SALT LAKE CITY — They still seem like youngsters and they are both still fairly young by NBA standards. Gordon Hayward is 25 years old and Derrick Favors is 24 in a league where the average age has fluctuated between 26.1 and 27.5 since the start of the league in 1946.
However, though it’s hard to believe, both players are in their sixth years in the NBA, which makes them veterans in a league where the average number of seasons for players is slightly less than that.
“I feel like a veteran around here, honestly,’’ said Hayward. “I’ve been here six years. It's crazy how time flies. I’ve grown up a lot. I’m glad I’m still here and excited for the season.’’
Unlike Hayward, who was drafted by the Jazz in 2010 as the No. 9 overall pick, Favors came over to the Jazz in a trade in February 2011 from New Jersey after being the No. 3 pick in that same 2010 NBA draft. But like Hayward, he also feels like a veteran.
“Gordon and I were talking about that on media day,’’ Favors said. “We’re going into our sixth year. We feel like the old guys on the team now.’’
The Jazz have the third-youngest team in the NBA with their oldest player being second-year pro Joe Ingles at 28. Among the other main players, Alec Burks is 24, Rodney Hood and Rudy Gobert are 23, Trey Burke is 22 and Dante Exum is 20.
Hayward and Favors are leaders on the team in part because of their relative longevity. Both are quiet guys, but have had to change their personalities a bit to be more vocal and assertive with their teammates.
Hayward can recall as a rookie learning things from Jazz veterans such as Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko about being a professional, and now it’s his turn to pass along his knowledge to Jazz youngsters.
“It’s something about professionalism I can teach these young guys,’’ he said. “I learned from some really good professionals, so that’s something Fave and me who have been around a little longer, can show these guys.’’
“You pass along a lot of the things you need mentally,’’ he added. “Such as staying ready if you’re not getting the minutes you want, making sure you’re getting in the gym and getting extra shots, extra lifts, making sure your body is 100 percent, as fit as you can be. Everybody goes through it and I tell the guys to be patient and the time will come, some guys sooner and some a little later. But if you continue to have a good work ethic you’ll stick around in this league.’’
From a production standpoint, Hayward and Favors are clearly the team leaders. Both players’ numbers have risen every year with Hayward’s 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists making him one of a handful of players in the league who averages more than 19 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.
Favors averaged 16.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last year, his best scoring average by nearly three points, though down just slightly from 8.7 boards the year before. That probably was affected by Rudy Gobert coming in and gobbling up a lot of rebounds in the second half of last season.
Although his numbers were off a bit this preseason, Favors is determined to have an even bigger season than last year for the Jazz.
“I’ve been in the league six years, working on my game and improving every year. This is the year I want to come out and dominate."
Both Hayward and Favors had their first child during the summer — a girl for Hayward in June and twin girls for Favors in August — and that has made a difference in their outlook and given them more perspective.
“Derrick and I were talking about ... how we’re vets and we’ve got kids,’’ Hayward said. “But I think both of us are entering the prime of our careers and as far as a leadership standpoint, I think both of us are the best leaders we’ve ever been. Both of us are guys that like to lead by example first and foremost. I think everybody is excited about the season and ready to give this thing a go.’’