On Friday, 18 months after his last game in a Utah Jazz jersey, Gordon Hayward made his long-anticipated return to Salt Lake City.
Hayward played his first seven NBA seasons with the Jazz, before signing with the Celtics in the 2017 offseason. The All-Star forward missed the team’s game in Utah last season after breaking his ankle in his first game with the Celtics. Friday night’s game was Hayward’s first back in Utah since leaving for Boston, and although the team released a brief tribute video, the still-aggrieved home crowd was far less welcoming.
From the pregame warmups to the team introductions to every time he touched the ball during the game, Hayward heard it from the Jazz faithful.
As the Associated Press reported, the boos continued throughout the game whenever Hayward touched the ball. And he didn’t do much to silence the crowd in the Celtic’s loss, shooting just 3-for-9 for 13 points and seven assists in 26 minutes, as the 28-year-old continues to try to return to form following last year’s devastating injury.
After the game, Hayward told reporters that he expected the cold reception.
“I kind of expected some of that,” he said. “It’s part of the game. They were booing me from the get-go, so it’s part of the game.”
Hayward added that he didn’t anticipate getting booed during warmups, during which he could be seen laughing about the response from Jazz fans.
“That was kind of funny to me, but when you’re in the game you’re not worried about that,” he said.
Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum suggested that Hayward took the correct approach to the booing, noting to reporters how his former Duke teammate Grayson Allen, who now plays with the Jazz, also got booed a lot during their college days.
“You just have to laugh it off,” Tatum said.