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Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey tries to put positive spin on loss of Gordon Hayward

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't easy, coming little more than 24 hours after the Utah Jazz were rocked by a gut punch when they learned that free agent All-Star forward Gordon Hayward decided to take his formidable talents to the East Coast to play for the Boston Celtics.

But Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey did his best to put a brave face and a positive spin on the disheartening loss of Hayward, who had become the team's leading scorer and best all-around player and had spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Utah before bolting for Beantown, home of the famed Boston Tea Party during America's fight for independence, on the Fourth of July.

"This is the first time I've had a significant player leave a program that I was involved with because of free agency," Lindsey said. "... If you're in the business long enough, you know that this is possible.

"Timing has been problematic," he admitted of the difficulty of replacing the 6-foot-8 Hayward on both ends of the floor. "... Certainly having wing size and getting that replacement would be very key.

"There's not as many (free agent) prospects left on the board because of the timing, so we'll take a look at it and we'll look at prospects at really every level, whether it be European or some of these Summer League prospects. And we'll find someone hungry that can defend and help us defend on the wing."

While lamenting the loss of Hayward, the Jazz GM chose to focus on the proven performers who he knows will be suiting up for Utah this coming season, like center Rudy Gobert, power forward Derrick Favors, newly acquired point guard Ricky Rubio, recently re-signed swingman Joe Ingles and shooting guard Rodney Hood.

"Certainly you can't ignore the impact or the talent by Gordon, not only the talent but the maturity and the growth," Lindsey said. "And that's a credit to Gordon and our staff and the organization. It took him a while to get to this level.

"With that said, Rudy Gobert, we believe, is the best center in the NBA. We think that Ricky Rubio is going to be the 2017 facsimile of Jason Kidd. Rodney Hood can be a primary scorer, so we'll start there. Derrick Favors is now healthy, and he's a unique defender as well. And we've got some good young guards we feel really good about.

"Look, it's time for us to pivot, it's time for us to move on," he said. "And we like our young group, we think we're gonna keep the defensive integrity."

Lindsey denied that Hayward's departure might have negative long-term ramifications on the franchise.

"No, no, I think this is a uniquely individual situation," he said of Hayward's decision to go play for his college coach, Brad Stevens, in Boston. "And again, we're very comfortable with who we are and what we have to offer. We love the state, the organization, our current players under contract, so I don't, I don't.

"As always, if that's the narrative, we'll fight that narrative tooth and nail and we'll change the narrative.

"... Certainly, losing Gordon, we're going to have to find a way offensively. So we're excited about challenging Ricky, breathing life into him; I can see him leading the league in assists. We're going to have to find him some more shooters besides Rodney and Joe Johnson and Joe Ingles. ... We've got some work to do."

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com