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Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward will play tonight vs. Bulls

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) is fouled by Atlanta Hawks forward Kris Humphries (43) as the Utah Jazz lose to the Atlanta Hawks 91-84 in NBA basketball action Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) is fouled by Atlanta Hawks forward Kris Humphries (43) as the Utah Jazz lose to the Atlanta Hawks 91-84 in NBA basketball action Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Salt Lake City.
Tom Smart,

CHICAGO — For quite some time this season, Gordon Hayward played in pain. His right foot was in agony, but he continued to suit up every game and played — and quite well at that — despite suffering from painful plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

The pain finally became too untolerable for Hayward this week, and he sat out the past two games to allow his foot to heal.

In an encouraging development, Hayward participated in this morning's shootaround at Roosevelt University and felt good enough to suit up again today (6 p.m. MDT) when the Utah Jazz take on the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.

"I’m doing a lot better," Hayward said. "... (It's ) just something I have to fight through."

To that point, Hayward said he'll be dealing with the hard-to-shake foot condition this offseason.

"Plantar fasciitis is something that’s going to continue to bother me until the end of the season. That's just the nature of that injury," Hayward said. "The best medicine for it is to rest and time, which is something we don’t necessarily have."

Jazz coach Quin Snyder, aware of Hayward's condition, calls his best all-around player "Ironman" because of his durability and pain-tolerance level. One thing Snyder knows is that Hayward will give 100 percent even if he's not feeling 100 percent.

"If he’s going to go, he’s going to go. That's how he’s played the whole year," Snyder said. "He’s had this for a little while. No one’s been looking at him saying, ‘What’s wrong with Gordon?” because he’s just been playing. He’s been … Ironman."

Hayward's return comes at a good time. Tonight's game kicks off a critical five-game road trip for the Jazz, who are one-half of a game behind No. 8 Dallas in the playoff hunt.

"Iit’s hard. We lost (five) in a row and the sky was falling and we’ve won four in a row and now we’re really good again," Snyder said, somewhat sarcastically. "Schedule in the NBA dictates so much — as does health. Getting Gordon back is a boost going on this trip."

Hayward was the only Jazz player to have played in every game until he missed the 67th contest of the season, Monday's home win against Cleveland.

"I’ve been dealing with it for a while. I don’t know exactly how long. It’s something I think can happen during the course of the season with so many minutes I’ve played and the grind," Hayward said. "I’ve been getting treatment, trying to keep it right. It got to a point where it was too sore to probably play."

Rodney Hood, who's dealt with that same injury, described this foot condition as feeling like you're walking on broken glass or a nail.

Hayward agrees.

"Especially when it gets super aggravated in the mornings," he said, "it can be pretty painful."

This past Sunday, Hood told Hayward that it might be time for him to sit out to give his foot a break from the pounding and running that happens during a basketball game.

That night in Sacramento, Hayward scored 27 points in an important road victory at Sacramento. As Snyder pointed out, observers would never have guessed his foot was killing him.

"It was painful," Hayward said, "but we needed the win and glad we got it."

Hayward pointed out that Hood, whose back has been bothering him, continues to play despite being nicked up.

"I think we both realize what’s at stake here for us," Hayward said. "We both want to win and be on the court. So I’m proud of him to fight through all the bangs and bruises he’s been going through. And I’m going to try to do the same thing."

Hayward is impressed with how his team has responded in his absence, and especially in the 94-85 win over the Cavaliers. The Jazz followed that to crush Phoenix, 103-69, for the team's fourth straight triumph and largest margin of victory all season.

"It was exciting, especially the Cleveland game. It was fun to watch," Hayward said. "I’m just excited and proud of those guys, especially on a back-to-back against the East’s best team (and on) ESPN. We played really well. We’ve been playing really well."

The Jazz (33-35) moved within one half game of No. 8 Dallas (34-35) after the Mavericks lost to Golden State at home on Friday night as Utah had the day off.

The Bulls (34-33) are coming off of a big win over the Brooklyn Nets, but lost seven of 10 before that. Chicago will be without Pau Gasol (knee) and E'Twaun Moore (hamstring) tonight.

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