Lazar Hayward Has Showcased His Noted Versatility With The L.A. Lakers' D-League Affiliate

Stephen Dunn

Lazar Hayward, a former first round pick in the 2010 NBA Draft out of Marquette, has been displaying his talents as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers D-League affiliate since the end of January. The versatile scorer and defender has posted solid averages over 14 games in the D-League, and is ready for another shot in the Association.

If Lazar Hayward were to receive a 10-day contract in the coming weeks, it would be his second of the season. After signing a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in late December, Hayward was waived by the team and then offered a 10-day contract shortly after. Ultimately, Hayward's stint with the Timberwolves failed to extend further than the allotted 10 days of his final contract.

Since then, Hayward has joined the Los Angeles D-Fenders and helped the team go 9-5 in games that he's seen action. Hayward is averaging 15.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 31.6 minutes for head coach Reggie Theus and the D-Fenders. This is not Hayward's first time playing in the NBA D-League, he played in 3 games with the Tulsa 66ers last season, and averaged 24.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for the Thunder's D-League affiliate.

Hayward spoke with RidiculousUpside.com and described his time with the D-Fenders. "It's been an interesting experience, but through and through it has been very beneficial for me, and for the D-Fenders. The Lakers organization does a really good job in putting together a group of guys who can gel quickly. For some, a transition from the NBA down to the D-League can be discouraging, but for me it's been a great learning experience, and has helped my game." Hayward said.

Hayward has played in 72 total NBA games as a member of the Timberwolves and Thunder since being drafted 30th overall by the Washington Wizards. In his rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves (Hayward was acquired by Minnesota courtesy of a draft day trade), the former Marquette standout averaged 3.8 points, and 1.6 rebounds in 10.0 minutes. After spending an abbreviated stretch with the familiar Timberwolves earlier this season, Hayward is working on getting back to the NBA via the D-League. With the recent signing of Chris Quinn, another guy with NBA experience who used the D-League as a route back to the Association, Hayward seems to be a logical option for NBA teams looking to add a player.

Hayward talked about playing with another 10-day contract on his mind, "there have been a few teams that have contacted my agent, but I don't really pay attention to it. When the time is right, I will get another opportunity. Of course I want to be back in the NBA, but I just know that I have to keep on playing my game and my time will come."

Hayward continued, "I look at it from a business standpoint. If there is a guy like myself who has all-around capabilities both defensively and offensively, why not go with that guy?" Hayward has a very versatile skill set for a player of his size. His ability to score while also contributing on the defensive side of the ball, helped him gain enormous recognition after his senior season at Marquette.

In my conversation with Hayward, we had a moment to reflect on his alma mater as they get set to kickoff their NCAA tournament. "I wish them the best of luck, Buzz has done a great job, he just knows how to win games. He is one of the easiest coaches to give your all to because he gives his all each and every game. He prepares his players for on-the-court situations as well as life after basketball." Hayward said.

Besides supporting his beloved Golden Eagles, Hayward is providing NBA teams with a worthy sample in hopes at securing another 10-day contract. In his last 5 games, Hayward has averaged 19.6 points and 6.6 rebounds, including a 31 point, 10 rebound performance in a win over the Austin Toros. Hayward has scored in double digits in 12 of his 14 games with the D-Fenders.

Hayward explained that his time in Minnesota earlier this season is giving him added motivation. "Anytime you get called up, it tells you that you're still on NBA team's radars, and that gives me motivation to keep on working. Ultimately, it didn't work out in Minnesota, but it was still great to be apart of their team and organization."

Minnesota has been Hayward's most familiar NBA team, as he spent significant time there as a rookie. Now in Los Angeles, Hayward has been able to reconnect with Reggie Theus, who coached Hayward in Minnesota his rookie season. Hayward elaborated on the impact that Theus has had on his career. "Coach Theus has scored a lot of baskets in his day, as a player you recognize that and realize that he has so much to offer based upon his experiences. He brings a different aspect to coaching, and does a great job getting the guys prepared for each game that we play in. I've enjoyed playing for coach Theus during my career." Hayward explained.

With 8 games remaining on the schedule for the D-Fenders, Hayward will need to impress NBA onlookers every chance that he gets over the final stretch of the NBA D-League season. A player with his skill set, and experience, can surely help an NBA team looking to fill a roster spot with a reliable and versatile player. Hayward hopes to be that guy.

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