Gordon Hayward signed a large contract extension with the Utah Jazz this summer, and worked hard on trying to improve both his game and his physique.
Hayward looks noticeably bigger and stronger, and he told me he put on at least 10 pounds of muscle after one of Team USA’s practices in Chicago. He didn’t make the final cut for the 12-man roster that went to Spain to compete in the FIBA World Cup, but came away from his time spent with the squad with nothing but positive thoughts.
I got great feedback from the coaches, and that’s was definitely a confidence booster. Those guys are really well respected. To have them pay you a compliment is a pretty big deal. They’ve been around the best ever to do it. I also picked up a lot playing with some of the great players on the team. It’s not a situation where you go up to a guy and ask him to show you something, but you can view them from afar when they’re training. After practices, everyone kind of went and did an individual workout on their own, so you can pick up little things that guys are doing.
A lot of the direct interaction that we had was trash talk and competitions — who can hit the most threes or who gets to five first, different things like that. But all of it helps you get better and builds confidence, and that’s something you can feel right away. Just being around some of the best players in the world and being given a chance to compete with them was probably the best part of the experience.
This is why players go through the Team USA process, even when it seems unlikely that they may make the final roster.
These guys work out the bulk of the offseason anyway, and doing so with some of the game’s best players while being pushed by elite coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Thibodeau will only help them to improve for the upcoming season.