Hard-Working Hayward Brings 'Team-First' Approach to Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti told reporters Wednesday he and his scouting staff have been keeping a close eye on new forward Lazar Hayward for a while.

“He’s someone we identified during the draft process as a player who would be a potential fit for us," Presti said, "either at that point or down the road.”

It ended up being down the road -- but not that far down. Hayward, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward, played collegiately at Marquette and was originally drafted by the Washington Wizards in the 2010 NBA Draft. So it’s only been about 18 months.

“Our scouting process doesn’t necessarily end on draft night,” Presti said. “Our staff did an excellent job following up his evaluation during the season and trying to keep tabs on what was going on with his situation.”

Hayward was the 30th overall selection in 2010, then was then dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves later on draft night. Hayward played in 42 games for the T-Wolves last season. He averaged 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds in 10 minutes per game.

After only one day of practice, it is probably too soon to tell how Hayward will fit in the rotation, but one thing is for sure: His basketball DNA definitely fits into the Thunder way.

“He’s a great kid, a great kid who works hard and he’s a tough kid,” Brooks said.

And Hayward brings something the Thunder coaches absolutely love: “He’s a very physical defender and he’s going to have to guard a pretty good player every day in practice (Kevin Durant), so that will help him get his defense even better.”

It is a challenge Hayward openly embraces.

“I told Kevin during practice that I’d be going up against him all the time. I was like, 'Hey I’m going to push you, I’m going to fight you, I’m going to try to make you mad.' " Hayward said. "But at the end of the day, it’ll help him because when other guys guard him in the NBA they’re not going to let him do whatever he wants so it wouldn’t be fair to him if I didn’t bring my best.”

That kind of “give it everything for the team” attitude is part of what initially drew the Thunder to Hayward.

“He recognizes the reasons why we think he’s a good fit for our organization,” Presti said. “He just has some intangibles as a person and as a player that we feel like will help continue to bolster the identity that we’re trying to build here.”

Presti pointed out those kinds of decisions won’t always appear as lightning strokes of genius or “grand-slam decisions or silver-bullet solutions. It’s us trying to be methodical and diligent about adding people and players to the organization,” he said.

Hayward said he was thrilled when he heard the news he was going to Oklahoma City.

“It’s not as cold” as Minnesota, he joked with reporters.

Then he became serious about his opportunity.

“Coach (Brooks) is a fair guy and I think he’ll give me a fair shot," he said. "He wants guys that really work hard. He wants guys that will always help the team and who will always be willing to do what’s better for the team and that’s who I am.”