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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 10: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics watches the action against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Boston Celtics may still get something from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Gordon Hayward.

But no matter the end result of a potential sign-and-trade move from Boston to Charlotte, which remains on the table even with Hayward officially out of the Celtics’ plans, there’s no doubt that it could’ve been something far more impactful had Hayward landed in Indiana as a member of the Pacers.

At least that’s the word from J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star.

According to sources that spoke to Michael, the Pacers’ offer to the Celtics for the Indiana-born Hayward included center Myles Turner, a future first-round pick, and a rotation player.

This, with the exception of the first-round pick, is consistent with what the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn reported leading up to the Hayward decision, with Washburn noting that the Pacers were offering Turner and bench piece Doug McDermott. (According to Washburn, the Celtics said no to that deal with the hopes of acquiring Victor Oladipo or T.J. Warren along with Turner.)

Apr 21, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) adjusts his headband against the Boston Celtics during the third quarter of game four of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

This, just in plain impact alone, feels infinitely better than a trade exception. And it’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on that offer. A starting-quality center who could provide a defensive boost inside the paint, a rotation talent, and a future first-round pick? When’s the last time Danny Ainge said no to a future first-round pick?

(Now, there’s also the possibility that the Pacers’ front office is trying to save face and paint themselves as trying to do the right thing and putting their best foot forward in trade talks that came up short, perhaps exaggerating their offer to some degree to explain why the hometown kid didn’t end up coming home to play for the Pacers.)

So what could have happened here to push the C’s into such an L?

The simplest explanation may be the money. After passing on a $34.2 million player option for 2020-21, Hayward accepted $120 million from the Hornets. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Celtics and Pacers were close — offering between $100 and $110 million — but they never hit the $120 million mark like Charlotte.

It’s also possible that Turner really wasn’t in the Celtics’ plans despite the seemingly natural fit.

“I think, really, talking to people and reading the tea leaves as best I could, it really comes down to the Celtics didn’t want Myles Turner,” Lowe said on his podcast. “I did hear from some teams around the league that the Celtics have done some preliminary research on what Turner’s trade value would have been to them had they acquired him either in this deal or in a separate deal and obviously didn’t like what they saw.”

That was confirmed by the Celtics’ decision to trade centers Vincent Poirier (to Oklahoma City) and Enes Kanter (to Portland) for future second-round picks, and subsequent signing of Tristan Thompson to a two-year deal worth $19 million. The 24-year-old Turner, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in 62 games last season, mind you, has another three years at $18 million per season left on his deal.

Nevertheless, it’s already becoming hard not to feel as if the Celtics botched Hayward’s exit. And stories like the one out of Indy — even if it is slightly exaggerated — won’t help erase that feeling.

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