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Playing for Team USA has long been a career goal for Gordon Hayward. This rang especially true this summer, as Hayward expressed a real desire to play in the Olympic games in Rio.
However, given that opportunity with an invitation, Hayward declined, the Salt Lake Tribune has confirmed.
The decision is chiefly for family reasons, as Hayward's wife Robyn is expecting the couple's second child. The decision is also based on the Zika virus.
"While I am incredibly honored to have been invited to compete with Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics, I have withdrawn my name from consideration due to family obligations," Hayward said in a statement. "My wife Robyn and I are blessed to be expecting our second child this summer. I am immensely grateful to Team USA basketball for the opportunity, and I hope to have the opportunity to represent my country in the future."
Ultimately, those are a few of the factors that cause Hayward to turn down what amounts to a career opportunity. The decision was a hard one for him to make, agent Mark Bartelstein told The Tribune on Thursday. But with family obligations and concerns, it was the only logical decision he could make.
"Gordon is one of the special people I've ever met," Bartelstein said when reached by phone. "He's a guy who has his priorities in order, and he's a family man. Family comes first for him. A lot of people say that, but he's a guy who really lives by that. This was a very difficult choice for him to make. Playing for Team USA is a real honor for him."
Hayward has been in the Salt Lake area for the bulk of the postseason, working out at the team practice facility. He is coming off the best year of his career, having averaged 20 points, five rebounds and almost four assists per night.
But at 26 years old, and without a playoff appearance since 2012, Hayward is beginning to think about his career as a whole. As a result, his summer has been dedicated to improving on his game, and getting physically and mentally ready to attempt to lead the Jazz on a playoff run next season.
The Jazz have suffered three consecutive losing seasons. And even if Utah's improved its win total in each of those years, going 40-42 this past year, missing out on the playoffs with a few key losses in April is something Hayward doesn't wish to repeat.
"He wants to get better as a player," Bartelstein said. "The Jazz are entering an important season, and he wants to lead them to the playoffs. He's been preparing for that."
The Team USA player pool is shrinking, seemingly by the day, as stars have been turning down invites with regularity. There will be no LeBron James, no Stephen Curry, no James Harden, no Damian Lillard, no Kawhi Leonard, no Russell Westbrook and no Chris Paul, among many others.
As players began withdrawing from consideration, it looked as if Hayward had a better chance of making the roster. That was for good reason. Hayward is one of the most versatile players in basketball, capable of playing three positions. He's a good shooter, passer, rebounder, scorer and defender. He's simply one of the few players in the league who can affect as many facets of the game that he does.
Hayward who has been a consistent part of USA basketball in recent years would've fit well into the international game. But with his second child on the way, and with the Zika virus scare in Rio, risking something bigger than basketball didn't make sense at the end of the day.
Entering his seventh season, Hayward can opt out after next year and become an unrestricted free agent, a path he will assuredly take with the rising salary cap. The Jazz on Wednesday traded for George Hill to fortify their point guard position.
Team USA starts taking shape
Ten of the 12 spots on Team USA are now set. Here are the players who are confirmed for the Olympic roster, have withdrawn from consideration, or are uncommitted:
• Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
• Jimmy Butler, Bulls
• DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
• DeMar DeRozan, Raptors
• Kevin Durant, Thunder
• Paul George, Pacers
• Draymond Green, Warriors
• DeAndre Jordan, Clippers
• Kyle Lowry, Raptors
• Klay Thompson, Warriors
• LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
• Stephen Curry, Warriors
• Andre Drummond, Pistons
• Blake Griffin, Clippers
• James Harden, Rockets
• Gordon Hayward, Jazz
• LeBron James, Cavaliers
• Kawhi Leonard, Spurs
• Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
• Chris Paul, Clippers
• Russell Westbrook, Thunder
• Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers