Feb 22, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) reacts following the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Jazz 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
As fans of NBA teams we are the lowest rung of society. We pay for tickets, pay cable / Sat TV providers for the channels, get the league pass, buy all the merch, buy food and drinks and pay for parking at the stadiums -- we put all the capital into the system -- and we have zero say in anything that happens. To make things worse we love this game, and spend so much time dedicated to our team. We really are great fans, and especially after the NBA Lockout where billionaires and millionaires cried about who got to keep most of OUR money, every home game should be NBA Fan Night in the league, in every arena.
That's just not the case. We're fans. We get called ignorant and worse by the media that covers the team, and we get dismissed by everyone else who earns their well being at the very teat of fans who support the team in winning seasons and losing seasons alike. But that's reality.
Right now many of us are struggling to deal with moving our main distributor to the bench. Who's going to pass on the first unit? Devin Harris? Raja Bell? Josh Howard? Paul Millsap? Al Jefferson? Surely you jest . . . right? Well, on any other week of the year I would probably be very upset about moving Hayward to the bench -- you know, making sure that ALL of our lotto picks are all guys who don't take their warmups off until the end of the 1st quarter.
But this isn't just any week, this is that one week of the year where I will say only good things about the team. So here are 5 reasons to be happy about Gordon Hayward going to the bench:
#1: More immediate playing time with the guys he's going to be playing with long after the vets are traded away or leave as free agents
When Gordon Hayward was starting he played with a number of guys who were, and still are, most likely not going to be on the team in 2 years. Part of the reason why some teams gel and develop cohesion is that they play with each other for a number of years. This is no doubt also something that expedites trust and cooperation. If you keep changing the lineups it's hard for people to know the strengths / weaknesses of their crew. For our team to make any positive sense of their moves of late this has to be something we take a good hard look at. In two years Hayward looks to play a lot of minutes with Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. Slotting him with that development squad now means that's who he practices with against the starters, that's who he plays with in games, and those are the guys he learns the traits of.
Kanter's only going to be useful if he knows the way Hayward throws a bounce pass on a pick and roll. Favors needs to know when to cut to the basket when Hayward is free styling. Hayward needs to learn when to get Burks the ball when he spots up, and where to lead the pass in transition. None of that was happening when Gordon Hayward was assuming the "Andrei Kirilenko Memorial start, but only play defense and pick your nose in the corner on offense" role. At least now, with 30 games left we can get a head start on this so that by the time our guys return for training camp next season we'll be ready to go!
Also, Hayward is probably going to have more fun being part of the team that the home crowd cheers for, for once.
#2: A faster pace to play in, which suits his style
Did you watch any Butler games back during his years there? I honestly did not. The only game I watched was the one where it was the final game of the NCAA tournament and he just barely missed making the best buzzer beater of all time. But you've probably watched the Utah Jazz this year, right? This year our team's pace is 19th best in the league. Essentially, 2/3rd of the NBA plays faster than us. One of the big reasons why we go so slow is that we have this guy Al Jefferson on the team. He makes Mehmet Okur look like Carl Lewis. He's not very quick. As a result, we accommodate him by not running much. He's not the only reason why we play slow, but he is a big factor in that. If you see the bench play you've seen that guys like Earl Watson push the ball up the floor, but unlike what we get when Devin Harris does it, the bench has guys who can keep up with him. Hayward is one of those guys who excels in the open court with his surprising ball handling skills for his size, smart decision making, and unselfish nature. In the Rookie/Soph game we saw his abilities on display. It was an exhibition game but he was getting chase down blocks, and making a lot of nice passes -- and finishing strong at the rim himself. It was an exhibition game -- but when our younger guys are in the game it almost looks like that as well because of their terrific pace and unselfishness.
