Gordon Hayward expected to play Sunday at New York

Gordon Hayward expected to play Sunday at New York

NEW YORK — This five-game East Coast road trip is off to a good start for the Utah Jazz and it hasn’t even begun.

Gordon Hayward is planning on making his 2016-17 season debut Sunday at Madison Square Garden when the Utah Jazz visit the New York Knicks in a matinee matchup (10 a.m. MT), according to sources.

Hayward has been sidelined for a month since dislocating and breaking his left ring finger.

Insiders feared that Hayward might miss up to six weeks because of the broken finger when it initially happened. That would have kept the Jazz’s star player from playing in 13 games to begin the season.

Thanks to a quicker-than-anticipated recover, Hayward will only have missed six games if he indeed plays for the Jazz in the first of five straight road games in seven days.

It’s uncertain whether Hayward will have a minutes restriction similar to the one that has limited Derrick Favors to between 20-27 minutes since he returned from a knee injury.

The Jazz went 3-3 in Hayward’s absence, thanks in large part to the outstanding play of fellow Indiana native George Hill’s stellar play as the team leader.

Hayward’s addition will be huge for the Jazz, who will now have their best all-around player in the lineup and who can put seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson on the second unit to bolster the bench.

Jazz management was very excited about Hayward’s offseason work and progress. He stayed in Salt Lake City to work out for most of the summer and was lauded by Jazz coach Quin Snyder for his solid play, work ethic and leadership skills before his finger got stuck in a teammate’s jersey during practice.

“Gordon’s just continued to be consistently good,” Snyder said early in fall camp.

Hayward looked strong in his two preseason appearances, scoring an average of 16 points on 10-of-18 shooting in limited playing time.

Last season, the 6-foot-8 small forward and All-Star hopeful led the Jazz in scoring with 19.7 points per game. He also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

Hayward’s season debut will come against former Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek. The two became quite close during the early portion of Hayward’s career before Hornacek left to become the head coach of the Suns.

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Published at Sat, 05 Nov 2016 19:55:00 +0000