Gordon Hayward

Report: Jazz in talks to give Gordon Hayward 8-figure a year extension

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Apparently Utah’s front office is sold that Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are key parts of the future of this franchise, that their development will leap to new levels. So, no pressure Ty Corbin (a coach already considered on the hot seat).

Utah is saying all that with their money. Friday we found out the Jazz are about to give Favors a four-year, $49 million extension. Not cheap, but big men with potential get paid in this league.

Hayward has shown more of his potential and as the starting small forward was likely the Jazz’s go-to scorer this season. He also was eligible for an extension — and he’s going to get a big one, reports Marc Stein of ESPN:

Hayward’s role has expanded each of his three years with the Jazz — he had a usage rate of 22.1 last year (meaning he used about 22 percent of the team possessions when he was on the court) and that number was expected to go up this season.

Hayward can shoot the rock — 41.5 percent from three last season and from the midrange he was good on the right side of the court, 44.7 percent, but just 29.3 from the left side — and he can create his own shot off the dribble. He’s not a great defender against other threes but he works hard on that end of the floor. The key is he has gotten better each year and should make another leap this season.

That said, is Hayward a guy you’re going to pay $13 million or so a year to? If he were a restricted free agent next summer (which is what happens if this deal isn’t finalized) he would draw a lot of interest from around the league. So maybe that figure isn’t out of line.

But now the Jazz are going to have north of $24 million a year — more than a third of the likely salary cap line — tied up in Favors and Hayward. That is a big bet on their development (although they are assets that might be moved later if need be). It means coach Ty Corbin’s seat got hotter.

Utah is going to be bad this season and who they land in the draft next season could play a big role in deciding how far this team ultimately goes. Whatever that future looks like, Hayward and Favors will be a big part of it.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.