After the game, I caught up with Hayward in the locker room where he spoke highly of both Ginobili and Leonard.
Paul: It’s been noted that one of the reasons you chose number 20 was because of Ginobili, what can you say about him still being so dominant at the age of 35?
Hayward: “He’s a great player and someone I looked up to growing up. He knows the game really well and he always finds the open man but he also darts through there (the paint) and hits some pretty incredible layups too. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Hayward had a point, because in Ginobili’s first game this season, Manu scored eight points and collected a stat in every category except fouls in just a little more than 15 minutes of action.
Paul: You and Leonard faced each other in last year’s playoffs, what can you say about Leonard thus far in his second year?
Hayward: “He’s a great player I think, he’s just solid all the way around. He does his job on the offensive and defensive end. He’s a great young guy.”
Leonard did just that Saturday, scoring 13 points and hitting a critical 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter that closed off any chance of a Utah comeback. As noted, Leonard also made Hayward work for every point he scored, as the 11 shot attempts for 15 points are evidence to Leonard’s defense on Saturday.