The curse of the former Jazzmen has claimed its latest victim. Less than 6 minutes into his first season with the Celtics, Gordon Hayward was carried off on a stretcher after a gruesome leg injury. Up 12 to 9 on the Cavs with 6:45 left in the 1st quarter of Hayward’s first game and Hayward was lost for the season. This is a devastating blow to the Celtics who now will need to replace the all-star wing with rookie Jayson Tatum and second year man, Jaylen Brown. The Celtics’ depth took a huge hit after having to clear space for Hayward and then trading for Kyrie Irving. Now the Celtics’ hopes of challenging the Cavs for Eastern Conference supremacy are dashed. While it definitely hurts the Celtics, it’s Hayward that is now looking at a year-long recovery and he may never be the same player he was.
Just a word of caution to Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, and Donovan Mitchell: I would think long and hard before considering leaving Utah. Hayward is just the latest player to leave the Jazz and experience, let’s just call it, misfortune. Consider how the former Jazzman curse affected these former Jazzmen:
A.D. was a two-time scoring champ and made all six of his All-Star teams as a member of the Jazz. He averaged a spectacular 29.6 points on 56.2 percent shooting in his seven seasons with the Jazz. Once he left the Jazz, he went to Detroit and in just over two seasons was identified as the locker room problem that was holding the Pistons back from winning. Dantley was traded to the Mavs and the Pistons promptly won the next two NBA championships. In his final three seasons after being traded from the Pistons, he shot an embarrassing 462 of 993 (46.5 percent), almost ten percent worse than his days with the Jazz. The curse cost A.D. two titles.
The Mailman played 18 seasons with the Jazz and played in all but ten of the possible 1486 games. The Mailman never experienced a significant injury with the Jazz. In his lone season with a franchise other than the Jazz, Malone missed 40 games with a knee injury. The injury was originally misdiagnosed as an MCL sprain when it was actually a tear and it knocked Malone out of the Finals. The Lakers lost to the Pistons in one of the greatest upsets in NBA Finals history. Shaq has been quoted as attributing his departure from L.A. to Malone’s injury. In Shaq’s mind, had Malone been healthy, the Lakers would have won the title and there never would have been a falling out with Kobe. Bad luck for a guy who had never experienced a significant injury…until he left Utah.
AK47 had a great 10 season run with the Jazz. He made an All-Star Team and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team three times. Kirilenko began pouting about playing time and even requested a trade. Ultimately he backed off those trade demands, but when the NBA lockout hit in 2011, Kirilenko decided to leave the NBA and play the season in Russia. His NBA career was essentially over at that point. He played three more seasons between the Timberwolves and the Nets, but never came close to achieving the level of success he enjoyed in Utah. In his first season away from Utah, he missed games with back spasms, a quadriceps strain, and a calf strain. After signing with the Nets, he took a leave of absence for personal reasons and after being traded to the 76ers, Kirilenko didn’t even bother reporting to camp. He was released and was out of the league at the age of 33.
While Brewer was one that didn’t actually leave Utah via free agency, Brewer’s role was shrinking as Kyle Korver got healthy and Jazz rookie, Wes Matthews was impressing management. Brewer was traded to Memphis and almost immediately (5 games) suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Brewer played for five teams after leaving Utah and despite starting for two full seasons with Jazz was never a regular starter again. Brewer last found himself playing in D-League in 2016-17. After starting 223 of 266 games in Utah, Brewer was out of the NBA at the age of 28. No doubt this was a result of the Jazz curse.
D-Will was a fan favorite in Utah for just under six seasons. During that time, the debate in NBA circles was whether Williams or Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA. Williams was named All-NBA 2nd Team twice and enjoyed four seasons averaging double-digit assists. After leaving Utah, Williams never topped his Utah career-high in scoring and never mustered more than 8.7 assists per game. His post-Utah career was riddled with ankle problems and losing his passion to play basketball. Williams shot 46.6 percent from the floor as a Jazzman and has been just under 42 percent since. Williams was never the same elite player after leaving Utah and now finds himself as a free agent at the age of 33.
“Booze” was the Malone to D-Will’s Stockton. Booze and D-Will led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals. Booze enjoyed his best seasons with the Jazz. He made two All-Star teams as a legitimate 20-10 member. Boozer left Utah and signed a big free agent deal with the Bulls. He never endeared himself to Bulls fans, missed games for a variety of injuries and underperformed his big contract, never making an All-Star game. After averaging 19.7 points and 10.5 rebounds in a Jazz uniform, Booze averaged only 14.7 points and 8.5 rebounds in five post-Jazz seasons and despite wanting to continue playing, was out of the league at the age of 33.
Fisher was only with the Jazz for one season, but played a key role backing up Deron Williams in the Jazz’s run to the Western Conference Finals that year. Despite having a two-year contract with the Jazz, the Jazz released Fisher from his second year so that Fisher could be closer to top healthcare providers for his daughter (like the University of Utah Medical Center is chopped liver). Fisher went back to the Lakers. In the short term, Fisher won two more championships with the Lakers, but the curse eventually got to Fisher when he accepted the head coaching job with the Knicks after being hand-picked by Phil Jackson. Fisher didn’t last two seasons, mustering a 40-96 record despite having Playoff expectations in the East. During that time, Fisher’s personal life was falling apart. He was divorced from his wife of ten years and then got mixed up in a fight with former teammate Matt Barnes for romancing Barnes’ estranged wife, Gloria Govan. The distraction didn’t help his atrocious Knicks. This last June, Fisher was arrested for a DUI in a single car accident where he and Govan, now Barnes’ ex-wife, were the only ones involved. I wonder if all of this would be happening had Fisher just played out his days in Utah and never played with Matt Barnes or been introduced to Govan.
Kanter is another recent example of the former Jazzman curse. Kanter enjoyed moderate success with the Jazz for three and a half seasons, but after being traded to Oklahoma City, Kanter made some comments that upset Jazz fans. Kanter gushed about the Thunder organization and its superiority to the Jazz. While Kanter’s on-the-court performance improved slightly, Kanter’s Turkish passport was cancelled, he was stranded in Romania, and his Turkish citizenship was revoked. He broke his forearm on a chair on the bench when he punched it out of frustration and he missed much of the Playoffs as a result. Finally after talking about how the Thunder organization was a family and how much he loved his “brothers,” within 24 hours he was traded to the New York Knicks, the worst NBA franchise for the last decade. It’s almost like he’s cursed or something.
Burke enjoyed a strong rookie year where he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and named to All-Rookie First Team. His numbers remained stable for his first couple of seasons and his third season he was named a primary backup point guard. This is the role where the Jazz saw Burke in the NBA. Burke left the Jazz convinced it was the Jazz that were holding him back from fulfilling his potential as a player. He joined the Wizards and took the curse with him. After averaging 5 points and 1.8 assists in just 12.3 minutes per game, Burke was released from the Wizards. This pre-season he was signed by the Knicks, only to be cut a few days later. At the age of 25, he is without a team and is out of the NBA. Things weren’t so bad in Utah, Trey.
And now Gordon Hayward, just five minutes of his first season is all it took for the curse to strike. Now Hayward is out for the season and like too many others, he may never be the player he was when he was with the Jazz. A significant line in Utah history remains true, “This is the right place.” What Brigham Young really said, but the last part is often left off is, “This is the right place, move on…at your own risk.”