The Toughest Decisions

This is how it started, “This has been the toughest decision that I’ve ever had to make in my life. This weekend has probably been the longest weekend of my life. And today … well, today has definitely been one of the craziest days of my life. But I wanted to make sure that I got this right.” 

That was the opening paragraph to the article in the Players Tribune from Gordon Hayward. In 2017, he had made the decision to leave the Utah Jazz and come to Boston. 

Hayward would sign a four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics. This would arguably be one of the biggest free agent signings in Boston in team history.

After seven years in Utah, Hayward would bring his family to Boston. He would be reunited with former Butler coach Brad Stevens. The summer of 2017, the Celtics would position themselves for success. They already had signed Al Horford the year before, they now signed Hayward. The next domino to fall would be the acquisition of Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers.

“It’s Gonna be Crazy G”

The Celtics would introduce both Irving and Gordon together to the Boston media. We learned that Irving and Hayward we’re excited to play together. The press conference would be a glimpse into what would potentially be in Boston. Irving and Hawyard would be able to get fresh starts, Irving would need that more than Hayward.

We would learn that Hayward would almost join Irving in Cleveland in 2014 but LeBron James would mess that up. A bromance would be on display right in front of our eyes.

A Gruesome Injury

In Hayward’s first game in a Celtics jersey, he would suffer a devastating ankle injury. Five minutes into his debut, he would go up for an alley-top pass and he would collide with King James. He got his leg twisted underneath him as he came back to the floor. Hayward would collapse to the floor, dislocating his left ankle and fracturing his left tibia.

The Opt-Outs

The expectations for the Celtics were higher than ever heading into the 2018-19 season. The team’s roster was loaded with Irving and Hayward back from their season-ending injuries.

The season didn’t go to plan for the Celtics. Irving was a malcontent and seemed disinterested all season long. Boston would be eliminated from the playoffs by the Bucks in the second round.

At the conclusion of the season, Horford and Irving would leave the Celtics. The veteran would walk away from $30.1 million and the final year of his deal. He would leave for the Philadelphia 76ers and sign a four-year, $109 million dollar deal. Horford wanted to be in a position to win towards the end of his career.

Irving would also leave Boston, but as a free agent. He would team up with Kevin Durant and sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Irving said the death of his grandfather at the start of last season compelled him to re-evaluate his priorities in life and basketball, and playing closer to home was important to him.

The $34.2M Dollar Decision

The Celtics season would end in the bubble at the hands of the Miami Heat in six games. The 2019-20 season was a roller coaster for Hayward that saw him get close to becoming the Old G. When healthy this past season he was one of their most consistent players.

Following the team’s loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hayward was faced with another decision. Prior to joining the Celtics, Hayward would share his toughest life decision. ”

The last time I had a decision this tough … it was in college, during my sophomore year, after we lost to Duke in the national championship game. I’d gotten on NBA radars as a result of my play that March, and there were projections that I might even be a first-round pick in the draft. And so I had a decision to make: Should I leave my comfort zone at Butler and move on to the NBA? Or should I stay another year, and give it another go, and try to finish what we’d started — try to win a championship?”, said Hayward to the Players Tribune.

This week, Hayward had the option to opt-into the final year of his contract with the Celtics. If Hayward doesn’t come back, it would be problematic for the Ainge and his team. The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo would begin to soften the blow at the beginning of November. He would say that Hayward didn’t want to return to Boston next season.

Hayward had the option to opt-out on Tuesday but he agreed to extend the window to negotiate with the team to Thursday. Rumors had been swirling that Hayward wanted to play in Indiana. His only true path to the Pacers would be a trade from the Celtics.

Danny Left Holding the Bag

On Thursday, the Hayward would make another decision. This time he would not take to the Players Tribune to announce it. Instead, The Athletic’s Shams Charania would report Hayward was opting-out.

The rumors of John Collins, Clint Capela, Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner wouldn’t come to fruition. Ainge had the opportunity to trade Hayward and get something back for his team. Instead, Ainge saw the third and final player from his second Big-Three walk out the door.

When Irving and Horford left, the team was in a good position because of the emergence of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The team had Hayward and while he wasn’t their best player, he provided them options as a stater or off the bench.

Hayward could still return to the Celtics but that seems highly unlikely. If he does re-sign in Boston, it could be for a sign and trade to get him to the Pacers. The Knicks and Hawks are interested in Hayward and they have the cap space to bring him in.

How it Ended?

In the Players Tribune piece from 2017, Hayward would go over the process to get to Boston, “And I guess it’s pretty crazy. Because seven years later, I had to make an even tougher decision — and again, Coach Stevens and I found ourselves at a crossroads together. And again, he was the person I knew I could count on the most.”

“And now I’ve decided to sign with the Boston Celtics”, said Hayward.

Hayward felt he had some unfinished business to address with Coach Stevens. He wanted to win a championship in Boston but that would never happen. Unless something wild happens today or in the distant near future, Hayward and the Celtics won’t get another one.

It’s frustrating to see Hayward leave Boston. Ever since the blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn we heard about the assets.

The assets landed the Celtics Tatum and Brown, they traded for Irving and signed Horford and Hayward. Ainge just never seemed to get the team over the hump. He would keep the assets and not turn them into additional help for Irving, Horford and Hayward.

Hopefully Ainge can get Hayward to agree to a sign and trade, and if not, this will be the biggest failure of Ainge’s career.

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– Chris Henrique (@ChrisHenrique on Twitter)

Photo: BostonHerald.com

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