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Gordon Hayward will be a free agent this summer, and buzz regarding a reunion with Brad Stevens is starting to ramp up. According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics are “really focused on trying to get Gordon Hayward from Utah in free agency.” Wojnarowski added that he thinks Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will “go really hard after Hayward on July 1.”
The C’s have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and they also could sign another top free agent, similar to their approach last offseason when they drafted Jaylen Brown and signed Al Horford. But who would that free agent be? The Vertical’s Chris Mannix has a pretty good idea. “The next step for this team, that’s got to be Gordon Hayward,” Mannix said on CSNNE’s “Celtics Pregame Live.” “That is a guy who can help this team immediately. And that’s a guy I believe is Boston’s No. 1 target this summer.”
“Now someone like Gordon Hayward should be a little bit different just because he’s unrestricted now, and if he’s [voted on an] All-NBA team, he’d be turning down a lot of money to go elsewhere. And that’s where I think it’s difficult. That’s where I think you have to stay. You do a five-year deal, do a player option after three [years]. You give Utah three years with [Rudy] Gobert and their coach (Quinn Snyder) to get them over the top. But overall, I don’t think it’s good.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said Tuesday he hasn’t thought about whether he will opt out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent and will take some time off to enjoy time with his family before dealing with the “next chapter.” “It’s hard to think about right now, just because of the season we’ve had and everything we’ve gone through,” he said at his end-of-season availability. “Today it still feels like you’re looking toward the next game, looking toward the next opponent. That’s obviously over. But it’s hard to shut that off right away.”
Spencer Checketts: Trey Lyles: “I think Gordon (Hayward) has a few incentives to stay here. I think we will see him back here next year for sure.”
The Jazz fans want him back, and so they whooped and hollered Hayward’s name as he headed to the bench. They continued to chant even after the final buzzer sounded and the Jazz’s fate of being swept by the Warriors was sealed. Clearly, Jazz supporters are loyal and they hope that he will return to their squad next season. One fan even organized a crowd-funded billboard encouraging Hayward to stay in Utah as a way to “show Gordon how much he means to this city and this fan base.”
Joseph Horner: Same with Hayward. Interesting idea. – RT: Albert Nahmad: The power of the new designated veteran player rules will be in full display with Paul George this summer, even if he doesn’t make All-NBA. Pacers can give Paul George a DVP payout if gets All-NBA this season OR next season. By trading him, they’d lose 2nd major shot to keep him. Paul George has been an All-NBA player before. Making it again is not unrealistic. Which gives Pacers and trade partners lots to consider. Pacers need to decide whether they want to trade Paul George, who may not be able to pass up DVP money to stay if earns All-NBA next season. Even if Paul George requests a trade and says he won’t re-sign with the Pacers, he might reconsider if he has an extra $75M on the line!
Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder have done everything right in constructing a burgeoning Western Conference contender, but they’ll have to withstand the Boston Celtics’ push for Hayward on July 1. Winning a playoff series, getting a crack at the Golden State Warriors, gives Hayward a better prism with which to imagine his Utah future. The plan for Utah is unmistakable: Offer Hayward a max deal, re-sign point guard George Hill and turn these 51-win Jazz toward 60 victories and push for a conference finals appearance sooner rather than later.
For example, Gobert mentioned that he will try to persuade Hayward to re-sign with the Jazz when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer. When I asked him what he’ll tell the small forward when that time comes, Gobert doesn’t hesitate. “I’m just going to ask him, ‘Do you want to win a championship?’” Gobert said. “I feel like with the way we’ve improved the last few years, since Quin [Snyder] got here, I don’t think it’d be a great decision to leave now. At the same time, I know sometimes there are personal decisions and I can’t really control any of that. But I know he likes to win. I know he likes it here in Utah, and his wife and kids like it here too. If he doesn’t want to live here anymore or there’s another city he wants to live in or he feels like he has a better chance to win a championship somewhere else, it’s his decision. But I’m going to remind him that I really want to win a championship and I think we can do it. If he stays, I think we’ll have chances [to win titles]. But it’s still going to be his decision at the end of the day.”
Gordon Hayward spoke to reporters Friday for the first time since Jazz fan Garrett Jones created a GoFundMe account on Tuesday to raise $5,000 for a billboard aimed at encouraging the All-Star forward to re-sign with Utah when he becomes a free agent this summer. The goal was reached Friday, as 452 donations had added up to $5,271 at 12:15 p.m. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty cool,” Hayward said.
Snyder was a little more bold with his thoughts on the subject. “It’s terrific,” he said. “The fact that there’s that level of awareness, if I were Gordon, it would make you feel pretty good about the appreciation people have for what he’s done this year. For lack of a better word, the love. Show the love. That’s what it is.”
Whether or not Hayward decides to stay will probably depend on how much the Jazz are willing to offer him, but this can’t hurt. There is now a GoFundMe page that says fans in Utah are trying to raise $5,000 to rent a billboard that’s located in between the practice center and the Jazz arena for the month of May. The design is a photo of Hayward that sticks out at the top, and it includes the Jazz logo and in huge letters, “STAYWARD.” Get it? Like Hayward. But Stayward.
