Everything I'm about to write is prefaced by one thing: I'm a Gordon Hayward fan and have been since March of 2010 when he and his Butler teammates came rolling through EnergySolutions Arena on their way back home to Indiana and the Final Four.
Understand, because these words fall under the heading of an opinion column vs. an actual news/sports article, I've got some leeway here. Unlike in, say, a Jazz game story, where it's my job to present the facts and objectively tell a story, in this case I'm asked to share my own thoughts and feelings.
From time to time I feel an obligation to differentiate the two parts of my job -- the reporting side and the opinion side -- just so we're all clear. Everybody clear on that? Good.
So, as previously noted, I'm a Hayward fan. He's a good basketball player, a nice guy and a pleasure to deal with, one professional to another. I was impressed by the way he carried himself as a college player and I knew he'd left a similar impression on Jazz officials who'd been following his career.
When he put together two great NCAA Tournament games inside their arena, I had an inkling the Jazz might draft him later that year. In fact, a few months later, when it came time for the Jazz to announce their selection, I turned to a colleague and said, "Gordon Hayward." Granted, it wasn't that big a stretch at that particular moment in time but the point is, I'd been saying it all along.
That means I'm now officially batting .500 when it comes to Hayward. See, I may have been right about the Jazz drafting him back in 2010 but I was wrong about the two of them coming together on a contract extension.
As the deadline approached for the two sides to agree on a deal that would keep Hayward locked up for the next four or five seasons, I was convinced they'd come to an agreement at the 11th hour.
Jazz executives and Hayward's representatives had been negotiating for a while but little if any headway had been made. Reports surfaced indicating the two sides were far apart on what the 23-year-old should be paid next season and beyond. However, knowing how much each side means to the other, I was convinced a deal would be struck sometimes before the Halloween night deadline (appropriately scary, I'd say).
But the deadline came and went and no agreement was reached, meaning Hayward will now be a restricted free agent next summer. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll leave, but it does mean he can listen to other offers. If a team signs him to an offer sheet, the Jazz have the right to match it and retain his services.
Something similar happened a few years ago with Paul Millsap. Portland wound up offering him a four-year $32 million deal, which the Jazz matched. However, the offer was a bit cumbersome, forcing the Jazz to pay a $5.6 million signing bonus plus nearly $5 million of Millsap's first-year salary in an up-front payment.
The Trail Blazers' offer was deemed "toxic" in some circles and there's a good chance someone else -- perhaps even the Blazers again, who knows? -- will offer Hayward something similar.
Obviously, the Jazz offered Hayward something significant, though not enough to make his camp surrender the opportunity to test the free agent waters next year.
Jazz execs could have offered something similar to the five years, $90 million deal signed by Indiana Pacer Paul George -- drafted one pick behind Hayward in 2010 -- but why? As much as he means to the Jazz, Hayward hasn't yet shown he can consistently match George's production.
But Hayward's side hasn't been absolved of risk. They're banking that's he'll increase his worth this season, but if he struggles or, heaven forbid gets hurt, his value will take a hit.
Ultimately, I understand why Hayward and his representatives would hold off until next summer and I can't blame them for doing it. I've never begrudged an athlete -- or anyone else, really -- the right to get a fair market value for their services.
I know many Jazz at this point are fearing the worst, fretting over the fact the new face of the franchise might not even be with the franchise this time next year. Or worse yet, they're angry and convinced Hayward is somehow being greedy for not accepting the team's offer.
In this case, I think each side made the right decision. Let the season play out, then go from there.