Gordon Hayward chooses Celtics over Jazz, Heat
Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens were a couple inches from winning an NCAA championship together at Butler.
They are now reuniting, to try for an NBA title.
The top remaining free agent in this summer’s class is now off the board, with Hayward announcing Tuesday night with an essay on The Players’ Tribune site that he will sign with the Boston Celtics — coached by Stevens — and leave the Utah Jazz after seven seasons.
“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously,” Hayward wrote.
“And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me.
“After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Hayward agreed to a four-year contract, the last of those years being a player option, with a total value of around $128 million.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be completed before the league’s moratorium ends on Thursday.
It was a decision that Hayward said he agonized over, and he said he was impressed by the pitches — albeit unsuccessful ones - that Miami and Utah made for him over the last few days.
But his ties to Stevens, and the memories of how close they were to a title, seemed to weigh very heavily on his mind throughout this process.
Butler went to the NCAA championship game in back-toback seasons under Stevens in 2010 and 2011, losing to Duke and Connecticut.
In the 2010 game, Hayward’s desperation shot to win the title from midcourt narrowly missed as time expired and Duke won 61-59.
From there, Hayward went to the NBA. Not long afterward, Stevens followed. And now, they’re together again.
In this May 6 photo, Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shoots during an NBA second-round playoff series in Salt Lake City.