By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows Gordon Hayward better than anybody else involved in pro basketball.
Together for all of Hayward’s 69-game collegiate career at Butler, and together for the last 125 games of Hayward’s NBA career since coming to Boston from the Jazz in 2017, the close relationship between these two is undeniable. Hayward even mentioned the ‘unfinished business’ element of his relationship with Stevens (the duo came up short against Duke in the national title game in 2009) as part of his reasoning for coming to Boston in the first place.
But right now, with a Thursday opt-in deadline looming and with a split feeling like an inevitability, Stevens knows that all he can do for Hayward is simply be there if called upon.
“I’ve talked to those guys all year long, so those conversations aren’t unique,” Stevens said of the tenor of his conversations with Hayward ahead of this decision. “I say ‘those guys’ even going back years. And then as they get these closer to these deadlines and these big decisions, I say, ‘If you need me, let me know.’
“You spend so much time together, that it’s appropriate from my point of view to make yourself available if need be.”
Hayward’s situation is certainly an odd one, too.
With rumors swirling since the season ended, and with at least three teams interested in the 30-year-old wing, it felt like Wednesday’s 2020 NBA Draft would’ve been the perfect time to extend-and-trade Hayward to his preferred destination. Factor in the Celtics’ obvious desire to consolidate draft picks and/or move up the draft board, as well as the draft pick situation of those teams interested in Hayward, and it seemed like the perfect storm.
But Wednesday came and went with the Celtics using all but their final pick of the first round, and with Hayward still in limbo.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was completely hands-off when asked about Hayward, too, offering a simple “I don’t know” and opting to instead focus on the draft-night happenings of a three-pick night for Boston.
If this is indeed the end of Hayward’s injury-marred run in town, the C’s preference is certainly to get something for him before they’re Horford’d for the second offseason in a row. And mainly parlay Hayward’s next destination into something that makes sense for the Green’s championship hopes in 2021.
And if there’s one thing Stevens is putting his faith in ahead of a $34.2 million decision with no clear-cut solution, it’s that there’s no unfamiliarity when it comes to the sides involved.
“He knows us, he knows me, he knows this whole situation and he weighs that against his other options,” Stevens noted. “That’s part of a player option. It’s not too dissimilar than anything else we’ve been through in the past, so we’ll see how it plays out.”