NBA Rumor: Gordon Hayward Free Agency

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Hornets officially land Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade deal

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Boston, post-Hayward, represents the other side of the Bird rights trap. Its roster is a bit like a deflated balloon right now. The Celtics used their MLE on a big man, just like they would have anyway, and another small exception on a guard, and as a result are more or less the exact same team they would have been … except without Hayward. They can’t replace him as an over-the-cap team. It’s possible for Boston to pull off a late, dramatic save by generating a massive $30 million (or so) trade exception in a sign-and-trade with Charlotte, but even that will prove costly. The Celtics need to pony up an asset to include in the trade with Charlotte and then, almost certainly, another asset to bring a player into the exception. At a minimum, replacing Hayward in their salary structure will cost them two draft picks.

Like I said, it’s the thing every front office fears, and it just came and bit Boston yesterday. Boston had its nice little plans, and then Charlotte bulldozed them when it fell head over heels for Hayward. That forced the Celtics to either pay through the nose to keep him or lose him and struggle to come up with a remotely comparable replacement. That’s why the Bird rights trap is one of the thorniest issues front offices face and keeps execs up at night at this time of year. For 29 teams, a deal like that for Hayward was absurd. But it only takes one.

I know we’re always supposed to have an instant reaction in this business — not to mention a crystal ball — but I’m going to go rogue against the industry norm this time around and wait and see how this plays out. This much is clear, though: If Hayward is going to be worth this kind of money, he needs to get back to an All-Star level and lead this Hornets group to real contention in the East in the next few years. That’s a lofty goal to reach for someone who has endured such painful and unpredictable ups and downs these past couple of years. For what it’s worth, sources say he had at least one other offer available that was in this ballpark money-wise (more like four years, $100 million). Indiana, Atlanta and New York were all known to be in pursuit of Hayward as well.

Gordon Hayward focused on signing with Pacers

Stadium: “Gordon Hayward is fully focused and wants to sign a deal with the Pacers.” Our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania has the latest on Hayward’s potential landing spot in free agency.

Could Gordon Hayward be planning on a similar move this offseason? That’s the buzz according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who discussed Hayward’s future on the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast. “There’s some buzz out there. And I can’t figure out what the buzz means,” Lowe said of Hayward’s potential free agency. “The buzz that I’m hearing is like the smoke, the smoke indicating that something is happening. I’m not sure what’s up, but I don’t think it’s a lock that Gordon Hayward is on the Celtics next year.”

What will Hayward do with his player option and what will his role be next season? Scotto: I think you and I can safely say a $34 million player option for Hayward is getting picked up for next season. King: When you talk to people, the assumption is he will pick that up. Obviously, with the way the salary cap uncertainty is, there aren’t going to be as many teams with cap space, to begin with, this offseason. A lot of them are younger teams that Hayward probably wouldn’t be a great fit on. I think he picks up the player option. I think that’s safe. The discussion around him mostly relates to how expensive this Celtics roster is going to get moving forward.

Gordon Hayward opting in?

Around the league, front-office executives say they expect that Hayward will opt-in. “It’s too much money to pass up,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.”

Another front-office executive, from the Western Conference, told Heavy.com that even before the coronavirus forced the NBA into a suspended season, he expected that free-agent conditions will give Hayward an easy decision. The only X-factor is whether Hayward has an agreement in place with the Celtics to opt-out and sign a longer deal. “There wasn’t going to be a whole lot of free-agent money on the market this summer no matter what,” he said. “That was always going to make it difficult to figure out how to opt-out and get paid. He could do that and re-sign with the Celtics and there may already be a handshake deal for something like that. I don’t know for sure but it would not surprise me.

The Celtics rely on Hayward as part of their wing-centric lineup but they may have suitors to fend off. Charlotte, who previously signed him to an offer sheet in 2014, is projected with $26.7 million in cap space. Miami, who is projected with $26.5 million in cap space, also pursued Hayward in 2017, although indications are that they want to keep the keg dry for 2021. Other teams with at least that much cap space include Atlanta, Detroit, and New York. It seems unlikely that Hayward would want to leave Boston, and none of these teams other than New York can offer Hayward a true maximum contract (projected $40.3 million starting salary). If Hayward opts out, expect him to re-sign with the Celtics on a long-term deal. He is still getting minor injuries every now and then, so it would be wise to get the security given his history.

Celtics interested in keeping Gordon Hayward long-term

A league source confirmed to BostonSportsJournal.com the Celtics remain very interested in bringing back Hayward over the long-term whether or not he elects to pick up that option this summer. Price point is always going to be an area of concern for the C’s with future deals though as seen last summer when the team declined to match the hefty four-year $109 million offer from the Sixers on Al Horford (and also give up the assets necessary to make a sign-and-trade to keep Horford and bring on Kemba Walker).

Running low on matches or lighter fluid? Don’t burn your old Gordon Hayward jersey — donate it. That’s the vision of Zach Harding, who works in Salt Lake City and whose company will be traveling to Ghana in September through World Joy, a foundation in North Salt Lake. Among the hygiene kits and school supplies that his company hopes to provide to African children, Harding thought it would be a good use of unwanted Gordon Hayward gear to offer it to them as well. “Instead of wasting or destroying your jersey, I just had a thought that maybe we can give it to people who might never have seen a jersey in their lives,” he told the Tribune. “Maybe it would brighten their day over there.”

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September 27, 2021 | 9:36 am EDT Update
Towns received treatment at an area hospital, then quarantined at home for the next few weeks, isolated from friends and family. Basketball had been the closest thing in his life to an outlet. Now, by himself, he had no choice but to confront the pain that followed his mother’s sudden death. “I’ve had a lot of situations this year where things were just too much for me,” Towns says. “I just remember [quarantining] in the house, and it was more than just COVID for me. I felt like I was going through a holistic journey.”
A high-calorie diet eventually solved his weight problem. But that night inside Quicken Loans Arena, in the same building with so many people for the first time since he was able to leave his house, anxiety enveloped Towns on the bench. When the first quarter ended he texted his agent: “I can’t be out here anymore. I can’t do this.” He rushed back to the locker room, where Minnesota’s head equipment manager Peter Warden asked if everything was O.K.
There were days when being around teammates carried him. Basketball felt like it could provide a blip of relief. There were others when he thought about stepping away and giving himself space to mourn. “[My mother] made basketball fun for me my whole entire life,” Towns says. “She made it where I wanted to even do this. So for me, I was like, [There’s] too much on my mind. I’m not, I can’t, nah, I can’t.”
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“That money s— don’t mean s— to me,” he says. “Time is the real thing we losing every day. I just really didn’t think I could play the game of basketball the way I want to represent myself in the NBA. I didn’t want to represent myself in a bad way. There’d be a lot of times we’d play a game. Game’s over. And I’m not even in there. I’m doing my own thing. I’m in the bathroom looking at myself, wondering if this is the man that I really think I am. I had 40. I’m still not happy with the man I see in the mirror. I’m still dealing with a lot of s—.”