Hayward kills it when he can do things like get a defensive board, and go coast-to-coast for a layup. He did that in the Sacramento game (at home) when he played with the bench unit. He didn't have to a) let Al or Paul get the rebounds, or b) immediately pass it to Devin, or c) wait for the play to be run for either Al or Paul. He was able to take the middle man out and do more with the ball. That's using him to his fullest, slowing him down doesn't help him. We don't need to re-create the same problems of mismanagement that we had with Andrei Kirilenko. We should learn from previous mistakes.
#3: More responsibility on offense
Speaking of which . . . when he's not the 5th option on offense he may actually have the ball in his hand more. He is third this season on the team in minutes per game, but playing a lot isn't the same thing as getting to play the game. He's 10th in USG%. He's also 4th in AST% (2nd when you remove guys like Jamaal Tinsley who have played only 88 minutes total this year who are ahead of him). He's a pass first guy who is relegated to ONLY passing. He would be used much more on the bench, and his responsibilities would increase. Heck, the Jazz may actually run some plays for him? You know he shoots the ball less than Josh Howard does -- despite playing more minutes than Josh? Oh wait, that was rhetorical. We all knew Josh Howard was a chucker. (He is. He's not ashamed of it either. The only guys who would average less assists per 36 minutes on the team are DeMarre Carroll, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors)
More responsibility on offense for Hayward is using him more, and using him the right way. His minutes on the floor would be meaningful, unlike the meaningless "watch Al upfake the ball 7 times" style minutes he was getting.
#4: It makes it even more obvious how bad our vets are when we start racking up even more losses while the youth fight back to keep us in games, only to sit at the end
If the vets, who apparently need to start because they start strong, continue digging us into holes to start games, and it's always the bench guys (the young guys, aka the future starters of the Utah Jazz) who bring us back it will be very hard to make reasonable excuses as to why the bench guys aren't playing. I guess earning it means letting the other team get a big lead on you?
Not that #4 really matters in the big picture -- it's only a moral victory for we proponents for playing the younger guys more. Tyrone Corbin will, on locker clean out day, profess that "Welp, I guess we should have found more time for the young guys?" If not on locker clean out day he'll say that at next training camp. Sloan did this every year and got away with it. He said it after Memo had a great season and should have played more. He did it after Deron Williams' rookie season. He said it after Paul Millsap's rookie year. And he said it again after Ronnie Brewer's second year in the league. The front office, owners, or worst of all the media, never called him out on it. And they'll just absolve whatever Tyrone Corbin does as well. "Welp, should have played Gordon and Alec Burks more . . . ". He'll say that. And it won't make a damn difference to anyone but us the fans who said we should have done that months ago.
#5: Two words: Stealth. Tanking
The Jazz can't tank. They will never tank. The best the Jazz can do is receive the benefits of tanking -- but by situations where it's hard to definitively accuse us of tanking. Our franchise is so hung up about how we are perceived. We're like a 12 year old girl who may have brought the un-cool lunch box to school. (Do kids still have lunch boxes? I should have researched this . . . ) The Jazz can't tank. But when Carlos Boozer played only 51 games and Andrei Kirilenko only played 41 games, and the Jazz were forced to start Curtis Borchardt, Aleksandar Radojevic, and Ben Handlogten 34 times that season -- the Jazz accepted the benefits of tanking gladly. It's better to be seen as unlucky than sneaky, as long as you get what you want. The Jazz are trying to feel like it's better to look incompetent than sneaky this year.
And no matter how bad the Jazz play, if they lose the game starting veterans, and put the vets in for that "final push" at the end of games it really looks like we're trying to win every game. Even though this roster was set up to fail. (Look at it and tell me this is a contending team) The Jazz can't tank. And they can't admit to rebuilding, that's why they can't play the young guys 30 mpg either. Tyrone Corbin is a smart guy, and he's doing the very best he can to satisfy both the short term goals of his bosses with the long term goals he needs to set up as the future leader of this team.
And we, the fans are just going to have to sit back and find the silver lining in all the things that happen between now until the end of the season. After all, we're fans of the team. And we will always do OUR part.