Gordon Hayward put up 28 points today in his first game of the season after breaking a finger in early October, writes Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Hayward, who wore a splint on his left ring finger, shot just 6 of 17 from the field as the Jazz won at New York. He was relieved to be back on the court. “I think naturally you lose a little bit. It’s what happens when you can’t play for a month,” Hayward said. “You can do all of the drills you want, all of the working out you want, but there’s nothing like five-on-five. There’s nothing like game atmosphere. … That’s why I did so much work, so I’d try not to lose so much of it.”
There’s more news from the Northwest Division:
- Nuggets coach Michael Malone is relieved to have Gary Harris back in the lineup, relays Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The third-year guard, who started 76 games last season, returned to the court Saturday. He had been out of action with a groin strain he suffered in Denver’s first preseason game. “If we can have Gary Harris out there for 15 or 20 minutes I think that helps us,” Malone said of easing him back into the linup. “Whether he starts or comes off the bench, it doesn’t really matter because of his ability to play both ends of the floor.”
- Trail Blazers reserve guard Shabazz Napier got his first meaningful playing time of the season in Friday’s win over the Mavericks, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Napier, who was acquired from the Magic in a summer trade, saw nearly nine minutes of action, with three points, two assists and two rebounds. Napier had an impressive preseason, but is stuck behind the backcourt trio of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Evan Turner. “It was one of those games, similar to last year, when you play a guard-oriented team,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts. “It was a [good] matchup for him.”
- The Thunder should be happy that they got their first game against Kevin Durant out of the way early, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. With the Durant distraction in the past, Tramel says the players can now focus on playing their style of basketball, which emphasizes defense to make up for an ineffective offense. Even with Russell Westbrook‘s individual brilliance, Oklahoma City ranked 28th in the league in points per possession through its first five games, yet had a 4-1 record.