NBA

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward turns down $34M player option for 2020-21 season, becomes free agent, per report

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It appears as though Gordon Hayward’s time with the Boston Celtics has come to an end. On Thursday, Hayward turned down his $34.1 million player option for the 2020-21 season in favor of free agency, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Hayward and the Celtics had previously agreed to extend the deadline for Hayward to decide on his option from Tuesday to Thursday, and apparently walking away from the deal was Hayward’s ultimate decision. 

Hayward, 30, has worked continuously to get back to the peak of his powers after suffering a devastating, season-ending ankle injury during his first game with the Celtics in October 2017. After starting in just 18 total games during the 2018-19 season, Hayward started in all 52 regular-season games that he played with the Celtics last season. He averaged nearly nine more minutes of playing time per game, and he increased his per game scoring average by six points (from 11.5 to 17.5). Unfortunately, another ankle injury limited Hayward to just five appearances during the postseason, but he was able to return for Boston’s conference finals matchup with Miami.   

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Technically, Hayward could sign a new deal with the Celtics in free agency, though that seems unlikely since Boston is already well established on the perimeter, thanks to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. A more likely scenario is that the Celtics use Hayward in a sign-and-trade in order to recoup some assets. Or, Hayward could simply just sign a new deal with a fresh franchise. All of these possibilities are on the table. 

One thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of interest in Hayward across the league’s landscape, as he is still a very productive player. The Indiana Pacers are reportedly interested in Hayward, as are the Atlanta Hawks. Also, the Knicks have been “aggressive” in their pursuit of Hayward, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Other suitors will also likely emerge now that Hayward has officially declined his option. In a free agency class that is short on star power, Hayward will likely be a hot commodity. 



 

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