All-Star Hayward to lead Jazz against Grizzlies
SALT LAKE CITY -- For the first time in six seasons, Utah has an NBA All-Star on the roster. It is the latest sign that the Jazz have taken another step in their basketball resurgence.
Gordon Hayward received his first NBA All-Star selection on Thursday. It is a fitting recognition for Hayward, who is enjoying his finest season yet.
The longtime Jazz forward is averaging a career-high 21.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. He leads Utah in scoring and free throw percentage (.875) and ranks second in assists per game (3.4).
For Hayward, it isn't just about what he has done. Utah's success this season has also been a determining factor in getting him recognition. The Jazz (30-18) are on pace for their first 50 win season since the 2009-10 season.
"We've been a lot more successful this year than in the past few years," Hayward said. "I've always said when a team is successful, the individual accolades come after that. We've been winning more games to be honest."
Rudy Gobert, who has also played a vital role in Utah's rise this season, did not earn an NBA All-Star selection alongside Hayward. Gobert was snubbed despite leading the league in total blocks (124), blocks per game (2.6) and points per shot (1.87). He also ranks second in field goal percentage (.661).
It could be enough to light a fire under Gobert and inspire him to prove to everyone else how much he deserved to be invited to play in New Orleans in February.
"Rudy finds motivation everywhere," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "If this is another piece to that puzzle, so be it. Whether Rudy is an all-star or not, he's going to keep working. There's a reason he's been considered."
Memphis (27-21) is experiencing a similar situation with NBA All-Star selections.
Marc Gasol was selected as a reserve on the Western Conference team. It is the third time that Gasol has been named an all-star in his career. He is averaging a career-high 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and a career-best 4.2 assists for the Grizzlies.
Mike Conley, on the other hand, ended up being a notable snub like Gobert. The Memphis point guard is averaging a career-high 18.6 points and 6.2 assists.
Gasol has done plenty to validate his selection this week. He scored a career-high 42 points in a 101-99 victory over Toronto on Wednesday. The veteran center has averaged 32.6 points in his last five games, including 33 points in a 112-109 loss to Portland on Friday.
"I've really just pushed him to get out of his comfort zone and look to get aggressive about scoring the ball," Grizzlies coach David Fizdale told reporters on Wednesday. "He is really embracing that role for us. It's not his nature."
Memphis and Utah will be meeting for the fourth and final time during the regular season on Saturday. The Grizzlies have won two of the previous three games, most recently beating the Jazz 88-79 on Jan. 8 behind 19 points and nine assists from Conley.