When it comes to the departure of Gordon Hayward from the Celtics … it’s complicated. But Danny Ainge explained to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Tuesday that one of the major reasons he left Boston for the Charlotte Hornets was his role on the floor.
“We set out to try and get Gordon to come back,” Ainge said. “That was our No. 1 goal in the offseason was to get Gordon back with the Celtics, he’s a terrific player. I just think that he preferred to go somewhere else, and made his choice to go to Charlotte. I don’t know what else to say about it.
“There was a lot of discussion, I think there was hope we had all the way to the end that he would return. But I think he preferred to be a more featured player, and Charlotte was paying him a lot of money, and he chose to go there.”
Ainge clarified that Hayward didn’t necessarily say directly to him that he wanted a bigger role on the court, but that he had enough discussions with Hayward to infer that.
Hayward signed a four-year, $120 million contract with the Hornets as part of an eventual sign-and-trade with the Celtics, which landed Ainge a trade exception for $27.9 million – the largest trade exception in NBA history. The Celtics also sent two second-round picks to Charlotte for a conditional second round pick as part of the sign-and-trade.
The now-former Celtic becomes the Hornets’ only player with an All-Star appearance to his credit. So it’s highly likely Hayward gets his wish as “a more featured player” on their roster.
Ainge also spoke about the Celtics’ offseason in free agency, the status of Kemba Walker and other injuries, and the draft.