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Gordon Hayward is going to have to put the Utah Jazz on his back often this season.
So when it felt a little sore Friday, head coach Quin Snyder made the decision to keep his leading scorer on the sideline for the team's open practice at EnergySolutions Arena.
"If it were the regular season, of course guys have a different measure, and I do too," Snyder said adding that Hayward is "fine." "But right now it's the preseason and … we just have to be smart about what we do, make sure guys are tuned up and ready to go."
Hayward is coming off a career year during which he averaged 19 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Entering his sixth season, Hayward is again expected to lead a young, upstart Jazz team, and Snyder said his star player has done all the right things in training camp.
But Hayward has been dealing with some pain in his back since falling hard in Monday night's preseason tilt with Portland after being fouled by Blazers guard C.J. McCollum.
"He's been the best practice player we've had," Snyder said. "But he wasn't as engaged [this week] as he's been. That's because he's sore. He got tackled. He didn't say anything and he came to practice and tried to tough it out. It's part of my job to see their body language."
So Hayward was held out of action Friday and, along with the rest of his teammates, was given Saturday off as well. Snyder said forward Derrick Favors was also dealing with back soreness.
"We have guys that are trying to go in practice because they know it's important, then they're not fresh and they're not all healthy," the coach said. "Whether it's next week or when we start the season, I want our team to be not just healthy, but have good legs and be fresh and I don't think we're that right now."
The Jazz traveled to Portland on Saturday ahead of a preseason game on Sunday night. With less than two weeks remaining until the start of the regular season, Snyder said it is not an easy call to balance rest with preparation.
"Sometimes it's hard for me because I always want to practice," he said. "But I think our team right now is tired and I'm not concerned, but I am aware."
The Jazz on Saturday picked up the third-year options on guards Danté Exum and Rodney Hood and the four-year options on guard Trey Burke and center Rudy Gobert.
The moves were expected, bits of contractual housekeeping that will keep each player on his relatively inexpensive rookie contract for another season. For Gobert and Burke, next season will be the last on their rookie deals and they will be eligible to negotiate contract extensions through next fall. With the NBA's salary cap predicted to rise dramatically thanks to a new, highly lucrative television deal, Gobert in particular stands to see a major payday whenever he finalizes his second contract.
With about 1,000 people on hand to watch practice on Friday, Snyder wanted to take advantage of the unusual circumstances to work on end-of-game situations.
So the Jazz closed out their practice by running through a handful of scenarios: trailing by three with 12 seconds to play; down by two with seven seconds on the clock; et cetera.
"It's something we're doing a lot of," Snyder said. "I though it would be good to do it today because we had so many fans in there and it would create and environment where it would be a little harder to focus, which is what I wanted."
Defense is supposed to be the Jazz's calling card this season. But Snyder's biggest takeaway from Friday's practice was on the other side of the ball.
"I thought we played pretty good offense. The ball was really moving," he said. "We've spent some time working on some of those things, just timing and being connected and playing out of our offense, so that was good."
Less than a week after being waived by the Jazz, Jack Cooley has found a new home. On Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced they had signed the second-year center.