Gordon Hayward's ambitious exit from Utah underlines the major issues plaguing "small-market NBA teams."
Small market teams in the NBA often get shafted, but it doesn't make their fans any less passionate. When Gordon Hayward returned to Utah last evening, the fans made sure that he knew he was unwelcome. Since deciding to leave the Jazz via free agency a couple of seasons ago, public perception of "good guy" Gordon Hayward had changed in Salt Lake City, through no fault of his own. Sometimes it's just hard to keep competitive players locked down in small markets, especially when reinforcements are few and far between.
Hayward rued the day he would have to face the scorn of his former allies, but the day did come, and it resulted in a serendipitous loss for the Boston Celtics. The final scoreline read: 125-113 for the bitter home side. In any case, the Donovan Mitchell era has erased some doubt in the minds of passionate Jazz' fans, but for how long we must ask?
Hayward spoke to the press about the tension he was feeling before the contest. "More than anything, I was looking forward to seeing (people)," he confessed. "I spent seven years here, so I built some great relationships and was looking forward to seeing some of those people ... maybe dreading a little bit about just the hoopla of the whole thing."
Unfortunately, the sentiment wasn't reciprocated by the Utah fans in attendance, as Hayward was booed pretty much everytime he touched the ball including during the pre-game warmup. His return to Salt Lake City was upstaged by Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder but ultimately spoiled the resentful Utah fans.