You have to give Utah Jazz fans some credit. The #Stayward effort to keep Gordon Hayward in Salt Lake City kicked off before the season officially ended and is going strong through the summer. Hayward can opt out of his current deal with the Jazz and become a free agent on July 1. It does seem likely after reports linked him to two Eastern Conference teams.
Garrett Jones, a big time Jazz fan, created the #Stayward effort in hopes to influence Hayward to stick with the Jazz and follow the footsteps of former greats John Stockton and Karl Malone — even though Malone left for the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of his prime. Jones raised enough money to put up at least one billboard, but Fox 13 Salt Lake reported that he was given the green light to put up seven additional billboards — a project that would actually cost $50,000
The billboards were put up across the Salt Lake Valley and even near Hayward’s home in Sandy, Utah, the station reported. The fans’ influence is special even if Hayward does not choose to ride out the remainder of his career with the Jazz — which managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs last season before losing to the Golden State Warriors.
Hayward made the Western Conference all-star team for the first time last season. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as well as a 22.2 PER. He has been linked to the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat early on. Even Stephen A. Smith has said that the Celtics’ plan is to acquire Hayward along with Jimmy Butler this offseason.
It would make sense for Hayward to go to Boston. He would be reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens and plus it would be easier for Hayward to make a run for a title with the Celtics. The East has an easier path to the Finals and is a long ways away from Oakland, Calif.
Hayward did almost leave the Jazz fairly recently. He signed a four-year, $63 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. He has thought about leaving before and unless the Jazz can offer him something better than $18 million for next season, he will likely leave again.
He should, however, glance up at those billboards and see what he is leaving behind. The fans really like him in Utah and he will be missed if he does leave.