Gordon Hayward did not make a welcome return to Utah.
Playing his first game in Salt Lake City since leaving as a free agent in the summer of 2017, Hayward was loudly booed while warming up pregame Friday night, again during player introductions and whenever he touched the ball for the Boston Celtics. He laughed off the boos before the game, but struggled with his shot and finished with 13 points in the Jazz’s 123-115 win.
Hayward was selected ninth overall by the Jazz in the 2010 draft and played his first seven seasons in Utah. He signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics last summer only to break his leg five minutes into the first game.
“I kind of expected some of that,” Hayward said. “They were booing me from the get-go, so it’s part of the game.”
Hayward got his first boos before this one even started, hearing them each time he touched the ball during warm-ups and in the layup line. He appeared unconcerned and even smirked with teammates when the boos broke out.
“Even in warm-ups, I didn’t think they were going to boo, so that was kind of funny to me,” Hayward added. “But when you’re in the game, you’re not worried about that.”
With the arena full just before tip-off, Hayward heard a thunderous chorus of boos from the crowd during player introductions. A smattering then continued each time he touched the ball in the first quarter.
Utah went right at Hayward, running several early pick-and-rolls with center Rudy Gobert at him. Hayward scored four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half as the Jazz took a 58-51 at the break.
Things didn’t improve for Hayward in the second half. He finished 3-of-9 from the field overall and 1-of-5 from 3-point range. Utah pushed its lead as high as 20 in the second half before Boston got back in it. However, the Celtics never got closer than four down the stretch and lost for the third time in four games.
Hayward did not speak with the media before the game, and the Jazz did little to even acknowledge his return. There was no tribute video of any kind immediately before or during the game. Utah simply released a short highlight clip on Twitter several hours earlier Friday afternoon.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.