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Celtics Gordon Hayward booed of jilted Jazz fans in return, giving both sides the closing they needed

SALT LAKE CITY – When Gordon Hayward went to the visitors' dressing room on Friday night at the Vivint Smart…

SALT LAKE CITY – When Gordon Hayward went to the visitors’ dressing room on Friday night at the Vivint Smart Home Arena, through the tunnel and onto the floor for heating, the boos arose from fans.

Every time he touched the ball in the warming came boos again. Boos came when Hayward’s Boston Celtics jogged on the floor before tipoff, Hayward the last to come out. They came highest when his name was announced during introductions. Selling Audience 18,306 – including a fan who had dubbed an old Utah Jazz No. 20 so the name of the reading read “COWARD” instead of “HAYWARD” &#821

1; raised so high that you could not even hear his name.

They booed every time he got the ball. They booed when he looked into the game. They booed when he checked out of the game. They booed when he made a shot (but to be fair you can also do some scattered applause). They applauded in the first quarter when Hayward collided with his former teammate Joe Ingles at midcourt and fell to the ground. They raised and laughed when Hayward airballed an open hopper from point space in the second quarter.

And at the last minute in the fourth quarter, when the jazz finally slipped into what would be a 123-115 victory, Hayward went to the free throw. And the jazz fans chanted in harmony how they really felt about Hayward, 16 months after he jilted the small market franchise for Boston Celtic’s bright lights.

“We do not miss you!” they chanted. “We do not miss you!”

“I’ve expected a bit of it,” Hayward said with a spinal mark after his first match back in the city where he spent the first seven years of his career. “It’s part of the game, they whipped me from the go-go. In warmups too.” Every time I touched the ball even when warming, I got booed. “It was a little fun for me.” But when you’re in the game, you’re not worried for it. This disappears. “

When Hayward left Utah, the pain of jazz fans was acute. As Hayward had developed into a star here, the jazzen had turned away from an NBA reflection – a team that missed five-year playoffs, including a season where they won only 25 games – to a power that won 51 games and a playoff series in his last season.

Then he left. Utah, an underdog spot to begin with, felt jilted. He could have been the face of the franchise in the city where his first child was born. Instead, he went elsewhere. He who left did not feel like a simple business decision. It felt personal. Some Jazz fans performed the bizarre 21st century sports cleaning ritual for taking a Hayward Jazz sweater, dousing it in gasoline, burning it and then publishing the video on social media.

As Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Elie Weisel once wrote “The opposite of love is not hatred. It is indifference.”

Utah’s feelings toward Gordon Hayward, and how they quickly changed from worship to antipathy, showed.

And then it became most unlikely.

A charismatic child named Donovan Mitchell moved into town.

And Utah Jazz continued.

The jersey-burning ritual is as much a part of today’s sport as the emotional return game. It’s something a star player has to go through when he leaves a place he once called home. When LeBron left Cleveland for the first time, the fans burned their sweaters, and then the Cavaliers went from a 61-winning team making the Eastern Conference semi-finals a 19-year-old. When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City, the fans burned their sweaters, and Thunder went from a 55-winning team making the Western Conference Finals to a 47-winning team that lost in the first round. When Shaq left Orlando – yes, it was too early for the social media performance-jersey-burning ritual, but Magic went from a 60-winning team that made the Eastern Conference Finals a 45-winning team that got bounced in the first round.

That’s not to say Hayward was like any of these players.

But because of how he jelted in Utah, the feelings felt the same.

After Hayward left the jazzen turned away from a 51-winning team that made the West Conference’s semifinals to … a 48-winning team that made the West Conference’s semifinals.

Basically the same law.

Only with a new, younger, more explosive and more charismatic star player at the helm.

“I do not think you can deny the timing,” David Locke, Jazz’s radio play-by-play advertiser, told me why Mitchell has so revitalized Jazz and their fans. “Our hearts have been ripped out, stamped on. Gordon’s break was crushed to the fan base. And it was not just Gordon who left. It was that he left a heartless without thanks without acknowledging any involvement without mentioning a teammate in his Player & # 39; s Tribune article. The fan base felt like they had just been used. How did this youngster come with this happiness and excitement to him – even before he started playing good last year? Go back to the Summer League soon after Gordon has left, and the crowd is already attached to him. There is a time perfect here. “

And so, even though Jazz fans felt bound to bend out boosna on Friday night for his return, it felt Do not pretend to be angry, all who hurt. Instead, it was almost like this was once a passage for jazz fans. Certainly, they were deeply injured when Hayward left last year. But things have changed since then. They still had to bow to him, as it was what they were expecting them, but the feelings were not so raw. The jazz had gone on with a new star. And it was empathy that came with Hayward’s scary leg injury from last season, in his first game for his new team.

“It has been a long time,” said jazz boss Quin Snyder. “It was a long time ago.”

What felt on Friday night was, in the end, less a vitriolical display of fandom than a feedback between two ex-lovers-two people who had had some good times together back in the day, but who had both gone on and who had both become better for that.

“We’ve all lived homecomings of different kinds,” said Celtic’s head coach Brad Stevens. “Everyone manages them as they handle them. I think of course, time goes by, it can be easier and easier. But for the first time it’s always a bit unique.”

And then Hayward raised warming when fans called him. He smicked during introductions. He did not smile during the game himself – he was too focused on doing his job – but he smicked while talking about it during interviews with post-play. There was still a place that gave him warm feelings.

“I spent seven years here,” he said. “I built some really good relationships. Maybe it will tempt you, just the whole thing.” (Men) I grew up here and came in like a rookie. When I improved, I also grew up and ended up getting married, having a couple of children, had one of them here. Just a lot of lovely memories here. The biggest was the process we started. We were not very good all the way until last year when we won that round of playoffs. “

The cameras were extinguished and Hayward went to a VIP lounge in the arena before joining the team bus. Hayward hugged the president of the jazz and spoke. Hayward’s wife, pregnant with her third child, pointed her man to a security guard he had been close to with, and Hayward went over and gave him a hug.

The feelings were complicated. But for a moment, it felt like Gordon Hayward was at home.

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