When the Goodman League competes against the Indy Pro-Am on Sept. 24, Celtics draft pick JaJuan Johnson will reportedly suit up for the Indy Pro-Am squad. He will compete against Jeff Green, who could potentially be Johnson’s teammate whenever the NBA returns.
John Wall, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and DeMarcus Cousins have all committed to join Green in representation of the Goodman League, according to separate reports by Mike Wells and Michael Lee. Johnson’s Indy Pro-Am team will reportedly also include Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Eric Gordon, George Hill, Lance Stephenson and Gordon Hayward.
Note: I am about to ramble about Gordon Hayward for a short period of time, just because his name triggered some great NBA League Pass memories. Bear with me.
On April 5, 2011, Hayward put on one of last season’s least-expected shows, metaphorically staring Kobe Bryant straight in the eyes until Kobe blinked.
Two nights before, Hayward had established a career high of 19 points against the Sacramento Kings, but nothing about his bland rookie season signaled that Hayward was ready to build on the career night, especially not against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Jazz had played the Lakers earlier in the week and Hayward was both inefficient and unproductive. He finished the game with 7 points on 3-9 shooting, playing 29 minutes and barely putting his fingerprints on the game. The Jazz lost after leading by 17 points and Hayward scored only two points in the second half, an alley-oop from Earl Watson after the game was already out of reach.
The Lakers were on a typical tear, winning 17 of their past 19 games, and the Jazz were somewhere between listless and helpless, losers of eight straight, a franchise in shambles after Jerry Sloan’s retirement and Deron Williams’s trade, a franchise watching idly as the memories of two great decades burned slowly to the ground. Al Jefferson was acquired in the offseason, but he and Paul Millsap did not mesh in the front-court. Derrick Favors came to Utah as part of the Williams trade, and he could provide occasional entertainment with a fierce dunk or a high-flying block, but his prime was years away at best. Tyrone Corbin tried to fill Sloan’s enormous shoes, but Utah’s talent was lower than it had been in years and Corbin, well, Corbin was not Sloan. Meanwhile, the Jazz’s lottery draft choice, the league’s next white hope, Gordon Hayward blended into the background, struggling to deal with the strength and quickness of his NBA opponents.
Kobe Bryant is not normally the right prescription for a rookie struggling to find his NBA calling. But the second time Hayward played Kobe that week, he transformed into something different, something better, the player Utah hoped he would be, a player his parents and friends could be proud of, a player who dueled against Kobe Bryant and scored 22 points, including 10 in the final quarter, grabbed 6 rebounds, dished 5 assists, drilled the game-winning free throw, forced Bryant into a turnover on the game’s final possession, and walked off the court with at least one new fan.
“I’m very, very fond of him. He’s a very-skilled, all-around player,” said Kobe Bryant. “I think he’s going to have a very bright future in this league. He reminds me of a more talented Jeff Hornacek. Jeff couldn’t put the ball on the floor as well as (Hayward) can.”
Less than two weeks later, the Jazz ended their season by beating the Denver Nuggers. Hayward pumped in 34 points.