After more than a season buffering his infamous departure from the state, Utah Jazz fans are preparing to see Gordon Hayward again for the first time. The franchise was resurrected during his time with the Jazz–they reached the playoffs for the first time in five years with him at the helm, and his leaving to play for the Boston Celtics was seen by diehard Jazz fans as an unforgivable betrayal that would send the team back into irrelevancy.
But the Jazz bounced back the season directly after his departure, picking up now-household names Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and others, and Hayward sustained a season-ending injury on the first night of 2017-2018.
It’s that perfect storm of circumstances that make his return tonight so belated, and so loaded. Jerseys burned when he left, and tonight he’ll play at Vivint Smarthome Arena for the first time since Jazz fans still loved him.
Tonight’s matchup is sure to have some kick–and Kyrie Irving’s absence (personal reasons) will make the Jazz that much more likely to send Hayward away with a loss. Heading into tonight, here’s what the Jazz’s starting lineup will look like for the emotional battle.
Utah Jazz Starting Lineup vs Boston Celtics
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert
The Utah Jazz organization, professionally, is all set to welcome Hayward back to the arena.
The fans might be a different story. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s received, and how the power forward plays for his first game back in Salt Lake City.