Gold medalists surrounded Gordon Hayward. As a member of the U.S. select team, the Jazz guard spent his summer testing his skills against the game's elite: Crossing over Kobe Bryant, helping on defense against Chris Paul, driving to the hoop and crashing into Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler, It made sense, right? The All-American, golden-haired Indiana native doing his country a solid, helping prepare the Dream-ish Team for an eventual romp through the London Olympics.

Only it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. If you ever need a primer on the class system among NBA players, Hayward's summer experience frames it nicely.

"It was frustrating kind of because we're the reserve team," Hayward said, "and we would get stops on defense and they would set it back up and run it again. I remember going through that when I was a freshman in high school."

Hayward, clearly, is as competitive as ever. What's the point of playing if there isn't a winner?

It's Year 3 for Hayward, and he enters this season with an elevated status on the Jazz roster. For the first time, he is the undisputed starting shooting guard, and a primary scoring option on a team without a go-to points producer.

"As an NBA player you want to be a starter," Hayward said. "You want to be one of the main guys on your team. I've put in a lot of work to get where I'm at."

Hayward says the "game is slowing down," the basketball equivalent of a fastball no longer looking so fast to a veteran hitter. But the Jazz are still waiting for clear direction on what Hayward will become, rather than what he has the potential to. Will he be the newly aggressive Hayward, taking smart 3s and getting to the free throw line? Or will his aggression make him the guy stubbornly driving repeatedly at Bryant in a single, clumsy possession — as Hayward did on Oct. 17 against the Lakers in Anaheim — and never getting by?