Usually right before Jazz practice, as the players warm up and the media are allowed to talk to players, Gordon Hayward is off to the side shooting by himself or with fellow rookie Jeremy Evans, while the veteran players put up with interviews from the media.
On Wednesday morning, Hayward only made it a few feet onto the court before being surrounded by a horde of cameras and reporters anxious to ask him about the night before.
It was Tuesday night in Los Angeles that Hayward had a coming-out party of sorts, leading the Jazz to a most unlikely victory over the Lakers while outplaying the great Kobe Bryant in the process. Hayward not only outscored Bryant, but hit the winning free throw and played tough defense in the final seconds when Kobe couldn't even get a shot off.
"It was fun," Hayward said. "When we play together as a team and share the ball and help each other defensively and rotate, we can be pretty good."
Hayward did all of the above and his individual line was his best of the year with 22 points of 9-of-14 shooting from the field, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was thrilled with the victory after eight straight losses and was especially pleased with the rookie from Butler.
"Gordon has been working hard all year long," Corbin said. "His body's gotten better and he's learned how to pick his game up on the floor and has been focused on getting better. He's been doing it all year long and now he's seeing the result of his efforts."
Hayward acted a bit sheepish when it was suggested that he outplayed Bryant, especially at the end when he drew a foul on a drive and then stayed down on Bryant's fake and helped cause a turnover.
Tyrone Corbin, Kobe Bryant praise Gordon Hayward's effort vs. L.A.
The Deseret News | Apr 7