Over the last few weeks, the Utah Jazz have made more changes to their roster than most fans are used to seeing in the NBA off-season. While some changes have been heartbreaking, others have been a breath of fresh air.
Here is a (not-so) brief recap of what you may have missed:
During the 2017 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz picked up three rookie candidates: Donovan Mitchell, shooting guard from Louisville, Tony Bradley, center from North Carolina and Nigel Williams-Goss, point guard out of Gonzaga.
On July 1, the Jazz finalized a deal, bringing back small forward Joe Ingles, giving him a $52 million deal over the next four years.
Continuing to build their roster, the Jazz then acquired Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio in exchange for a 2018 first-round draft pick.
After announcing his free-agency earlier in the year, All-Star Gordon Hayward had plans to meet with the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics and the Utah Jazz before signing a new contract.
On the afternoon of July 4th, tragedy struck Jazz fans as someone in Hayward’s inner circle leaked to the media that he had plans to sign with the Celtics.
Hayward’s agent responded quickly, assuring his fan base that Hayward had not yet made up his mind and that the leak was false.
For nearly five hours, Jazz fans were stressing and clinging to what little bit of hope they had that Hayward would not abandon the team that built him. Then, Hayward delivered the news in what he thought was a heartfelt thank you letter to Utah, that also announced his commitment to the Celtics.
Hayward posted on The Players’ Tribune in the evening of July 4th saying, “This has been the toughest decision I have ever had to make in my life, this weekend has probably been the longest weekend of my life, and today, well, today has definitely been one of the craziest days of my life, but I wanted to make sure I got this right … after seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”
Later that afternoon, former Jazz point guard George Hill broke the news that he would sign a three year, $57 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.
It has taken this reporter nearly a week to process, and cope with, the roster changes, especially Hayward’s decision to leave Utah, but I have finally found a way to describe how I feel about this.
Honestly, as a sports fan, I do not blame the guy, but as a Utah Jazz fan, I am highly disappointed.
Hayward had planned to announce his departure, on his own time, on The Players’ Tribune website. However, the story was leaked early and Hayward felt the need to cover his own ass, instead of coming out and admitting his decision.
Presumably, he told his agent, Mark Bartelstein, to spin the story and make it seem like there was still some sort of deliberation taking place, when actually, I believe, Hayward had his mind made up from the moment he announced his free agency.
Hayward wanted to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Durant, who last year on July 4 announced his signing with the Golden State Warriors on The Players’ Tribune. Durant began his post by saying, “this has been by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional career,” much like Hayward wrote.
However, KD got right to the point. He didn’t waste thousands of words spinning the fans in different directions by thanking them for the memories, and then telling a story about how he and his college coach have unfinished business and how he loves the winning atmosphere on the east coast.
Hayward’s cowardice in the way he went about this proved that he was just like any other 26-year-old male millennial with a social media account: it was all for the likes, the follows, the shares and the publicity he knew he would get by creating a blog post.
Nearly a week after the blog post, Hayward has still not picked up the phone and called any member from the Utah Jazz franchise; he has not bothered to personally thank any member of the organization that put forth the time, energy and money to make him into the all-star that he has become over the past seven years.
He ends his blog post with his aspirations to win a championship. Well guess what Gordon? We want to win a championship too, and we wanted to do that with you.
The Utah Jazz have spent the last seven years building the roster around you, including making the moves in this off-season to get you to stay. Although not confirmed, rumors spread that it was Hayward who pushed for the Rubio trade; that Hayward wanted Rubio to be a part of the Jazz organization.
The Jazz also re-signed Ingles, one of Hayward’s best friends, to the team.
Hayward still chose to leave, and he chose to leave at a time where he would leave the Utah Jazz scrambling in the hunt for other free-agency signing opportunities.
Despite the fireworks Hayward caused during the Independence Day weekend, a breath of fresh-air, wearing a Utah Jazz jersey, stepped foot on the court during the Utah Jazz Summer League this past week.
In his NBA summer league debut, Donovan Mitchell scored a game high 23-points and had five assists in the win over the Philadelphia 76ers on July 3. After his outstanding rookie performance, the Jazz offered Mitchell a contract and solidified Utah’s newest guard.
On Thursday, the final game of the Jazz summer league couldn’t have been more fitting for the occasion: Utah Jazz vs Boston Celtics. Although it was only summer league, you could feel the hostility toward Boston among all the Jazz fans packed into the Huntsman arena.
Some fans even went so far as to tape over the 0 on the No. 20 Hayward jersey, and write “Ingles” on the back.
The Jazz trailed for nearly the entire game, until Mitchell rallied his team and electrified the fans with under seven minutes to play, defeating Boston 68—65.
Despite the loss of a cowardly all-star, a new one was born. Hayward leaving will be a setback for Utah, but like a phoenix, I believe we will rise from the ashes.
Peace out G-time, thank you for nothing.