He sports a more refined haircut these days, trimmed neat on the sides as it transforms into a spiked do--as opposed to the old, dorky bowl cut he wore. He doesn't even rap, or play video games as much as he used to. If you didn't know any better, you'd say Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is growing up.
No longer is the boyish looking Hayward a boy. He's a man now, with a full face, chiseled arms and man-sized responsibilities, like trying to provide for his new bride--easier since he signed a new four-year, $63 million deal with the Jazz.
Not all is hunky dory in Hayward's world, though. According to media insiders, Hayward stands little to no chance of making Team USA for its upcoming FIBA World Cup in Spain later this month. Hayward has been with the team since June, yet there is this growing sentiment in the basketball media community that his time with the Americans is almost up.
In one sense, it would be hard to argue with them. Hayward put up four points on 2-for-3 shooting in 14 minutes of action against the Dominican Republic on Wed. Aug. 20.
Hayward didn't execute windmill dunks like Andre Drummond, another supposed guy on the bubble. (Drummond scored 12 points.) And Hayward didn't go 6-for-9 from the field and score 13 points like DeMar DeRozan--yet another dude on the bubble.
Hayward didn't even grab two rebounds on Wednesday--he grabbed one. (Drummond and DeRozan each had five boards.) Then there's the matter of Klay Thompson, heretofore someone many thought wouldn't make the team, either. Now the son of Lakers great Mychal is splashing treys all over Madison Square Garden's parquet en route to 11 points against the Dominicans.
Hayward can't win for losin, as old grandma used to say, as she slammed her Hamm's beer can in her RV like a pro while destroying her grandson in dominoes. Hayward's problem is, he can't shoot like Thompson, he can't dunk and play defense like Drummond and he can't be that other-worldly athlete from another planet like DeRozan.
Hayward is none of those things and he never will be. Yet he's stuck around this long, so does he stand a chance of making Team USA? He has the support of Coach K--and maybe, just maybe, that will be enough. Coach K has been the first--and probably the only--person to outline what Hayward brings to the Americans.
Krzysewski believes Hayward brings versatility to Team USA. He also believes Hayward brings a sort of toughness and mental strength that other players on the American squad might lack--even if some of them can jump out of the gym on one toe. Hayward has survived cuts that sent great players like his former Jazz teammate Paul Millsap and John Wall packing.
The upside to Hayward playing 14 minutes against the Dominicans on Wednesday is that his other competition, namely Chandler Parsons and Kyle Korver, didn't play. So there is that consolation.
Of course Parsons and Korver are expected to play in the Americans' next game against Puerto Rico--so Hayward may still have little to no chance of making Team USA. Parsons can play both the 3 and 4 spots and Korver, well, Jazz fans know what he can do behind the three-point line.
In a world where 16 players still remain on a roster that can only take 12 to Spain, Hayward is definitely on the outside looking in, according to basketball insider Chris Sheridan--who believes Hayward will be the first player cut.
Others say he's expendable because there is such an embarrassment of riches at the three spot--which is likely where Hayward would play. You have the afore-mentioned Thompson and the rather-boisterous beard of James Harden--and don't forget DeRozan and Rudy Gay.
Even still, there is the sentiment among Team USA fans that Hayward isn't well known enough yet to make the team. Of course that is a rather short-sided argument.
A lack of fame hasn't stopped Krzyzewski from taking chances on slow, white guys before (see Mason Plumlee and Korver on Team USA and all of the guys Coach K ever recruited to Duke). it's just that the logjam of players at Hayward's spot might make it awfully difficult for Coach K to find any playing time for him in Spain, regardless.