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Miami Heat will decide on Gordon Hayward, not visa-versa

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Heat’s legendary “culture” demands determine if Hayward fits the team.

NBA: Miami Heat at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

By all popular accounts Gordon Hayward holds all the cards in Saturday’s meeting with the Miami Heat. Flipping that scenario around, the Heat may decide by Sunday whether better opportunities to spend $30 million, and a four-year commitment, lie elsewhere. The Heat culture isn’t for everyone, including Hayward or Blake Griffin.

Great statistics and All-Star Games aren’t the be all and end all for a max-contract player. For example, egregious examples include DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, all of whom have undeniable talent, yet under-perform in leading their teams during the playoffs, even if they qualify.

Of last season’s 11 second-half losses, 5 stood out as particularly painful ones: 109-117 vs 76ers, 107-116 vs Magic, 89-96 vs Mavericks, 99-110 vs Magic, 94-98 vs Knicks. A win in any of those (teams with losing records) would have put Miami in the playoffs. Why was the intensity missing in games where the Heat allowed the 76ers to score 117 points, the Magic 116 points and 110 points?

For the record, in head-to-head competition, Miami and Utah finished with one win each. Recalling the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz, hothothoops wrote:

The Heat and Jazz started to go back and forth, but it was Goran Dragic who took over the game scoring multiple times from beyond the arc and slashing his way into the key for buckets.

A Miami play to put the game away failed with an inside pass to Whiteside being flubbed and Utah getting possession. Utah would call a timeout with 3.9 seconds to go, and were forced to call another because of Miami’s defense. Following the timeout the Jazz elected to get it to Hayward who shot from the midrange, but was well challenged by James Johnson.

James Johnson was fantastic, it’s great to see him getting minutes and performing as well as he has. His defense in the final possession won Miami the game.

Whiteside came alive in the second half, but he needs to be better. It’s unacceptable to be invisible for one half of the game.

Is Hayward worth a $30 million and a 4-year commitment that handicaps the team’s flexibility down the road? Miami has only a few days to make a decision that impacts its future.