Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 23: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics stands on the court before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on February 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

Odds are that you were not the only person who expected the marriage between the Boston Celtics and Gordon Hayward to last longer than it did before the Indiana-born wing took his talents to Charlotte last offseason.

In fact, Hayward himself thought Boston was going to be the final stop of a pro career that started in Utah in 2010.

“With Brad [Stevens], I felt like [Boston] would be where I was going to spend the rest of my career,” Hayward admitted during his appearance on The Woj Pod with ESPN’s Adrian Wojarnowski. “I am not somebody that likes a lot of change or likes moving from city to city or team to team. We were making a decision for me to play my basketball career out.”

But fate had other plans, and left Hayward confront a harsh reality when it came to a three-year Boston run.

Even before the numerous injuries plagued his entire run in Celtic Green.

“When I had signed in Boston, they still had Isaiah Thomas,” Hayward recalled. “And so it would have been me, IT, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley. It was kind of a different team [when the 2017 season started] than when I signed there.”

The biggest change among compared to when Hayward first signed came with the addition of the ball-dominant Kyrie Irving, who immediately stepped in as the team’s No. 1 option. And then there was Marcus Morris and the emergence of then-rookie Jayson Tatum among those who were hungry for touches, and at the same position Hayward was expected to play for the C’s.

While the talent was there, the connection wasn’t never quite was it supposed to be, and Hayward’s season-ending ankle injury in his first game as a Celtic — as well as he and Kyrie’s rejoin into a C’s lineup that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals without them in action the following season — left everyone expecting more.

“We probably should’ve been better,” Hayward said of the 2018-19 team.

CANTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 24: From left Jayson Tatum #0, Jaylen Brown #7, Kyrie Irving #11, Gordon Hayward #20 and Al Horford #42 pose together for a photo during Boston Celtics Media Day on September 24, 2018 in Canton, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

But it didn’t get any easier in 2019-20 when Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum took flight and were joined by Kemba Walker, forming a new, new Big Three for the Celtics, once again leaving Hayward in a role he never appeared to truly want.

After averaging over 17 points per game and shooting a career-best 50 percent from the field last year, Hayward believed he could produce at an All-Star level, which was never going to happen in Boston with The Jays and Kemba. Not on a consistent enough basis, anyway. And while the opt-in decision with Boston went down to the 11th hour, Hayward and agent Mark Bartelstein ultimately believed that the open-yet-accelerated market would come with a better fit.

“That was certainly an option and a very good option, I think,” Hayward said of a potential 2020-21 opt-in with the C’s. “Talking with Mark, it was one of those things where he and I felt like there were other opportunities out there and let’s explore those opportunities. And at the end of the day, we felt like the other opportunities were our best bet.”

It’s a bet that’s certainly paid off for Hayward so far, with a career-high 22.6 points and 42.6 three-point percentage through his first 25 games with a suddenly surging Hornets squad.

And while Hayward’s time in Boston will be defined by its shortcomings (one he admits freely), the split hasn’t left Hayward with any bitterness in regards to completing a dream of playing in the Garden and playing for the Celtics.

“I have nothing but positive things about my time in Boston, even though it was frustrating and disappointing with how everything ended up, with injuries playing a huge factor,” said Hayward.

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