It all makes you wonder if the Pacers are one player away from being really good, and if they might be able to find that player this summer. George would love to play with hometown boy Gordon Hayward, according to sources, but that would appear unlikely. Even so: bring back Teague and Miles, get expected Year 3 improvement from Turner, add a couple of bench pieces, and the Pacers might be able to give George a road map back to the No. 2 seed.
Virtually any team with cap space should pursue Hayward, but considering his desire to contend for a title, it’s difficult to pinpoint a situation better than the one he’s in now. The only realistic team with max cap space and a less treacherous road to the NBA Finals than the Jazz is the Celtics. Brad Stevens coached Gordon Hayward for two years at Butler and the two have a bond that extends back to Hayward’s high school days. There have been rumblings about the duo reuniting ever since Stevens took the Celtics job in 2013; if there’s one looming threat to Utah for Hayward, it’s Boston.
“Pins and needles. That’s why I’m saying. Let’s put it this way: if on day one next year it’s Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs will be like ‘okay, that’s going to be a challenge.’ If it’s Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Jimmy Butler, the Cavs might be out there saying ‘we may have to trade Kevin Love.'”
One NBA executive joked recently that it was a two-horse race as it pertains to Hayward’s future, suggesting he’d only meet with the Celtics and Jazz in free agency and if he makes an All-NBA team, then the decision gets easier.
Utah is all-in to keep Gordon Hayward, but they also need to shed some salary before their army of young players ink pricey new deals. They’ve tested the market for Derrick Favors over the last few weeks, according to several league sources; Favors hasn’t been quite the same since coming back from injury, and Utah plays Favors and Rudy Gobert together for only 10 or 12 minutes per game.
Albert Nahmad: Gordon Hayward might be the best and most fun interview in the whole of the NBA right now, given his crazy possible options this summer… If Gordon Hayward makes All NBA honors, he could be incentivized to choose a $16.7M player option over a $30.6M max salary. If Gordon Hayward misses All NBA honors, most appealing free agent contract might be virtually identical no matter where he chooses to sign.
Hayward is now in his seventh (and best) NBA season, all spent with the Jazz. When he did hit restricted free agency in 2014, it was Charlotte—not the Celtics—who made a max offer that was matched by Utah. And while rumors have persisted that the Celtics would somehow land Hayward, the Jazz have never had serious trade talks about dealing Hayward to Boston or anywhere else. To date, at least, the Hayward-to-Boston story has been more myth than reality. But the Celtics will have their best shot at him in the coming months, with Hayward hitting unrestricted free agency this summer and Boston easily able to clear enough cap room to make him a max offer.
Even if Hayward plays his free agency straight and passes on the Designated Player chance, he will be eligible for a five-year deal from Utah worth about $180 million. The best the Celtics—or any other potential suitor—could do would be four years, $132 million. That’s only a difference of about $6 million through four years, but the fifth guaranteed year (at $41 million) is a big advantage for the Jazz.
Celtics forward Jae Crowder doesn’t like Boston fans cheering for opposing players like they did for Gordon Hayward during lineup introductions Tuesday. “I heard the cheering before the game. I didn’t like that at all. I think that was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans,” said Crowder. “That sparked a little fire in me.” Crowder responded with 21 points while making five 3-pointers. “I just felt disrespected,” said Crowder.
Specifically, one reporter mentioned forward Gordon Hayward, whose Utah Jazz are scheduled to visit Boston on Monday night. The Celtics have expressed interest in Hayward before and should have ways to clear enough cap space for a maximum contract this summer. Assuming Hayward explores the market (his decision could be complicated), he will be one of the top players available. “We’re not allowed to talk about that, as you know,” Stevens said after Celtics practice Monday afternoon. “Certainly you have an idea on (the free agency landscape) generally but I don’t get into that stuff because A) it’s not the appropriate time and B) out of respect for the other teams.”
Stevens did praise Hayward’s growth as a player. The 26-year-old — who played under Stevens at Butler — has emerged as one of the NBA’s better all-around wings. “He’s just getting better every year,” Stevens said. “Again, I kind of go back to when we recruited him — he was a skinny tennis player who could do some things on the basketball court. Now he’s got a well-rounded game. I think their staff has really done a great job with him and I think he’s continued to work and progress. He’s a really good player.”
Wojnarowski said Boston’s next big splash might not come until free agency, with small forward Gordon Hayward a prime target given his connection to Brad Stevens from their Butler days. “Danny’s wanted to strike and, like everybody else, get that big star, get that big player,” Wojnarowski said. “[Al] Horford was a big play and a great get in free agency. They can still keep their eye on Gordon Hayward from Utah who’s an unrestricted free agent this summer who played for Brad Stevens at Butler. It think there’s still strong hope in Utah that he’ll want to stay there.”
