On Tuesday, Chris Haynes of ESPN reported Hayward plans on signing with Boston, while USA Today‘s Sam Amick confirmed the news. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski received word from Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, that it’s not a done deal yet.
“Gordon hasn’t made a decision yet,” Bartelstein said. “We are still working through it.”
Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas and Ricky Rubio, who was traded to Utah this offseason, were quick to react on Twitter with emojis:
Hayward was a key piece of the Utah Jazz‘s ascension in the 2016-17 season. He set career highs in scoring (21.9 ppg), rebounding (5.4 rpg) and win shares (10.4), per Basketball Reference, as the franchise made its first playoff appearance since 2012 and won its first division title since 2007-08.
At 27 years old, Hayward shows no signs of slowing his progress as an NBA star. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead offered this nugget about the All-Star forward:
“There’s no need to defend Hayward. In fact, this was his seventh year in the NBA, and he’s improved every season. This season, he set career highs in points, rebounds, field goal shooting and three-point shooting since becoming a full-time starter. How’s this for a leap: Hayward was 58th in PER last year; he shot up to 27th this season, the best of his career.”
After establishing himself as the face of one organization on the rise, Hayward proved to teams around the NBA he can take over games with his offensive prowess but is also skilled enough to get teammates involved in the action.
Losing Hayward leaves the Jazz with a huge void they may not be able to fill via free agency. He brings a unique skill set and consistently high level of performance to the Celtics as they look to make a run at an NBA title next season and into the future.
If Hayward was going to leave Utah, the Celtics seemed like a natural landing spot. He’s got a built-in relationship with Boston head coach Brad Stevens from their two seasons together at Butler from 2008 to 2010.
The Celtics needed to add at least one more star player alongside Thomas if they want to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
Thomas was the only player on Boston’s roster last season who scored more than 1,000 total points. Hayward gives the Celtics another legitimate scoring threat, but he’s also a solid rebounder, distributor and defender.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge will be aggressive when he feels it’s in the team’s best interest to do so. He made the bold move of trading the No. 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers and selected Jayson Tatum third overall in June 22’s draft.
Now, Ainge and Celtics ownership opened their wallets to bring Hayward into the mix to bring them one step closer to a championship.
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