Gordon Hayward believes his young Utah Jazz team has all the tools to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. This offseason, Gordon has been training to make that belief a reality.
G-Time has been training at the St. Vincent’s Sports Performance with Rob Blackwell at Traders Point Christian Church just outside Indianapolis, and he isn’t the only NBA talent in attendance. Several other professionals from various leagues, including Indianapolis native and Miami Heat center Josh McRoberts, joined him in what has been a great offseason experience.
“The invitation is out there for other NBA guys,” Gordon said. “It’s pretty difficult with everybody’s schedule with families and things their individual teams want them to do. But we had a good mixture of guys who worked hard.”
For Gordon, these training sessions in his hometown are convenient, given his offseason thus far. The Jazz star underwent minor surgery on his Achilles in the spring, just before the birth of his daughter Bernadette. Making the short trip to train at St. Vincent, and be able to return home to Bernie has been a perfect scenario for the new father.
“I had surgery right before we had the baby but since then it’s been all about her and taking care of my family,” G-Time said. “When I’m not training, I’m home playing with her. It’s been a good summer to be in Indianapolis the entire time and get a good routine. Having a baby changes your life, for sure, as most parents know. It changes in a good way.”
Gordon has been able to train with several former teammates, including Brownsburg High School product Julian Mavunga and former Butler star Matt Howard, and the workouts have allowed No. 20 to stay in shape and progress physically. But most importantly, they’ll allow him to take the court for the Jazz this season at full health.
“I think it’s key to be able to play safe, open gym-type basketball,” Gordon said. “The way to do that is to get a bunch of guys in the same position as you so nobody is coming out here doing something reckless or trying to hurt anybody. That was kind of the thinking behind the whole thing. We had a good turnout so hopefully we can get a few more guys (next year) once they see this is legitimate.”
As the summer winds down, the focus transitions from the offseason to the beginning of his sixth year in the league. As the fourth-oldest member on the Utah roster, 25-year-old Gordon has quickly made the transition from NBA rookie to wily veteran.
Coming out of college, he was often referred to as the “skinny kid from Butler,” but now he’s a physical wing capable of guarding some of the most imposing players in the league. With that, the focus for this offseason has been improving his skills in the post.
“I’ve gone in with the goal every year of getting better and think I’ve done that so far,” said Hayward, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 draft. “There are a number of things I can improve on. I can be a better shooter and my post game is hopefully going to get better. I’ve put a lot of work into my post game. The next step, though, is to become a better basketball team.”
— Jaron Blossomgame (@JaronBgame) August 7, 2015
That mindset of always improving, individually and collectively, is one of the many lessons G-Time has learned over his first five years in the league, and now he’s trying to impart that wisdom on his young teammates, including Utah’s first-round draft pick, Trey Lyles.
Hailing from Brownsburg, just outside of Indianapolis, Gordon never knew Lyles personally, who is a product of Arsenal Tech in Indy. However, he likes what he has seen so far from the Kentucky product, and he believes Lyles will fit in wonderfully with the Jazz.
“It seems like he has a great feel for the game,” Gordon said of Lyles. “He can play multiple positions. He’s really versatile. He has a high IQ and our coaching staff loves those type of players. Those guys are fun to play with because they share the basketball. Hopefully we can help teach him the ropes pretty quickly.”
With the addition of Lyles, and the return of several other promising young players, G-Time likes where the Utah franchise is going. And he believes that the 2015-16 season could bring yet another step up for the team that put together a tremendous second half and just narrowly missed making the playoffs last year.
“We’re in a great position as a team,” Gordon said in a recent interview with Dan Dakich. “We’re one of the more versatile teams in the league. We can really do it all.”
“This year has really gone by so fast for me and I’m really looking forward to this season for us. We really turned the corner there after the All-Star break. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”