Gordon Hayward will fulfill a lifelong goal when he plays his first NBA game in his hometown tonight.
The former Brownsburg High School and Butler standout will be on the floor for the Utah Jazz, a team whose turmoil and trades have shown a rookie that professional basketball is a business.
Regardless of Utah's moves, tonight will be a moment to savor for Hayward, his family and members of the basketball communities from Brownsburg and Butler when the Jazz, losers of five straight games, play the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"Growing up in Indiana, you picture yourself in a Pacers uniform, but to be able to play in an NBA game in Conseco Fieldhouse and be on the court instead of the seats, it's pretty special," said Hayward, who was the ninth pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
The 6-8 wing is averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in a season that Utah envisioned as a time for Hayward to learn the NBA game, a year after leading Butler to the NCAA title game as a sophomore.
But earlier this month, a franchise that had been the model of stability began to shudder.
Longtime coach Jerry Sloan resigned amid rumors of a split with star guard Deron Williams. After Sloan's Feb. 10 departure, Williams was traded this week to New Jersey.
"I don't think anyone thought DWill was going to be traded," Hayward said. "Tomorrow is promised to no one. I may be here. I may be somewhere else.
"It opens your eyes to the fact that the NBA is a business and moves have to be made that in the eyes of the general manager or owner make the team better. You see that across the board. Coach Sloan is a legendary coach. He's been coaching here longer than I've been alive.
Jazz rookie Hayward returns to play Pacers
Indianapolis Star | Feb 25