By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After weeks of rumors, the Gordon Hayward decision finally came on Thursday with the 30-year-old’s decision to officially opt out of the final year of his four-year, max contract with the Boston Celtics.
The writing for a Hayward departure was certainly on the wall leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft, with Hayward linked to countless teams, and with the Celtics and Hayward extending their opt-in deadline another two days earlier this week.
But a Hayward trade did not materialize on draft night, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge opted not to talk about Hayward’s situation following the conclusion of the three-pick night for the Celtics (he offered a simple “I don’t know” when asked about Hayward) while C’s coach Brad Stevens took a more player-friendly approach.
“He knows us, he knows me, he knows this whole situation and he weighs that against his other options,” Stevens, who coached Hayward at Butler University, offered. “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.”
Hayward’s decision to forego a $34.2 million salary next season comes after what was an injury-marred three-year run with the Celtics, with Hayward suffering a season-ending ankle injury in his Celtic debut in 2017, and missing 20 games this past season due to injury. Hayward also missed 12 of Boston’s 17 games during their three-round playoff run in the Orlando bubble due to an ankle injury.
Hayward was at his Boston best despite the injury woes this past season, too, averaging over 17 points per game and establishing single-season career bests in rebounds per game (6.7) and field goal percentage (50 percent).
Overall, the 6-foot-7 wing averaged 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game over a 125-game run with the C’s.