Hay­ward, Stevens re­unite in Bos­ton

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

Gor­don Hay­ward and Brad Stevens were a cou­ple of inches away 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 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.

Also on Tues­day, the Sacra­mento Kings added vet­eran help to their young ros­ter by agree­ing to free-agent con­tracts with for­ward Zach Ran­dolph and point guard Ge­orge Hill.

A per­son with knowl­edge of the ne­go­ti­a­tions said Hay­ward agreed to a fouryear con­tract with the Celtics, 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 Thurs­day.

It was a de­ci­sion 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 past few days. But his ties to Stevens, and the mem­o­ries of how close they were to a ti­tle, seemed to weigh heav­ily on his mind through­out the process.

But­ler went to the NCAA cham­pi­onship game in backto-back 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.

“That un­fin­ished busi­ness 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: And that’s 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 also shot 47 per­cent, a sig­nif­i­cant jump over what he man­aged in the pre­vi­ous four sea­sons.

Utah has been a team on the rise, but with the West still loaded the best chance for Hay­ward to make an NBA Fi­nals may be try­ing to get there from the East.

Ran­dolph left Mem­phis for a $24 mil­lion, two-year deal to re­unite with for­mer Griz­zlies coach Dave Jo­erger in Sacra­mento, a per­son with knowl­edge of the agree­ment told The As­so­ci­ated Press. The per­son spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the deal can­not be signed un­til Thurs­day.

Hill an­nounced on Twit­ter that he was com­ing to Sacra­mento. Ya­hoo Sports first re­ported the deal, say­ing Hill would get $57 mil­lion over three years.

The Kings started free agency with just two play­ers on the ros­ter who are not on their rookie con­tracts —

guard Gar­rett Tem­ple and cen­ter Kosta Koufos — and were seek­ing some proven play­ers to pro­vide sta­bil­ity. Sacra­mento went 30-52 last sea­son, Jo­erger’s first year, and has not made the play­offs since 2006.

The Kings hope the ad­di­tions of Ran­dolph and Hill will change that.

Af­ter a rocky start to his ca­reer in Port­land and New York, Ran­dolph found him­self in Mem­phis. He spent eight years with the Griz­zlies, emerg­ing as one of the cen­tral fig­ures of the team’s “grit and grind” mantra.

He helped Mem­phis make the play­offs the past seven years, in­clud­ing a trip to the con­fer­ence fi­nal in 2013 when Jo­erger was an as­sis­tant. Jo­erger took over as head coach the next year and had three years with Ran­dolph, in­clud­ing a trip to the sec­ond round in 2015.

Ran­dolph, who turns 36 later this month, av­er­aged 14.1 points and 8.2 re­bounds per game last sea­son and is still con­sid­ered one of the bet­ter post play­ers in the game.

He is ex­pected to be a

men­tor for young big men such as Wil­lie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles, one of the team’s three first-round picks last month.

It’s quite a re­ver­sal for Ran­dolph, who was con­sid­ered a mal­con­tent in need of men­tor­ing when he ar­rived in Mem­phis in 2009 af­ter failed tenures in Port­land, New York and with the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers. But he grew into a lead­er­ship role with the Griz­zlies and be­came a trusted vet­eran.

Hill will be ex­pected to pro­vide sim­i­lar traits in Sacra­mento, while groom­ing rookie point guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Ma­son III. The 31-yearold has spent nine years in the NBA with San An­to­nio, In­di­ana and

Utah.

He av­er­aged a ca­reer-high 16.9 points per game last sea­son for the Jazz, help­ing them make the sec­ond round of the play­offs for the first time since 2010. He also av­er­aged 4.2 as­sists and 3.4 re­bounds. He played only 49 games in the reg­u­lar sea­son be­cause of var­i­ous in­juries.

Hay­ward

Ran­dolph

Hill

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