Jazz point guard scenario to influence Gordon Hayward decision

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Teams are lining up to offer Gordon Hayward a max contract when free agency begins Saturday morning. How the Utah Jazz address their point guard situation could affect the All-Star’s decision as much as anything else.

The Jazz can offer Hayward more cash than anyone else, but the seven-year veteran wants to win sooner than later. The Boston Celtics are considered a top suitor after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals with the ability to add two more All-Star caliber players this offseason. The Miami Heat are also expected to be in the mix.

Utah showed it was trending upward with its first 50-win season since 2009-10 and a playoff berth for the first time since 2012. Hayward and Rudy Gobert had career years, but the addition of George Hill gave the Jazz their best point guard production since Deron Williams was traded in 2011.

Hill, however, is a free agent.

“We’re very anxious to tell our story,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “The last two summers, I think people are noticing. We anticipate a very good and interested audience. And obviously a veteran point guard is one of them.”

There are high expectations in Utah for point guards after watching Hall of Famer John Stockton for 19 seasons. That standard continued with Williams before the two-time All-Star and the team had an ugly breakup and he was traded. The Jazz have been looking for consistent play at the position since that split and finally got it last season with Hill, who along with Hayward is a Jazz free agent priority.

Utah has added at least one point guard to the roster every June since Lindsey has taken over, including three in the lottery and trading a pick for Hill. And despite their efforts, the Jazz continue to search for a long-term answer at the position. Trey Burke (No. 9 overall pick), Dante Exum (No. 5) and Raul Neto were all added between 2013-15.

Lindsey traded the No. 12 pick for Hill last June, and he averaged a career high 16.9 points, but struggled with injuries. Utah also drafted Marcus Paige in 2016. The Jazz traded up to draft Donovan Mitchell at No. 12 and selected Nigel Williams-Goss in the second round last week.

It is possible that Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, among others, could end up in Utah this summer.

“It sounds really similar to when I was transferring to Gonzaga,” Williams-Goss said. “… Like being the quarterback for the Patriots or the pitcher for the Yankees. It’s a very marquee position in their organization. It’s the same here.

“If you haven’t prepared, then maybe the pressure can kind of get to you. I’ve worked my tail off to be ready when my number is called and I don’t see that changing here.”

Mitchell checks all the athleticism and character boxes that appeal to the Jazz. The 6-foot-3 defensive bulldog can play either guard position, but must improve offensively.

Williams-Goss doesn’t have the physical attributes of Mitchell, but had the more productive college career. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder was the West Coast Conference player of the year, a Bob Cousy Award finalist and Naismith Trophy semifinalist after averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also led Gonzaga to the national championship game.

Oh, and Williams-Goss has the backing of that point guard with a statue out front of the Jazz arena.

Stockton said, “Hey look, I thought he was the national player of the year,” Lindsey noted. “You cannot speed him up. He plays with great pace. He plays with great toughness and character.

“This is the comment I loved the most, `He plays like an adult.’ That’s meant a lot to us. That’s what I saw when I saw Nigel.”

The Jazz would prefer Hill to be the point guard of the present and future, but other teams will make a push for his services. This is likely the last major payday for the 31-year-old.

Hill has called Hayward his little brother and said his decision will have an influence. The opposite is likely also true, and the pair had planned to stay in contact at the end of the season.

Lindsey said he’s not feeling the pressure.

“Many times, what happens is, you capitulate to pressure and then you overreach,” Lindsey said. “We want to stick to our fundamentals of team building – mindset, culture, skills, fits, value adds, contract, production.

“We’re quite confident.”

 

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Gordon Hayward is shooting standing threes in an empty gym. That’s something, I guess.

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Having lost three games in a row at home, doubt seems to have crept into the minds of some Celtics fans. They’re the top seed in the East (and likely finish the season in that slot, again), but just how good are they really? Do they have enough to knock off the Cavaliers and LeBron James when he goes into playoff mode?

In the midst of that self-doubt, the wife of Gordon Hayward, Robyn, posted this.

Still can’t beat me… 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

For Boston fans still holding out hope Hayward returns this season, this is another sign. No brace, no chair, he’s draining threes. It’s a step forward.

This video also borders on meaningless — he’s not jumping, not moving, not showing us anything about his recovery we didn’t already know. Good to see him up and making progress, but that he can hit stand-still threes in an empty gym is about as shocking as finding out the next Transformers movie is going to suck.

Officially, Hayward is still out for the season. He’s putting in the work, and maybe he returns before the playoffs, but the Celtics are not going to rush him back for this season. Nor should they. The Celtics are on a multi-year plan to be the next dominant team in the East, no reason to push him and risk anything now.

Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo “devastated” by Jason Kidd firing

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The Bucks have been a team of unfulfilled potential for a few seasons now, two steps up and one step back. Last season they were 42-40 and bounced in the first round of the playoffs, this season they are 23-22 and the eighth seed in the East, with the point differential of a team that should be 20-25 and on its way to a 36-win season.

That cost Jason Kidd his job.

That has not sat well with the team’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

You can’t blame Antetokounmpo, Kidd has been his coach the past three-and-a-half seasons and guided the Greek Freak’s rise to superstardom. Kidd also was the one who put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands and made him both the defacto point guard on the team and one of the league’s most dangerous players. Kidd did some very good things with these Bucks, and Antetokounmpo is understandably loyal to the man.

However, Antetokounmpo is under contract at a near-max salary until the summer of 2021, so he has no real leverage here.

Elite coaches will be lined up for a chance to coach Antetokounmpo and a very talented Bucks roster, but whoever gets the job next summer has to connect with the superstar first. Kidd had done that.