Hayward reminisced about previous opportunities he’s had to play for his country, including his standout stint in 2009 with the gold-winning U-19 squad in New Zealand. (Favors was invited to play for Basketball USA in high school, but had to withdraw due to a family situation.)
“It’s a great experience,” Hayward said. “Any time you come here and you get to put 'USA' on your chest and compete against the best, play under the best coaches, you’ve got to soak it all up.”
Hayward and Favors are trying to continue making a favorable impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski this week. The Jazz players are among 28 young up-and-coming Americans — Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall are among the group's elite — who could earn spots on national teams, including for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Both Jazz players share a common desire to be Team USA teammates in the future.
“I’m just out here playing, trying to compete, trying to earn me a spot on the team,” said Favors, who had one strong move to the hoop for a layup in the short scrimmage. “I’m just trying to do anything, whether it’s defense or rebounding, talking on defense, blocking shots, running the court — just anything to separate myself, something to catch their eye.”
Hayward said he’s using this week — the mini-camp ends with a public scrimmage Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center — as another “learning experience.” The 6-8 small forward’s hustle on defense caused a few turnovers in the final scrimmage. He also joked that Favors got away with a foul on him.
“You just come out here and compete,” Hayward said. “That’s all they ask you to do — play hard, play the right way. You don’t need to put on a scoring clinic or anything, just go out and do the right thing.”
Do that enough times, and you might get lucky enough to play alongside LeBron James, Chris Paul & Co. with a gold medal on the line.
“You’re put into these environments to show you can play and to show you belong, to get a tryout to make the team,” Hayward said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play for one of the youth teams, and there’s nothing like it. Playing in high school and college and in the NBA, there’s nothing like playing for your country.”
One thing that might top that?
Playing for your country with a trusted teammate.
“I think we’ve both come a long way,” Hayward said of himself and Favors. “We still have a lot more work to do, but I wouldn’t have any other big guy than Fav-O with me.”
Throughout the 2012-13 season, Hayward and Favors spoke positively of how their Team USA experience boosted their self-esteem and level of play.
"I think I've shown that I belong in the league. It's something that you work for and you work towards. Now I think I know that I belong," Hayward said of his 2012 experience just before last season. "Now you push yourself even further, try and become an All-Star.”
And an Olympian.
Likewise, Favors said he loved the “tough and competitive” practices with the best of the U.S. It helped him better understand how he has to work to make it in the NBA, especially in terms of conditioning.
"I learned that I could compete with those guys," Favors said in an interview after his 2012 experience. "But at the same time, l learned that I've got a lot of work to do to be on their level consistently."
This year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the country’s biggest stars won’t be in Las Vegas, but Favors recalled that even scoring just four points against the elite players felt like scoring 20.
"Basically, it was that hard to score against them," Favors said. "It was an eye-opener, let you know that you are good but there are people out there that are way better and you need to work more."
NOTES: The players will have three days of closed practices at UNLV, beginning Monday afternoon. An intrasquad game Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Arena will be open to the public and broadcast live on NBA-TV (7 p.m. MT). … Smart and Creighton forward Doug McDermott are the only college players participating this week. ... Twenty-one players have USA Basketball experience, but Davis is the only participant who was on the 2012 Olympic team.
Lucas said Lindsey had “a lot” to do with him coming to Utah.
“He told me, ‘I believe in you and want you to come up here and show everybody what you can do, but also be a mentor and bring guys along too,’’’ he said.
Lucas said he’s known Lindsey since he was about 8 years old. Lindsey was involved with the Houston organization, where Lucas’ father began and ended his career.
Lucas also checked in with his old teammates from Chicago, where he played in 2011-12 and had his best success in the NBA, averaging 7.5 ppg and 2.2 assists in 49 games.
“Ronnie Brewer is a good friend of mine and Carlos Boozer, I know really well,’’ he said. “The first thing I asked them was, ‘How is the organization?’ and they had nothing but great things to say about it. They said it was like a family. I asked how the city was and Ronnie had nothing but high things to say about it and same with Boozer. So I felt like it was the best opportunity for me coming into a city where I knew the fans had your back as long as you give them 100 percent.’’
Lucas was seen at the Jazz summer league games in Orlando earlier this month, so his signing was no surprise. He said he had a good chance to watch point guard Trey Burke and said despite his shooting woes, he is going to succeed in the NBA.
