"For me, it's the same. If I get my name called or not called on the bench, I always stay ready," Hayward said. "I was called. So I just have to go in there and do my job and play as hard as I can."
Hayward said that he has learned a great deal since his first career start, which came Nov. 15 against Oklahoma City, when he scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting in 22 minutes. His comfort level has continued to improve, while his confidence has increased.
"Any time you step out on the court, you feel you have something to prove," Hayward said. "Especially being a rookie. But for me, I'm not going to go out there and force anything by any means. I'm going to let the game come to me, compete as hard as I can, and hopefully do a good job."
Sloan said that Hayward has continued to make progress while working hard during practice. His shot remains a concern, though, as opponents have learned to back off the forward until he proves he can make open looks. However, Hayward and fellow rookie Jeremy Evans have recently put in extra work with ex-Utah sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek.
"If I get an open look, step up and knock it down," Hayward said. "If that one doesn't go, be ready for the next one."
Meanwhile, Bell said that his status is day to day. He acknowledged that he is searching for answers about how to deal with a groin strain that has transferred from his left to right leg.
Bell said that he plans to take Hayward aside before the game tonight to give him tips about how to defend Magic guard Vince Carter.
Brian T. Smith