Gordon Hayward opted out of his contract for the 2020-21 season with the Boston Celtics, becoming an unrestricted free agent as one of the biggest names to hit the NBA open market this offseason.
The Celtics, who signed Hayward to a four-year max contract worth $128m in July 2017, face the prospect of losing him without compensation, depending on the 30-year-old’s decision this offseason.
The opt-out gives Hayward, a career 15.3 points-per-game scorer in 10 seasons with Boston and Utah, control over his own destiny with three options now in play for the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
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Hayward is free to discuss terms with interested parties and ultimately bring an end to his three-year stay with the Celtics, or he could re-sign with the franchise, while a sign-and-trade deal remains another option.
Earlier in the week, Hayward and the team – coached by his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens – agreed to a two-day extension for him to decide whether to accept the $34.2m player option or become a free agent.
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Despite the extra time, the Celtics were unable to convince him to stay; Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein confirmed to ESPN that the 30-year-old opted out and will become an unrestricted free agent as of Friday after an injury-plagued spell with the Celtics.
He missed all but the first six minutes of the 2017-2018 season with a gruesome foot injury, and then suffered hand and foot injuries over the past season.
For the 2019-20 season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 52 games but an ankle sprain in the Celtics’ first playoff game limited the 6-foot-7 forward to just five postseason games (averaging 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds) as Boston reached the Eastern Conference finals.
Celtics’ president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will now be tasked with finding Hayward’s potential replacement via trade or free agency.
With the knowledge they might lose Hayward, the Celtics on Wednesday took two highly-regarded shooters in the first round of the NBA Draft – guard Aaron Nesmith out of Vanderbilt at No. 14 and guard Payton Pritchard out of Oregon at No. 26.
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In other Celtics news, center Vincent Poirier was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a conditional second-round draft pick on Thursday and the Celtics announced they extended qualifying offers to center Tacko Fall and guard Tremont Waters.
Also on Thursday, ESPN reported that center Enes Kanter exercised his $5m player option, Boston picked up forward Semi Ojeleye’s $1.75m team option and the Celtics didn’t give guard Brad Wanamaker a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
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