Mehic: Gordon Hayward can make Utah a stepping stone or permanent home

Gordon Hayward spent last summer in Salt Lake City, practicing at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. This off-season, Hayward doesn’t know where he’ll be — likely splitting time between San Diego and Utah with his family.

While he probably didn’t think about it then, that summer — the one which Hayward used to propel his game among the league’s elite — might’ve been the last one he’ll spend in Utah.

“I’m definitely going to take some time off and enjoy time with my family,” Hayward said to media during locker cleanout day. “I’ll try to get my body back to 100 percent. I think after that, I’ll deal with the next chapter of what’s going to happen.”

That next chapter Hayward mentioned after the Jazz were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Golden State Warriors will be determined in the coming few months.

The Jazz’s brass has made it clear that they want Hayward to spend the rest of his NBA career in Utah, but the team’s lone All-Star will have options.

The NBA collective bargaining agreement is set up in a way that limits a player’s autonomy. Almost three years ago, Hayward agreed to a four-year, $63 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets, but the contract was matched by the Jazz, bringing the forward back to Utah for at least three more seasons.

And now, that contract is up (assuming Hayward opts out of the final year of the deal, as it’s predicted he will) and Hayward will have the opportunity to pick where he wants to play.

“It’s been so much fun for me here in Utah and growing up here —…

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