MINNEAPOLIS – As the Minnesota Timberwolves’ shootaround wrapped up Saturday, Lazar Hayward sat in the corner, alternately lying back on the hardwood and sitting up, eyes closed.
And no one thought a thing of it.
No one thought a thing of it because five days before, in the same breath as, “Hello, it’s great to be back, nice to see you all again,” Hayward had started talking about mediums and spirits, about seeing them but not yet talking to them, about meditation and spirituality. All without being prompted. All because, hey, that’s what he’d been up to.
It’s really a wonder that professional athletes reveal even a shred of their personal lives; those who do are few and far between. And of course they are, when a man sharing some snippets of his (admittedly far from mainstream) philosophy suddenly becomes the guy who sees dead people. Words are twisted and sarcasm is stripped of its sarcasm and something offbeat becomes utterly ridiculous.
So after Hayward got up from his corner-of-the-court meditation Saturday, he expounded and he clarified.
“It’s not so much me seeing or speaking with dead people,” he said. “What it really is, the work that I do with the medium is him spiritually healing me, him helping me live in the present moment. It’s just helping me learn how to control my mind, how to take over my mind, and not get trapped in my thoughts or having doubts and worries, stuff like that.”
A few of Hayward’s friends saw the reports last week about his spiritual breakthrough, he said, and they called him with questions. They wanted to know what was up with his reported desire to talk to dead people, and he cleared the air with them, as well.
“It’s spiritual healing,” he said. “It’s teaching me how to reach multiple dimensions. There is another dimension out there, and God is in all of us. It’s teaching me how to be present in my body and how to just relax and live in the moment that I’m in right now.”
For a player who, in the past 13 months, has been traded from the Timberwolves to the Thunder for two second-round picks, then from the Thunder to the Rockets as a throwaway contract in a megadeal, then cut, maybe that’s the kind of mindset that makes things bearable. The living-in-the-moment business certainly makes sense, at least, even at his latest post in Minnesota. After the Timberwolves signed him, it took just six days for them to cut him again in advance of the Jan. 10 deadline after which all contracts are guaranteed. For 48 hours he waited with the Timberwolves, watching but not participating, and once he cleared waivers Tuesday at 4 p.m., he was back, signed to a 10-day contract. But that’s just 10 days, about the furthest thing from any kind of guarantee, and you’d think Hayward’s precarious situation would have spawned this search for introspection.
Not so. Hayward said his involvement with the spiritual began as a child, even when he was being raised going to a Baptist church. This work with mediums (and possible desire to even become one once his basketball career ends) doesn’t seem to interfere with Hayward’s vague notions of traditional religion — “I’ve always believed in Jesus and always believed in God, of course,” he said — but rather to complement it. As a child, he said, he’d often see things fluttering in his periphery, like someone walking by, but it wasn’t until he got much older that he thought they might be spirits and to expand upon it.
The trigger events for all of this actually were some family problems, and Hayward decided he needed to improve himself as a person in order to remain close with his family. His answer was to begin his spiritual work, and he hasn’t let up since.
Hayward said that since he arrived in Minnesota on New Year’s Eve, his teammates haven’t taken too much notice of his unorthodox routines. But they’ll eventually notice, of course. Everyone did in Oklahoma City, at least.
“Those guys realized how much I actually meditated, and when they asked me about it I let them know how much it really works for me,” Hayward said. “We all have stressful lives, and we all have problems, and I told them a lot of the time, that meditation, really, what you’re doing is you’re bringing all those dimensions inside of you, and you’re clearing out all that other stuff.”
He didn’t mention whether any of his teammates have adapted his outlook, and he doesn’t seem to care. This is his thing, he’s open about it, and that’s that. So what if there’s not so much clarity about what these alternate dimensions are or what a medium actually does when Hayward is with him. But this is what he wants to do, not even quite his religion but something of a guiding philosophy for a player whose life has wandered down a far more difficult path than most first-round picks in the NBA.
Maybe it tethers him to something, or it gives him a greater sense of control in a situation where he has so little. Whatever. Maybe it sounds a little crazy. Maybe it is a little crazy. But at least he believes in something.
Lazar Hayward is going to meditate and think about spirits and dimensions and all kinds of things that never touch the peripheries of 99 percent of NBA players. If that’s what gets him through, then so be it.