitchell makes Utah Jazz-Gordon Hayward breakup easy for everyone

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.

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.

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.”

After he suffered a gruesome leg injury on opening night last season, however, Hayward couldnt suit up when the Celtics visited Salt Lake City in March. That means Fridays game will mark the All-Star forwards first appearance in Utah as a visiting player.

“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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gordon Hayward downplaying return to Utah

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.

The Celtics are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 vs. NBA Northwest, 5-2 ATS in their last 7 vs. Western Conference and 2-8 ATS in their last 10 road games. The Jazz are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 home games, 1-5 ATS in their last 6 Friday games and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Celtics are 5-2 ATS in the last 7 meetings in Utah and 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings. Im sure the Celtics will be eager to get a victory for Gordon Hayward in his return to Utah, but Boston just played an overtime game last night that required them to come back from being down 22 points. You have to question how much the Celtics have left in the tank after a game like that. Oh, the Utah Jazz also have Donovan Mitchell back, and theyre a pretty good team at full strength. Ill lay the bucket with the home team.

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.

Share Share FINALLY. Gordon Hayward returns to play Utah as a Boston Celtic tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports Its been over a year since Gordon Hayward decided then reneged then decided again that he was going to become a Boston Celtic (no phone call to Gail required). This will be the first time he travels to Utah. Last year on the first game of the season Gordon suffered a gruesome injury to his ankle that kept him out for the remainder of the season. As such the salt that awaited the Benedict Jazzman had to be held in storage until this year. Luckily, the schedule makers didnt make Jazz fans wait until March this time. The Utah Jazz finally face the Boston Celtics.

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.

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.

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.

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 Utah Jazz are coming off their first win at home against Dallas which put them at 1-4 for the season at Vivint. Its their worst start at home since their inaugural year in the NBA as the New Orleans Jazz. While the Jazz looked better against Dallas, one cant be sure if theyre fixing things or if its just smoke and mirrors against a lottery team on the 2nd night of a back to back. The Jazz were supposed to beat them and they did.

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.

It took him a while, and through coaching changes and a front-office move and the matching of an offer from the Charlotte Hornets, and, thereafter, a whole lot of resources devoted to his development on the part of the team, as well as a mix of his own effort, he became an All-Star. Ask Johnnie Bryant how much time he spent working with Hayward — on his shot, on his handle, on his movement, on his game. Ask Quin Snyder, who pretty much turned his emerging team over to Hayward.

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.

He listed off all the great things that had happened to him here. He grew up as a man and as a pro here. He started a family here. He came to appreciate the fans here. He became an All-Star here. After winning just 25 games in an early season here, he went on to make the playoffs and win a playoff series here. He said he enjoyed it here, even as he refused to commit to continue playing here.

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.”

Video: Who Will Get Flagged This Week for a TD Celebration? | PROPS

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.

Video: Who Will Get Flagged This Week for a TD Celebration? | PROPS

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.

Video: Who Will Get Flagged This Week for a TD Celebration? | PROPS

“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.”

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