Brad Rock: Begging won't decide if Gordon Hayward stays

Brad Rock: Begging won't decide if Gordon Hayward stays

SALT LAKE CITY — As July’s free agency window approaches, some enterprising Utahns have taken it personally that Gordon Hayward might leave the Jazz. So they’ve launched a campaign to convince him otherwise.

Not that Hayward is unaware of his popularity. He got a standing ovation at the end of Game 4 of the conference semifinals. As if standing o’s and a possible $225 million contract weren’t enough, he now has his own love connection called #Stayward.

Some things require begging, such as getting an airline refund or securing a raise. But begging a basketball player to stay?

That’s slightly embarrassing and probably pointless.

Privately Hayward might even agree.

Every player wants to be loved, but Hayward will be received just fine, and have even more fans, if he moves to Boston. Freeway signage and social media campaigns won’t have much to do with his decision.

It’s mostly something to make fans feel they have a voice.

Everyone knows what Utah has to offer Hayward, him included. He’s been to Park City and City Creek Center. If he wants to see Promontory Point or Delicate Arch, he knows how to get there.

He has no problem with the neighbors, either. Hayward said at locker cleanout he had “nothing but love for everybody in Utah.”

Apparently there are no hard feelings over that food poisoning incident in the playoffs.

Hayward has a positive history with Utah. Not only did he “grow up” here, he began to put down roots by marrying and having children. But he wouldn’t be the only Utah-lover to leave the state for a job opportunity.

Now that the season is over, the campaign to keep him local has begun in earnest. He won’t be the first player to draw such attention. For example, the 2013 #stayD12 billboard campaign in Los Angeles. That year, All-Star center Dwight Howard completed a turbulent one-year stay with the Lakers. As free agency approached, the team announced via social media that the push was on to keep him in L.A. Billboards sprang up in several places in the city, featuring game-action images of Howard.

But when decision day arrived, Howard bolted for Houston. Three years later, he signed as a free agent with Atlanta. Neither was his first courtship. During the 2012 All-Star Weekend, when he was playing for the Magic, billboards appeared in Orlando that said, “Dwight, this is your metropolis” and “Stay, Dwight, this is your city.”

Unlike Howard’s L.A. situation, the Orlando campaign wasn’t the team’s idea. It was the brainchild of an agent, who told ESPN he also once paid for a digital billboard to attract Chris Paul to Orlando. Neither Paul nor Howard ended up in O-Town.

The #Stayward campaign began with a fan named Garrett Jones, who set up a GoFundMe page. His original goal was to raise $5,000 to purchase a single billboard. Hayward gently suggested the money instead go to cancer research. As of Saturday, $6,671 in contributions were listed on #Stayward GoFundMe.

Relic Agency of Provo issued a press release this week saying Jones had “enlisted” its help. The one billboard model has expanded to eight, which will be on display for 45 days, starting this week. Combined with that are social media accounts such as Utah Jazz 6th Man on Facebook.

Numerous free agents, whose careers began before Facebook and Twitter, didn’t stay with their teams, despite civic pleadings. More recently, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan verbally committed to Dallas, but hours before signing changed his mind. He barricaded himself in his house with teammates and refused calls so he could fend off the Mavericks.

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Dallas forward Chandler Parsons, who had personally recruited Jordan, called the move “very unethical and disrespectful.”

That won’t be the case with Hayward. He’ll either leave or he won’t.

But fans will likely have little to do with whether he stays. Hayward will be venerated wherever he plays and he knows it. The factors that matter to most players are coaches and teammates, contracts and championship opportunities. Any other attempt to persuade him is like hailing a cab on a busy street. It might just drive on to its destination without a second look.

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Published at Sat, 13 May 2017 23:05:00 +0000