Wojnarowski added that Hayward liked Utah and would have ample reason to stay, so the Celtics should keep a close eye on the player when deciding whether they’ll give up major assets for someone else who might fill a similar role at the trade deadline. “But Boston’s got to keep their eye on [Hayward’s situation] and sort of monitor it and see [if] can they make a run at him,” Wojnarowski said. “Is he definitely going to re-sign there or might he take a look around in free agency this summer? I think Boston’s got to weigh all that with what kind of a deal they maybe try to get themselves involved with between now and the trade deadline.”
Extending Hill now is the best hedge against Hayward leaving. Losing both would eviscerate Utah’s perimeter rotation; it is Utah’s doomsday scenario. But Hill may wait out Hayward’s decision; the two are close, with shared Indiana roots and Indy-based trainers. Even so, Hill would at least listen if the Jazz approached with an offer today. “I was never one who wanted to move from team to team,” Hill told ESPN.com. “If the opportunity to stay is there, I’d love to take it.”
Hayward is happy, if not satisfied, in Utah. He’s not ready to commit to re-signing with the Jazz, but that’s partially because he doesn’t want to clutter his mind with business when the Jazz finally seem primed to make the playoffs again. “For me, I realized from that first year that anything can happen and anything can change,” Hayward said. “Really, as a basketball player in this business, when you start to worry about where you’re going to be in the future and what’s going to happen the next couple of years, that’s when you start to get distracted and you start to not play as well and things start to slip away. I’ve always been told to control what I can control. For me this year, that’s helping the Jazz win as many basketball games as I can, and that’s honestly what my focus is on.
“As far as what’s going to happen in the future, I don’t have a magic lamp or anything to say what the future holds. For me, I’m here right now and happy to be in Salt Lake, happy to play for the Jazz and excited for our upcoming season.”
Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey sounds confident about keeping free-agent-to-be Gordon Hayward in Utah. This is what he said in an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio: “For us I think, as much as anything, we need to be ourselves with Gordon, need to be authentic and real and then he’s going to have a decision to make. But fundamentally, if we do the right things here… Let’s just be honest, we have an advantage by having his Bird rights. There’s a lot of money associated with the fifth year and higher raises.”
Sirius XM NBA: AUDIO: @Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey on Gordon Hayward’s impending free agency “I hope we can retire his number here” bit.ly/2e23lj0
Boston also expressed interest in Blake Griffin this summer, so it’s conceivable they’d have interest when he hits free agency. To be clear, those conversations were merely exploratory since the Clippers had no interest in retooling, per a league source. Gordon Hayward received interest from Boston in 2014 when he was a restricted free agent; Hayward and Brad Stevens also have unfinished business after experiencing a heartbreaking national championship loss at Butler. Beyond that, there is no star, max-level, unrestricted free agent available in 2017 that is both reasonably acquirable and enticing to the Celtics.
Most league insiders agree that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert remains the most likely candidate, of the 2013 first-rounders still on the board, to land an extension by month’s end. The French Rejection — or Stifle Tower, if you insist — is one of the foremost draft steals of recent vintage, ranks as a leading NBA Defensive Player of the Year favorite and stands as a key figure in Utah’s rise in the West. Rest assured, Jazz officials are well aware that securing the long-term futures of Gobert and Derrick Favors can only enhance their chances of avoiding the nightmare scenario of seeing free agent-to-be Gordon Hayward leave in the summer.
There is probably more buzz surrounding Hayward’s impending free agency than about Paul, Griffin, Kyle Lowry and other starrier names. Hayward is 26, in the meat of his prime, killing it at the thinnest position in the league. Utah waited for Charlotte to max him out last time around, and Hayward has a long memory. The Jazz have a ton of guys to pay, and if they down enough beers (just kidding, it’s Utah!), they might convince themselves they have the wing depth to withstand Hayward bolting. His beloved college coach runs a rising team with an easy roadmap to max cap space — and real interest in Hayward, per several league sources.
Hayward’s pending free agency is well known. He’s expected to opt out of the final year of his contract next summer and cash in for max dollars, whether it be with the Jazz, or with another team. Beyond Hayward, however, Favors comes off his current contract at the end of the 2017-2018 season. Gobert is set to hit restricted free agency in 2017, and Hood and Exum will become restricted free agents in 2018. That means most of the Jazz core members are in line for new contracts, and most of them — if the free agency period this summer is an indicator — are good enough to make themselves a lot of money.
There is a sense the Celtics would love to pry away Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, who has a player option next year, which few in the NBA believe he’ll exercise meaning he’ll likely be an unrestricted free agent. There were rumors around the draft that Hayward would welcome a trade, but Jazz sources downplayed any reported unhappiness. Still, there is a real risk that Hayward could walk next July.
Gordon Hayward understands that financial realities could break up a team on the rise. “I’m constantly thinking about that,” he said. “Contracts are so short now. A lot of our guys are on their rookie deals, and they’ll come up for extensions. It all might determine whether or not I stay in Utah.”
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