Hay­ward opts for Bos­ton re­union

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

we had to­gether, back in 2010, when I left But­ler for the NBA ... as far as I’m con­cerned, all of these years later, we still have it. We want to win a cham­pi­onship,” Hay­ward wrote.

Hay­ward leaves a loaded Western Con­fer­ence to join a Bos­ton team that was the No 1 seed in last sea­son’s Eastern Con­fer­ence play­offs.

He was fi­nally an All-Star for the first time last sea­son, av­er­ag­ing ca­reer bests of 21.9 points and 5.4 re­bounds.

Hay­ward’s post capped a strange day, af­ter it was widely re­ported ear­lier that he picked the Celtics — a de­ci­sion im­me­di­ately shot down by his agent Mark Bar­tel­stein, who told AP and many other out­lets that Hay­ward was still go­ing over his op­tions.

Sev­eral hours later, it was done. And it was Bos­ton.

“This has been the tough­est de­ci­sion that I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Hay­ward wrote.

“This week­end has prob­a­bly been the long­est 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.”

He be­comes the third prom­i­nent free agent in three years to an­nounce his plans on July 4, Ind­pen­dence Day in the US.

LaMar­cus Aldridge left Port­land for San An­to­nio on that date in 2015, and Kevin Du­rant left Ok­la­homa City for Golden State on the hol­i­day in 2016.

Hay­ward opted out of his con­tract and be­came a free agent late last month, a move that was ex­pected.

Utah could have been in po­si­tion to of­fer Hay­ward the so-called su­per­max deal — a five-year ex­ten­sion worth just over $200 mil­lion — if he was se­lected to an All-NBA team af­ter the sea­son, but his vote to­tal fell well short of mak­ing that list.

Other than Golden State stars Stephen Curry and Kevin Du­rant, Hay­ward may have been the top free agent on the mar­ket this sum­mer.

He clearly leaves Utah with the fond­est of mem­o­ries, go­ing back to his start with coach Jerry Sloan.

“I was lit­er­ally the last Jazz player left who played un­der coach Sloan — and I al­ways took that as a lot more than just some piece of trivia,” Hay­ward wrote.

“That was some­thing that truly made me feel like a part of the fab­ric of this fran­chise. That’s some­thing that has meant a lot to me ever since.”

Utah has been a team on the rise, but with the West still ab­so­lutely loaded — Golden State winning two ti­tles in the last three years, Hous­ton ac­quir­ing All-Star point guard Chris Paul in an ef­fort to move up and chal­lenge the champs, and Ok­la­homa City get­ting Paul Ge­orge to pair with MVP Rus­sell West­brook — the best chance for Hay­ward to make an NBA Fi­nals may be try­ing to get there from Bos­ton.

AP FILE

Bos­ton Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be re­united with his former But­ler Uni­ver­sity star Gor­don Hay­ward in the NBA af­ter free agent Hay­ward an­nounced on Tues­day he is leav­ing the Utah Jazz af­ter seven sea­sons to sign a four-year deal with the Celtics, re­port­edly worth $128 mil­lion.

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