The Sixth Man (cont.)
"It is pretty amazing," he said. "We went from nobody knowing us, to everybody knew what Butler was. As soon as you say Butler, they immediately talk about the Duke game. It's kind of cool, but it's also bittersweet for me, because I was so devastated about the loss. At the same time, it's good for the program."
The goal for the next decade and beyond.
"I think I can be an All-Star in this league," Hayward said. "That's a goal, I've written that down, and I'm trying to take steps to get to that goal.''
But it's not his No. 1 goal. When he was 5 or 6 years old, Hayward famously listed his goals.
"The top of that list was to get to the NBA," he said. "So I had all the steps written down of different things that I wanted to do.''
When Utah drafted him ninth in 2010, Hayward put together a new list of goals.
"I wrote it when I got into the NBA," he said, "because my old list had expired, basically. I'd checked everything off. So it was time to write a new one.
"Win an NBA championship; that's my main goal. In a team sport, you get the accolades based on what your team does more than anything. You don't really ever see guys that are on losing teams get that many awards unless you're scoring 40 or 50 points a game. If your team does well, then all the individual stuff comes after that.''
He doesn't carry the new list with him.
"It's back home in Indiana," Hayward said. "The one I had when I was little was on my bulletin board. So it's the same thing with this one. My parents still have the same house and when I go home, if I don't get an apartment, then I just stay in my old room. And it's right there.''
"I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D'Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.''
-- Phil Jackson on how he found out the Lakers had selected Mike D'Antoni as their next coach.
This statement is going to hang over Jimmy Buss, Kupchak, D'Antoni, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and everyone else who will be trying to win a championship for the Lakers over the next seven months.
"The other thing that this organization has to keep in mind, is that if things don't work out really well here, and Dwight Howard's not happy, he's a free agent," Kurt Rambis, who would have been hired as a Lakers assistant by Jackson, told USA Today this week. "He could leave, and that would be disastrous for the imminent future of this team. I think you can see that there's a lot of pressure on this organization to win, and ultimately that's what you have to do. And Phil has been the coach in recent history who's had the most success here."
If things are going badly for the team, if Howard and Nash are struggling to regain their health, if the Lakers are bleeding defensively or struggling to dominate offensively and the criticism is growing over their failure to hire Jackson, then what are the players going to do? Are they going to rally around D'Antoni, or are they going to pine for Jackson? Because Jackson isn't going anywhere. He is going to be living in his home a few miles from the practice facility, like Napoleon on the island of Elba, and there will be calls for the Lakers to bring him back regardless of the costs.
Until this team proves itself on its own terms, its potential to win one ring will be dwarfed by the 11 that Jackson has won. Jackson has established the terms for the Lakers' season, and isn't this strange: If Bryant is to win his sixth title, tying Michael Jordan, then he's going to have to effectively silence the coach whom he and Jordan shared.
New York Knicks at San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET. An NBA scout breaks down this matchup of the No. 1 teams from each conference.
"Defensively, I think the Knicks are going to be OK," the scout said. "For the most part, they've got the athletes on the wing to compete with San Antonio, though it's going to be a test for Raymond Felton to stay in front of Tony Parker. New York could very well go down there and get a big win. I look at the Spurs and see that people have been competing against them -- they've been winning games but they've been eke-out wins.
"I view the Spurs as a contender to win the West in the same way that the Celtics have a chance to win the East -- it all depends on them getting on a roll and being healthy at the end of the season. The Spurs need to figure out their 4-spot. Who's going to start there, and who is going to play big minutes off their bench at that position? They've got to play small sometimes because I don't know that they've got a lot of faith in DeJuan Blair. The Knicks come in with Carmelo Anthony playing a lot of 4, and I don't know how the Spurs are going to match up with him. At the other end, the Knicks have a big man in Tyson Chandler to defend Tim Duncan, and that's going to be a big bonus for New York.
"The biggest matchup advantage for San Antonio is going to be Parker against Felton. If Parker gets by him and he's making it all the way to the rim or making that little floater of his, then the Knicks will have a problem. Because if a second defender comes up against Parker, he has that ability to drop it off, and San Antonio has finishers around him. Tiago Splitter is getting better and better, but I don't see them playing Splitter and Duncan together that much -- though if they did pair them together against the Knicks, Carmelo might have to shift back to the 3, and that would be an equalizer as far as the Spurs are concerned.
"Right now, it's looking like the Knicks are going to be Miami's main challenger in the East. The Knicks have some momentum to go with a lot of firepower. A lot is going to depend on the health of Jason Kidd and their other old players, because they have a lot of guys who could easily be out for extended time with strains, aches and pains that are not even major injuries. It seems like they've got enough depth to put replacement people in there, but then you think about a guy like Rasheed Wallace. If they're forced to play Rasheed for 27 to 30 minutes, he could be one and done: He could come in and play well against Duncan, but then you probably couldn't count on him playing again for the next week.
"I have a feeling this is going to be more of a test for San Antonio than for New York. It's the next night that might cause the bigger problem for the Knicks -- they have to go home to play the Grizzlies on Friday, and their size might cause more problems for the Knicks than they'll see from San Antonio.''
The Lakers are reported to have hired D'Antoni in part to keep Howard from leaving as a free agent this summer. Here are the other most provocative unrestricted free agents to watch throughout this season:
C Andrew Bynum -- Unlikely to return before January, can he prove worthy of a big investment?
F David West -- Contenders and rising young teams will covet West's production and leadership.
F Josh Smith -- A versatile and explosive talent who turns 27 next month.
G Ray Allen -- Can opt out this summer if things don't pan out in Miami.
G Chris Paul -- Sounds like he wants to stay, but Clippers need to earn his signature.
C Al Jefferson -- A low-post rarity who will turn 28 in January.
F Paul Millsap -- The 27-year-old is among league's most versatile forwards.
G-F Andre Iguodala -- Will he opt out of next season's $16.2 million salary?
G Monta Ellis -- Likely to opt out as an explosive 27-year-old scorer.
G Manu Ginobili -- Will re-sign with Spurs if he doesn't retire.