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Opinion: Forgive us if we’re not thankful, Hayward.

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Today an entire franchise watched its heart get removed, returned, then ripped out and stepped on.

Golden State Warriors v Utah Jazz - Game Four Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

I hear all of the fans and you can appreciate what the fans are saying. They wish and we wish that we had the third or fourth pick; we didn’t. We think we got a player that’s going to be a really terrific player in the NBA……The only thing I hope is that in two years you’re not booing.

- Kevin O’ Connor, ex-Utah Jazz General Manager

I actually had started this post trying to be clever. Trying to tie in how I had covered the Utah Jazz for 7 years and never thought Gordon Hayward would have been integral to Utah’s success. I tried to get cute with Shakespeare quotes of betrayal and tied it all in with the quote you saw above with an awesome “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” vibe. I was 1200 words in before I realized that it was garbage. Not that it wasn’t written well, but it didn’t encapsulate what I feel right now.

As a writer for SLC Dunk you are required at times to take off your fan hat and look at this analytically or from a business perspective. Sometimes you think like a coach or how an opposing GM would encounter a situation. Other times you FAN hard in a post but nowhere near the level you would in real life. The honest to God truth is all of us who write here at SLC Dunk love the Utah Jazz. We’re passionate. We care. But I don’t want this to be some disenchanted post. You want how the national media sees this move? Go read them. But here? On our turf? I’m going to tell you how today tore my basketball soul.

Before today, the only person who made Jazz fans feel hopeless wore #23 and worked in Chicago. Michael Jordan. We feared him. We feared him because when the Utah Jazz faced him, you saw the mortality of the Jazz franchise. You saw the glass ceiling. You saw the end. He was the embodiment of the Jazz’s potential crashing down.

Coming a close second to that was the Deron Williams - Jerry Sloan debacle. Watching our Coach retire unceremoniously midseason and watching the face of the franchise traded within days of each other was painful. But it brought with it a promising beginning. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors were going to be the foundation of the future.

Extenuating circumstances that limited their potential aside (thanks Ty Corbin), Gordon Hayward reached his potential and then exceeded. Dennis Lindsey took over as GM put the pieces together, found a coach who can develop young players, and made great moves. Last year Utah was lauded from all over the league as to what happens if you’re patient, invest, and develop your young players.

Yet all of that means absolutely nothing. Gordon’s decision to bail on Utah after everything Utah did feels like a slap in the face. It feels like an **** you to fans who supported him from straggly young Butler product to Chris Evans stand in. It feels like validation for every Jazz fan who is constantly paranoid that any big market can come in and swoop in a developed prospect without doing any work other than “Look at those banners from the 60’s and 70’s” and point to a court that Auerbach smoked cigars on and gain a winner.

Utah fans feel betrayed. They feel betrayed by the NBA that hasn’t done jack squat to protect small markets from their stars bailing on them. All one has to do is look at Utah, Indiana, OKC, and Portland in the past 3 years and realize that there’s nothing these franchises can do to keep young talent with them EVEN IF there is a history of success. This feels like a losing war. With the Gordon Hayward decision Utah Jazz fans are looking at Rudy Gobert’s contract and wondering if they’ll be in very same situation in just a few years. So what if Utah rebuilds around Rudy? It’s just small market groundhog day.

I don’t know how other Jazz fans are feeling. I know how I’m feeling.

Devastated.

Pissed.

Confused.

Betrayed.

Annoyed.

Tired.

Gordon Hayward broke up with us and all we got was a ghost written Player’s Tribune article and a 4th of July of leaks, he’s not sure, then the final blow. He couldn’t even break up with Utah right. Instead when the truth came out that he was leaving, he cowered back to make it seem like he was truly conflicted when the ink was already dry on his “passionate” thank you to Utah for investing 7 years, millions of dollars, cap flexibility, billboards, marketing, letters, coverage, and merchandise for a guy who was just itching to get back together with his college sweetheart.

Everything feels like I’m seeing it through the lens of 300 days of Summer. That playoff run last playoffs? Who knows when Utah will be back. That game I saw his rookie year when he went for 30 against Denver on the last game of the season? It was special but would take us down this road. I was attached by then. The wasted ink begging for Ty Corbin to play him more? The Core 4? The transformation? Everything? Just wasted years.

There have been players who have left Utah. But to be the player who everything hinges on, to have such a successful team, and to leave it? You want to talk about unfinished business? This is unfinished business. This guy talks about wanting to play against the best and he leaves so he can play against an Eastern Conference that is bordering on the G-League.

This sucks. It’s just not fair. Small market fans mutter that phrase a lot. It’s just not fair. Boston fans now will become more entitled than ever in their success forgetting how ****ing hard it is to get a championship. They don’t get to know how they’ve been given a cheat code of a large market to entice talent to play there. Which is garbage. The Utah Jazz have been one of the best run franchises in the past 40 years. 40 YEARS! What do we get? We get a participation trophy for getting beaten by Jordan. No championship. A couple of statues for Stockton and Malone. And somehow have a coach in Jerry Sloan who never won a Coach of the Year trophy.

Gordon Hayward will no doubt point to all the things said about him on his way out and will say in some crudely edited video for a national ESPN game that it was all motivation. That he used it to fuel his All-Star season—which if you have a pulse and play small forward in the East gets you into the All-Star game. Utah will get cast as the jaded ex that never could have ascended to the heights that Boston could have with Hayward. Our demise will be proof that Hayward made the right decision.

It’s bull****.

We didn’t deserve this. Quin Snyder didn’t deserve this. Rudy didn’t. Dennis Lindsey didn’t. Utah didn’t deserve this. We played the game, the season, the offseason, and the draft to perfection. And for what? For Gordon to prove once again that Utah fails to retain star talent because of a small market. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. No matter how hard the Utah Jazz organization works they are left with the same result.

That’s how we feel. We’re tired of this. We’re tired of being second. The runner up. The bridesmaid. Goodbye, Hayward. Sadly, Kevin O’Connor was right and wrong. You would surprise us, but we will boo you for it.