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Gordon Hayward turns down offer to play in Olympics

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward speaks with reporters during the Jazz's end-of-season media availability Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward speaks with reporters during the Jazz's end-of-season media availability Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Gordon Hayward has been involved with USA Basketball and has dreamed of playing for the national team in the Olympics.

That opportunity finally came Thursday when Hayward was invited to play for Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics this summer.

In what had to be a gut-wrenching decision for the Utah Jazz small forward, Hayward declined the invitation from U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo for multiple reasons.

"While I am incredibly honored to have been invited to compete with Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics, I have withdrawn my name from consideration due to family obligations," Hayward said in a statement released by his agent's agency.

"My wife Robyn and I are blessed to be expecting our second child this summer. I am immensely grateful to USA Basketball for the opportunity and I hope to have the opportunity to represent my country in the future."

The escalating fear of the Zika virus has been one factor in multiple other athletes turning down the chance to compete for a coveted gold medal, so that is a legitimate concern for the 26-year-old and his family.

Hayward isn't the only one who is choosing to not participate in this Olympiad for various reasons.

Jazz point guard Dante Exum, rehabbing from a knee surgery, opted to remain in Utah to continue working out with Utah staff instead of pursuing Olympic glory.

"At this stage," Exum said last weekend, "the most important thing for me right now is to continue training."

On Thursday, LeBron James also announced that he won't play for Team USA. Steph Curry is another superstar who's choosing to not participate.

"I could use the rest," James told ESPN.com.

The Hayward news comes a day after Paul George's inclusion on Team USA was reported by ESPN. Multiple other players who've committed to play for the U.S. team include Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and DeAndre Jordan, according to multiple reports.

At the end of the 2015-16 NBA season, Hayward reiterated that one of his main goals this offseason was to secure a spot on the Olympic team.

"I think I've done everything I can to try to make the team," Hayward said. "It's up to the USA Basketball committee. If they pick me I’ll be ecstatic; if not, that's how it goes sometimes. ... Hopefully, I’ll make it, but you never know."

He's been playing for the U.S. at various levels since helping the American squad win a gold medal in the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.

Over the past several years, Hayward has trained with and played for the U.S. senior national teams in the summer while working his way up the ranks.

"It’s a great experience," Hayward told the Deseret News during a USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas in 2013. "Anytime you come here and you get to put 'USA' on your chest and compete against the best, play under the best coaches, you’ve got to soak it all up."

Hayward was among 31 U.S. finalists named to the 2016 U.S. Olympic squad this past January. The full roster is expected to be announced later this month. A training camp is scheduled in Las Vegas from July 18-21 ahead of some friendly games prior to the primary August competition.

The Jazz now have three players who could participate in the Rio Games: France's Rudy Gobert, Brazil's Raul Neto and Australia's Joe Ingles.

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