Because it’s a day after Gordon Hayward left for Boston, and because I’ve seen quite a few free agents come and go, I’m in cynic mode today.
I trust I’m not alone on this.
I never really bought the idea of Hayward staying in Utah. But on Monday at the Summer League, my conviction wavered a little. By Tuesday morning, though, I was back on track — he was out of here.
If he were staying, he would have got the announcement over with.
There was no overwhelming reason to believe he would stay. The money was better in Utah, but not enough to be the deciding factor. Saying Utah is a “family” wasn’t going to be enough, either. Besides, when did Hayward ever act like Utah was his family?
He was polite but distant. He was no Karl Malone, who hunted the hills and drove his motorcycle and called Utah home. John Stockton didn’t make himself terribly accessible to fans, but he also made it clear he never wanted to look elsewhere.
Hayward was no “Big Dawg” Antoine Carr, who woofed his way into Jazz fans’ hearts. No Jeff Hornacek, rubbing his face during free throws as a signal to his kids. In fairness, Hayward wasn’t nearly as surly as Deron Williams. He was more like Carlos Boozer: non-confrontational, but aloof and evasive, never opening up beyond a few standard clichés.
I never once heard Hayward say Utah was his preferred destination. I'm not sure how much he really agonized. He made up his mind when Brad Stevens was hired at Boston in 2013.
Malone would go on rants in the off-season, talking about leaving, but most everyone knew it was just the Mailman, wearing his feelings on his shirtsleeves.
In leaving Utah, Hayward managed to prove a few things. First, that few if any pro teams are actually “family.” They’re teammates for a finite amount of time.
Second, the enticement of becoming a Jazz legend didn’t have much weight. Any player who’s really good thinks he can become a legend anywhere — Boston included.
Finally, Hayward proved that fan love has little if anything to do with a decision. No Jazz player has ever received a more sustained and widespread effort to keep him. Yet the #stayward and social media campaigns failed.
All fan campaigns do is help people feel they’ve tried their best.
I figure fans should enjoy the games, regardless. The NBA is an unmatched viewing experience. Seeing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant is a rare opportunity, even for Jazz fans. But don’t invest too much emotion into a single player. In the end, the fan base is one of the last considerations a player weighs. He will have fans wherever he goes.