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The extra hours and self-prescribed practice are making a difference for Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward.
He made his second career start Friday night during a 117-105 win against the Orlando Magic at EnergySolutions Arena, filling in for an injured Raja Bell. Hayward did not record a point while grabbing two rebounds and committing four fouls in 17 minutes, 35 seconds.
It was nowhere near a breakout performance. But the ninth overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft said he still learned new material.
"I picked up that I need to play defense without fouling, that's one thing," Hayward said smiling. "I just think you gain the experience some things you can't really put into words."
Utah coach Jerry Sloan said that Hayward, 20, has continued to make progress despite playing just six minutes in Utah's previous four games and not playing in five contests this season due to a coach's decision.
Sloan acknowledged, though, that Hayward's shot continues to be a concern opponents are backing off the rookie until he proves that he can knock down open looks.
Hayward was 0-of-1 from the field against the Magic, often taking a secondary role among Utah's starters and deferring to their power. He was then forced to leave the game with 9:48 left in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul.
"To be honest, not playing with them very much, it's kind of hard," Hayward said. "Especially when I haven't played the past couple games and then get in there with that first unit. … It's hard to know where I should space and when's my time to kind of look."
Hayward has recently put in extra work with Utah shooting coach and ex-Jazz sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek, teaming with fellow rookie Jeremy Evans to fine-tune a game that has Hayward averaging 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from the field in 19 contests.
Utah's offense had recently struggled to find a rhythm during the fourth quarter heading into Friday's game against the Magic. The Jazz had been held to 20 points or less during the final period of two out of the team's last three contests, with both low-scoring outputs ending in losses.
Sloan said that a lack of execution highlighted by turnovers was at the core of Utah's problems.
Asked if he had considered inserting reserve small forward C.J. Miles into the late stretches of games and teaming the athletic shooter with the Jazz's first unit, Sloan said that defense continues to be an issue with Miles.
"He has the ability," Sloan said.
"Sometimes he gets so enamored with getting shots off that I think it hurts him a little bit on the defensive end."
Bell (strained right adductor) and reserve center Kyrylo Fesenko (sprained left ankle) sat out the contest versus the Magic. Both players said they are not sure whether they will be able to play Saturday night against Dallas, with Bell leaning toward a likely no.