“I would tell him, ‘Don’t look at your shooting numbers. We know you can shoot.’ Other than that, I feel like he did a lot of great things out there. He really got his teammates involved and didn’t let the pressure get to him. You can see he has a lot of poise.’’
Lucas also understands one of his big roles will be to help mentor the young guard out of Michigan.
“I’ve learned a lot from a lot of players and I feel I have a lot to give,’’ he said. “With Trey being so young and everybody projecting him to be a superstar — and I feel like he will be — I’m just here to push him and hopefully he pushes me too so we can go ahead and get this thing rolling and get to that next level.’’
But Lucas says he’s in Utah to do more than be a mentor.
“They also want me to come in and compete and be ready to play,’’ he said. “I love the game, so whenever I’m on that court, I’m giving it all I have.’’
Lucas also doesn’t see this as rebuilding year for the Jazz.
“We’re coming to play. ... We’re trying to make the playoffs. ... Anything’s possible,’’ he said. “I don’t look at it as a rebuilding year, but as a new beginning.’’
Asked what he remembers most about playing in Utah, Lucas said the fans because "they are constantly talking to you — the whole time, on the bench and the court."
Lucas smiled, thinking about how those jeers will turn to cheers.
"I can’t wait to play here now because I don’t have to hear about it from them," he said. ".... Now I’ll have them on my side — our side."
With the Jazz, Lucas’ task will be to solidify a completely rebuilt backcourt. He will undoubtedly help mentor rookie point guard Trey Burke.
"At this stage in my career," Lucas said, "I’ve learned a lot from a lot of players and feel I have a lot to give. With Trey being so young ... I’m here to push him. Hopefully he pushes me, too, so we can go ahead and get this thing rolling and get to the next level."
Lucas is the son of longtime NBA player John Lucas, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1976 draft. He has known Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsay "since I was eight or nine." That relationship is one reason he signed with Utah.
"[Lindsey] told me, ‘Look, I believe in you. I know what you can do. I want you to come up here and show everybody else what you can do, too,’" Lucas said.
His father also helped convince Lucas that Utah was the right place for him.
"We sat down and had a little family meeting," he said. "He told me, ‘Look, I think this is the perfect situation for you because you have so much to offer and so much to give.’ ... And I felt the same way."
Asked to describe his professional career so far, Lucas said, "Just a journey. I’m a blue-collar worker — somebody who, when he gets the opportunity, kicks the door down. That me."
According to the whispers emanating from UNLV's Mendenhall Center, Portland's Damian Lillard, Utah's Gordon Hayward and collegian Doug McDermott of Creighton were among the Day 1 standouts, with the Los Angeles Clippers' Jordan said to have made his presence felt defensively. ESPN.com
Utah Jazz center Andris Biedrins has decided not to represent Latvia this summer at Eurobasket in Slovenia. Hot on the heels of Latvia’s success at the under-20 Sportland European Championships, the men’s squad assembled for training camp last Thursday with Biedrins’ name crossed out as absent. The 27-year-old then confirmed to Latvian sports outlet ‘basket.lv’ that he will be spending this summer focusing on rejuvenating his NBA career with the Jazz. TalkBasket
Amid a strong finish over the final week of NBA summer league, Dionte Christmas has received interest from teams, including from the organization he played for, the Phoenix Suns. “I’m getting positive feedback from a lot of teams,” Christmas told RealGM. “Perhaps I get a call saying they want to see me in training camp or hopefully sign me for the season.” RealGM
Bill Oram: The Jazz have made official the hiring of former Ute Alex Jensen as player development assistant. Long expected. Twitter @tribjazz
Former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, who turns 50 on Wednesday, has made one concession to age. He bought a mule. During 18 seasons with the Jazz and one with the Los Angeles Lakers, Malone was known as a fitness fanatic who willed himself into the Hall of Fame. "In 30 years," says Jazz strength coach Mark McKown," I’ve never seen anybody with the same capacity for work, the same drive or the same intensity." Salt Lake Tribune
Malone has always done the strenuous physical work his pastime requires by himself — at least until recently. "Instead of being the athlete and walking everywhere, he got himself a mule," said Kay Malone, his wife. "... I think he’s listening to his body more. He’s preserving himself more. He wants to be able to do things with the grandkids." Salt Lake Tribune
There’s another reason Malone still weighs 256 pounds — his playing weight. One of his new projects is mentoring the Jazz’s young players — specifically power forward Derrick Favors and center Enes Kanter. "I always had a suspicion, at some point, I’d be back involved with some organization," Malone said. "When I stepped back on the floor, I wanted to look like a coach. I wanted to look like I belonged. I thought it might help the young guys listen to me." Salt Lake Tribune
“It’s time,” Favors said, “for two other people to be the new leading scorers.”
The two candidates best positioned to take over an offensive responsibility that’s been shouldered by Jefferson and Millsap are participating together this week at Team USA’s minicamp.
I'd be looking for Kanter and Burks and eventually Burke if he ever lives up to expectations as the first options. Hayward is their leading return scorer but he'd be most effective making plays for others and not concentrating on scoring. I'd like to see his assists go up more than his points. Favors looks like a double double guy but unless the Mailman can do something miraculous he certainly hasn't looked like a go to type guy yet.
Who knows if Favors and Gordon Hayward will be able to match the 7,600 points Jefferson and Millsap combined to score over the past three seasons?
One thing is certain.
The soon-to-be fourth-year veterans can’t wait to have increased offensive opportunities — and the accompanying responsibilities.
“I’m really excited,” Hayward said after Tuesday’s practice session at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. “It’s going to be a challenge, for sure. But it’s time. I’m ready to step up and take that challenge.”
The new-look Jazz will need somebody to do that.
Even with their reliable post players last season, Utah only ranked 13th in the NBA in scoring with 98.0 points per game.
In a remarkable indication of the organization's overhaul, Hayward is the only player on the Jazz's current roster who averaged double digits in the NBA last season.
Utah had five players in the 10 points-plus range in 2012-13, but Jefferson (17.8 ppg), Millsap (14.6 ppg), Mo Williams (12.9 ppg) and Randy Foye (10.8 ppg) will all have new homes next year.
Hayward was third on the team with a 14.1 scoring average on 43.5 percent shooting, while Favors produced 9.4 points an outing on 48.2 percent shooting.
The Team USA hopefuls, who’ll undergo contract-extension negotiations this summer, will have plenty of chances to improve all of those numbers in the future.
“We’ve just got to come in and work harder,” said Favors, who knows something about hard work after training with Jazz big man coach Karl Malone this summer. “Obviously, we’re going to have to adjust, but it should be fun. It’ll be exciting.”
The Jazz, Hayward noted, will likely veer a bit away from the rigid inside-out philosophy that’s been in place since 2010-11 to capitalize on the strengths of their dearly departed post players.
With rookie Trey Burke running the show from the point guard position, the Jazz are likely to focus more on one of his strengths — scoring off of screens. Favors and Hayward are also adept at that style of offense.
“You’ve got to adapt to the players that you have — maybe a little more pick-and-roll, perimeter-oriented stuff,” Hayward said, anticipating possible offensive changes.
“We still have Fav and Enes (Kanter) down low. They’re still big bodies that can move people and make good moves and create stuff for other people,” he added. “I’m not going to say the offense is going to change a lot, but there will probably be some differences.”
More easy transition baskets coming off better d at the other end. Definitely more pick and roll and motion offense with Al gone. G and Burks should be running the show until Burke shows he can too.
Ah, yes. Enes Kanter.
The Jazz center spent the past 10 days working out and rehabbing at the P3 training center in Santa Barbara, Calif. He’s expected both to be fully healed from his spring shoulder surgery and to be a big contributor in Utah’s offense, something he showed he’s capable of doing while racking up 23 points and 22 rebounds while filling in for Jefferson against the Bobcats last March.
Hayward said the Jazz are going to need Kanter (7.2 ppg in 2012-13), projected starting shooting guard Alec Burks (7.0 ppg) and champing-at-the-bit Jeremy Evans (5.8 ppg) to fill the offensive void created by management’s new direction.
Yesterday G was the projected starting 2. Evans filling the offensive void? He's got a jumper now but that might be asking too much. Rush I'd look to more.
It remains to be seen what Utah will get from Marvin Williams, who isn’t expected back from his Achilles tendon surgery until December, or from their new acquisitions. Burke, the 2013 national player of the year, was a prolific scorer in college (18.6 ppg), but the 6-1 playmaker struggled mightily while shooting just 24 percent overall and 1 for 19 from 3-point range in the Orlando Pro Summer League.
I'm not expecting anything from Marvin but a place at the end of the bench and an eventual trade. I'm hoping Burke isn't the complete bust he looked like in Summer League.
