Jazz match Charlotte offer for Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward is staying in Utah after all.
The Jazz on Saturday matched Charlotte's four-year, $63 million offer for the restricted free agent.
Hayward posted to Twitter: "Officially back with the @utahjazz!!!! Wanna thank them and all of #jazznation for believing in me! Lots of work ahead..."
The Jazz had until late Sunday to match the Hornets' maximum offer sheet for the 6-foot-8 small forward. Jazz general manager Gordon Lindsey repeatedly said he wanted to keep Hayward on the roster.
"As we have said since the start of last season, we have always seen Gordon Hayward as a significant part of the future of the Utah Jazz," Lindsey said in a statement. "Gordon is a young, multi-faceted player and a high-character individual who we are pleased will remain a member of the Jazz for many years to come."
Hayward averaged career highs of 16.2 points, 5.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals last season while leading the Jazz in scoring and minutes. He was the first Jazz player to average 16 points, five rebounds and five assists since Pete Maravich.
He had seven games with double-digit rebounds and six with double-digit assists. He scored more than 20 points in 22 games.
The Jazz, who couldn't reach an agreement on an extension with Hayward last fall, extended a qualifying offer on June 26, making him a restricted free agent. Hayward also saw interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers before Charlotte's offer came Thursday.
Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed that Utah had matched on Saturday morning. The move was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
"I think it's certainly a gigantic statement of how the Jazz value Gordon," Bartelstein told The Associated Press.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford had praised Hayward's "size, skill, competitiveness" and said he could play small forward or shooting guard.
"He's 24 years old and he has the talent, the character and the work ethic to be an All-Star player," Clifford said.
The ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Hayward has played all four seasons in Utah. He has scored in double figures 63 times with nine double-doubles while averaging 12 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
The young Jazz struggled last season, going 25-57. In the aftermath, coach Tyrone Corbin was let go after three-plus seasons in Utah and the Jazz hired Atlanta Hawks assistant coach Quin Snyder.
Under Snyder, Utah is rebuilding around Hayward, Trey Burke, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Last month, the team added promising Australian guard Dante Exum and former Duke forward Rodney Hood in the NBA draft.
"I am excited to have the opportunity to coach Gordon," Snyder said. "He is a talented and versatile player, and will play an integral role in our effort to build the Utah Jazz into a championship-caliber team. We look forward to seeing him continue to develop as a leader on our team."
AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in North Carolina contributed to this report.
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