There were likely a lot of factors that played into Gordon Hayward‘s decision not to play in the Rio Olympics this summer (he turned down an invite). For one, his wife was due with their second child and he didn’t want to be away (a very valid reason). Obviously, there were concerns about the Zika virus and other issues in Rio (which largely have not been as big a problem as feared).
If one were cynical, one would note that Hayward is a free agent next summer with a huge payday coming — whether he stays with or leaves Utah — and he didn’t want to put that at risk.
But Gordon said in a post on his official blog that saying no to the Olympics was hard, but it was about family first. It also allowed him to sharpen his game, in an effort to lift the Jazz to the playoffs.
Making the decision to not join USA Basketball in Rio and represent my country in the Olympics was one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make…. But I think ultimately for me, I wanted to be here with my family. It would have been too tough for me to make the choice to leave them, and play for Team USA at a time like this. I felt like being here with (his wife) Robyn and here for Robyn, and supporting her through these first few months with our second child, was important. Experiencing what goes on when you have a child, to me, outweighed the benefits of being an Olympian….
I also wanted to spend the summer in Utah and commit to training. We have a big year ahead of us with the Jazz. I want us to make the playoffs this year, and I’ve been training since May to help make that happen. You miss a big chunk of that vital training time before camp when you go to do something like play in the Olympics, and it kind of changes up your routine. I want to be the best player I can be to get us to the playoffs. I want to be an All-Star this year.
Those things are important to me. I felt the best place to be to achieve those goals was Utah. I also looked at the fact that I’m only 26 years old, and I feel like if my career goes the way I want it to, I will get another opportunity to play in the Olympics.
Nobody can knock a family first decision. As a father (albeit, one who has not exactly been invited to an Olympic team), he made the right move.
Next season is going to be interesting in Utah. The Jazz are on every pundit’s list of fast climbing teams that with their offseason moves — adding George Hill at the point, plus Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw for depth — should not only be a playoff team but maybe up in the five/six seed slot. This team is poised for a big season and Hayward is a key part of that as a main offensive option.
Then after the breakout season, can the Jazz keep Hayward? He professes his love for Utah in that blog post, Utah will offer him as much money as any other team (they better), but he is an unrestricted free agent who will have options. He is going to be part of a wild 2017 summer.
And if not wanting to risk that was part of the calculus on Rio, you can’t blame him for that, either.