SALT LAKE CITY — Miami had its chance on Saturday, and the Heat were impressive — from hanging a fun banner outside to talks inside with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra.
Boston had its chance on Sunday, and the Celtics were also persuasive — from a huge greeting on the Fenway Park scoreboard to a video highlighting Boston’s legacy and time with friend and former coach Brad Stevens.
On Monday, the Utah Jazz get a turn to make their free-agency pitch to Gordon Hayward.
Don’t expect a Hayward replica statue next to Stockton and Malone or for the initials GH to replace the U above The Hill.
Unlike the other two suitors, the Jazz are traveling to chat with Hayward. The meeting will take place in San Diego, according to sources.
Owner Gail Miller and her family, general manager Dennis Lindsey, coach Quin Snyder and team president Steve Starks are among the members of the Jazz who will meet with the All-Star small forward. Their objective, of course, is to convince him to return home to Utah while visiting with him in his home away from home in Southern California.
While some people will overanalyze the location of this meeting, the people and plan are far more important than the place.
All things considered, it might make the most sense for this important rendezvous to take place away from Utah anyway.
Hayward is living in San Diego this offseason, for one thing. The Jazz’s building and practice facility are both hard-hat construction sites as they undergo massive renovations, for another.
And while Boston and Miami understandably wanted to show Hayward and his wife Robyn what life might be like in those cities, the 27-year-old has spent the last seven years of his life in Salt Lake City. He knows where the entertainment and eating hot spots are (or aren’t). If he hasn’t been sold on the Wasatch Front by now, one more visit isn’t likely to help.
The Jazz will get a chance — away from the hustle and bustle of their summer league activities and away from anxious and hopeful fans — to drive home the important points about why they believe Utah is the place for the Haywards.
Lindsey loves to talk about how the Jazz love to tell their story to prospects, and this is their chance to do just that.
Even though Hayward just had great visits this weekend with two impressive organizations with championship pedigrees, top-tier coaches and respected front offices, the Jazz enter this important meeting with confidence.
They believe the grass is greener on their side of fence.
They believe this family should stay together.
“We feel good because of the city and the organization, the level of the team, Quin, the development staff, Rudy (Gobert),” Lindsey recently said. “We’re quite confident. We’ll see what that means. We’ll find out if that’s overconfident or appropriately placed. … I think as much as anything we’re confident in where the team is positioned, the ability to move it forward.”
The Jazz will certainly remind Hayward that he blossomed into an All-Star in the Western Conference under Snyder and his staff.
The Jazz will reminisce about how they’ve turned struggles into successes, turning a 25-win team into a group that won 51 games and a playoff series in spite of a rash of injuries.
They’ll remind him that they’ve built their team on the court around him and that there is a lot of positive momentum going on in the organization — from a renovated arena that’ll better serve players and fans alike, to a remodeled state-of-the-art practice facility that will feature technological and training advances, to putting talent around him, including agreeing to re-sign Joe Ingles and pulling off a trade to get veteran playmaker Ricky Rubio.
It wouldn't hurt to point out that Hayward can make more money in Utah than anywhere else if he signs a five-year max contract, too. (The Jazz can pay him $172.4 million through the 2021-22 season, while Boston and Miami can give him $127.8 million over four years.)
The Jazz know, however, that money won't be the deciding factor. It's deeper than that. It's all about their fit and future together, and reassuring him that he can win and challenge the Warriors (and the rest of the rising West) in Utah. Hayward is about winning more than anything else.
“I think Gordon knows how much he’s appreciated here and how the fit’s been. It’s been great for him,” Snyder said. “We certainly want him to continue here. There’s lots of good things happening here. There’s lots of momentum.”
One huge (literally) good thing happening in Utah is that the franchise has the 7-foot-1 Gobert under contract for four years. The Hayward-Gobert pairing has the potential to be a dynamic duo for seasons to come.
Gobert lit Twitter on fire Saturday night when he made a humorous pitch to Hayward using six emojis — a palm tree (symbolizing Miami) next to a trash can, a shamrock (Celtics) next to the smiling poop emoji and a saxophone (Jazz) next to a trophy.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Gobert, Ingles and other current and former Jazz players are among the Utah contingent in San Diego.
“For me, I don’t want to see him leave because he’s a big part of what we’ve been building,” Gobert said. “We’ve been through a lot. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Starks agrees, which is why the franchise has made retaining the all-around versatile star its top priority this offseason.
“Obviously, Gordon is very important to the franchise,” Starks said of Hayward, who opted out of the final year of his contract last week. “He’s somebody that we have built around, that we’ve watched grow and develop. I don’t think it’s a secret how we feel about him as a player and our desire to have him back for a long time and hopefully the rest of his career.”
And now Utah gets its turn to convince him that continuity and familiarity trump exciting promises elsewhere.
“It’s a great opportunity in front of us,” Starks said of the offseason during exit interviews. “It’s an opportunity to continue to tell our story, so I think we go into it with confidence as much as anything.”