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How Gordon Hayward ratted out on the Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — The closest l ever came to being Gordon Hayward was when I was nearing college graduation. I too received a job offer that paid $32 million a year.

Or maybe it was less, I forget.

Anyway, I passed the interview. It was a reporter’s position at a semi-weekly in Idaho, covering a combination of local news and sports. I told the editor I hoped to exclusively write sports, but that the job looked appealing and I would let her know whether I would accept it before June 1.

Sometime in May, I received another offer, a full-time sports position in New Mexico. It involved mostly Little League baseball, rodeo and prep sports, but what did I care? It was all sports. So I called the newspaper in Idaho and told the editor I was taking the job in New Mexico.

“You rat!” she said.

In hindsight, maybe she should have called me something worse. Her newspaper had a plan based on me being there, and I had been leaning that direction, but late in the process I got a better offer.

They had to find somebody else to cover fender-benders and weddings.

Unlike Hayward, I didn’t log seven years with the company before bailing, so I’ll give him that. Still, I didn’t get a full-page ad in the newspapers, thanking me for kicking them in the pants, either. Which is why it was incredibly gracious but entirely unnecessary for the Miller family to take out expensive ads in Friday’s Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.

‘THANK YOU,” it said.

In smaller print, it went on to describe how much the Jazz had enjoyed his indomitable spirit and his growth as a person and player. Hayward delivered his own love letter to the Jazz and their fans, but it came via an opinion piece in The Players’ Tribune online newspaper.

No purchase required.

Isn’t this supposed to be the other way around?

Usually the player runs the newspaper ad, thanking the community.

If anyone thinks there will be cheers for Hayward when the teams meet next season, they also believe in, well, leprechauns.

Fans in all markets react defensively when told they’re not good enough. Usually the player’s narrative resembles the famous breakup line: It’s not you, it’s me. When fans invest money and loyalty in a team, things always become personal.

But where Hayward’s situation most stings the Jazz is that he kept them waiting until virtually nobody else was available on the free-agent market. Several players came to terms during the same hours the Jazz were waiting on Hayward.

The All-Star’s agent says Hayward vacillated between Utah and Boston down to the late afternoon of July 4. While indecision is a natural reaction to having two good choices, Hayward has known Brad Stevens was the Celtics coach since 2013.

He could and should have decided sooner, so the Jazz could move on.

Hayward is by all accounts a good citizen respectable dad and husband. He never lost patience and went off on the media after a game, which can’t be said for everyone. That doesn’t mean he’s above mistakes. If the Jazz matter so much to him (“they’ve meant everything”), he wouldn’t have allowed them to get in the position they’re in.

After the story leaked, early on Tuesday, Hayward’s camp said a decision hadn’t been reached. Jazz president Steve Starks said on Twitter they trusted that claim.

It didn’t change the outcome, regardless.

The Miller family showed generosity in taking the high road on this. In my mind, Hayward actually did make a choice that will put him closer to a championship. That doesn’t make him a criminal, a liar, a thief, or most of the other names he’s been called. He sees himself as a grateful player who had to make an agonizing decision. But take it from one who knows. In job matters, when you leave someone hanging as he did, you always end up looking like a rat.