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Thunder: Lazar Hayward will make Kevin Durant, team better

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, Modified: December 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm •  Published: December 14, 2011

On Wednesday morning during his first practice with the Thunder, newly acquired small forward Lazar Hayward went up and chatted with two-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant.

“I told him, ‘I'll be going up against you all the time. I'm going to push you. I'm going to fight you. I'm going to try to make you mad,''' explained Hayward, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound second-year player out of Marquette. “But at the end of the day, it'll help him because when those guys (opponents) guard him, they're not going to let him do what he wants. It wouldn't be fair to him if I didn't do my best every night in guarding him at practice. So at the end of the day, it's good for both of us.”

Hayward was on the Thunder's radar during the 2010 NBA Draft, when Hayward wound up being the last pick in the first round.

OKC assistant general managers Troy Weaver and Rob Hennigan kept tabs on Hayward in case an opening ever became available.

The Thunder filled its lone roster spot on with Hayward, a small forward who averaged 3.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 10.0 minutes in 42 appearances with Minnesota his rookie season.

OKC acquired Hayward on Tuesday from the Timberwolves in exchange for shooting guard Robert Vaden and two second-round draft picks. The initial second-round pick is unconditional in the 2012 draft. The 2013 second-round pick is conditional and protected for the Thunder up until pick No. 42.

The Wolves immediately waived Vaden, reportedly to clear a roster spot for free agent point guard J.J. Barea.

The affable Hayward possesses the intangibles constantly preached by general manager Sam Presti.

“He has a great demeanor to him,” Presti said. “He has a maturity level for a young player, a capable shooter with range and someone we feel like can really bolster the depth of the team.”

No argument from Thunder coach Scott Brooks after Hayward's first workout.

“Great kid that works hard,” Brooks said. “Tough kid. Very physical defender.”

As for Hayward's primary defensive assignment, “He's going to have to guard a pretty good player every day in practice, so he's going to have to get his defense better,” Brooks said. “We're excited to have him. He's going to bring another dimension to our team.”

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