And the incoming veterans?
Combined, Jazz additions Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and John Lucas III averaged 3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 0.9 apg last season.
Even if they have outstanding offensive years, Hayward and Favors can’t do it all.
“We’re going to have to find other ways to get other people involved,” Hayward said. “But, yeah, Derrick and I are going to have to step up big-time — not just in a leadership role but in a production role.”
Hayward, a versatile 6-8 wing, has been working hard to improve his ballhandling skills and his ability to find better ways to finish close to the basket, whether it be with floaters, pull-up jumpers or other creative shots.
“I see everything — drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers, everything from him, man. He’s doing a lot here,” Favors said of Hayward. “I think he can take on that role of being the leading scorer on the team.”
Favors, being tutored by the Mailman, continues to search for his “go-to move,” and he showed a couple of promising glimpses in a scrimmage Tuesday. He drew a few “oohs” from the small crowd while powering past defenders for a dunk, and he used his imposing athletic ability for a 6-foot-10, 248-pound man with an equally impressive spin move in the post to get to the foul line.
“There’s a lot of stuff I can do. I’m multi-talented, man,” Favors said. “I’m going to be a lot more aggressive this upcoming season because we don’t have Al or Paul here.”
Hayward won’t argue with his teammate on that multi-talented part.
“Derrick is still developing his game down low. What he’s best at in my opinion is setting screens, rolling, finding the open area, and just making power finishes. He can do that with anybody in the NBA,” Hayward said. “He’s gotten tremendously better since he came into the league with his post game, and he’s only going to get better doing that.”
Hayward doesn’t believe that the Jazz’s renewed emphasis on building a “defensive foundation” — something Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said will be more important than 2013-14 win-loss totals — is out of necessity due to a lack of firepower. He sees it more as giving the team more transition opportunities from making stops.
“Defense is what wins ballgames," Hayward said. "We’ll be able to score.”
Favors emphatically agrees.
"Points will come from anywhere," he said. "Last year, because we had Al and Paul, mostly we were a post-up team because those guys were out there killing everybody. But there's different ways you can score points."
With Kanter sidelined because of offseason shoulder surgery, Malone’s work with Favors has gotten favorable reviews. McKown watched one of their sessions, along with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who is now a senior adviser with the team.
"Coach Sloan looked at me and smiled," McKown recalled. "He said, ‘I don’t think anybody could give this guy a better workout.’ … Karl was teaching and Derrick was responding. It was way cool."
Oddly, Malone and the Jazz were estranged for years. The animosity came into sharp focus 18 months ago, when a public war of words erupted between CEO Greg Miller and the two-time Most Valuable Player.
"Five years ago, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell I would be involved in the Jazz organization," Malone said. "I had my stinger out and they had their stingers out."
The hard feelings, however, have healed and Malone is happily working with Favors.
"The skill set he’s got is absolutely unbelievable," Malone said.
"If I was gauging a kid on a scale of one to 10 — their strength, toughness, being light on their feet — I’d give this young man a nine."
He paused, then added, "I don’t give 10s."
Be interested to hear his take on Enes once he gets to work with him.
Malone’s upcoming schedule with the Jazz involves working with Favors, perhaps Kanter and other young players in August. He might attend the first week of training camp in October.
"Just another page in the book," he said, "and it’s been awesome."
Malone joined the Jazz in 1985. He was the 13th pick in the draft. His first visit to Utah coincided with the state’s Pioneer Day celebration and he accepted then-coach Frank Layden’s invitation to ride on the team’s float in the Days of ’47 parade.
Initially, Layden told Malone the parade was being held because of his 22nd birthday.
"That’s no urban legend," Malone said. "That’s the truth. … I was waving like a [beauty] pageant queen. If there were cellphones back then, I would have called my mom and said, ‘You won’t believe it. All of Utah is here for me.’ "
When the parade ended, Malone told Layden it was "amazing" so many people helped him celebrate his birthday. His new coach laughed and said, "I can’t believe you fell for that one."
This year, Malone will hold a public celebration of his 50th birthday on Wednesday at noon at his automobile dealership in Draper.
"Lord knows I made some mistakes in my life," he said. "I know some people don’t like me. But I wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world for this birthday. …
"I became a man in Utah. People here accepted me — a Baptist kid from Louisiana in a place that was mostly white and mostly Mormon. Awesome, man. Just awesome."