The Boston Celtics find themselves in a vicarious position. Former All-Star Gordon Hayward secured a four-year, $120-million dollar deal with the Charlotte Hornets to send Twitter into a spin. It was one of the most surprising deals this off-season as the Hornets weren’t even mentioned in serious discussions for the 30-year-old. Hayward took to Twitter to thank the organization for his time donning the Celtics green as well as providing a promise of excitement for Hornets fans.
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) November 21, 2020
However, the bigger story comes after his signing took place.
Boston Celtics Lose Gordon Hayward Trade
Danny Ainge Bit Off More Than He Could Chew
Hayward expressed his desire early to return home to Indiana and play for the Pacers. A trade of Hayward for Myles Turner made perfect sense for both sides with the Celtics missing an established big man.
On ESPN’s The Lowe Post podcast, Zach Lowe suspects the Celtics did not want Turner’s three-years, $54-million-dollar contract. This was surprising given the big man plugs most of Boston’s major weaknesses. Turner is an elite shot-blocker, steady three-point shooter, and capable of guarding positions one through five. The 24-year-old averaged 12.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks on 45.7 percent shooting and 34.4 percent from three.
Is There a Deeper Issue at Play?
Hayward’s departure has sparked discussions about whether there is an issue with Boston’s culture. Since 2017, the Celtics have signed three major free agents: Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward. All have since departed for no return.
Free Agents sign with opposing teams all the time but the departure of two team-first players has drawn attention. Horford and Hayward are two respected veterans throughout the NBA known for their selflessness, leadership, and desire to play for the collective. However, both players declined their player options to sign with different clubs long-term.
The biggest black spot for Boston is undoubtedly the handling of All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas. In the 2017 playoffs, Thomas played through a severe hip injury and the death of his younger sister. He was also a fan and locker-room favorite and was approaching a lucrative extension. Instead, Ainge elected to trade him to Cleveland for Irving, drawing disdain from fans and NBA’s inner circles.
Boston received a pass for allowing Irving to walk given his history of disruption. However, given how things have played out since, are we sure he was the problem?
Charlotte Hornets Threw Boston Celtics a Lifeline
Initially, the Hornets announced they were to waive and stretch Nicolas Batum‘s $27-million-dollars over the next three seasons. By carrying a dead money cap hit of $9-million, it would create the necessary amount of space to sign Hayward outright. To most NBA pundits, this move drew confusion and criticism given dead money cannot be used, moved, or traded.
However, less than 12 hours later, Charlotte reopened talks about a potential sign and trade. The Hornets have all the leverage in this situation thus could extract extra assets from the deal. Boston must work quickly or another team with cap space could make a separate deal and create the space required.
This is a complete mess by Boston and now they find themselves at the mercy of another franchise. One week ago, the Celtics had a position to find a trade and get assets in return. Instead, they got cute and Hayward signed elsewhere. Things change quickly in the NBA and this is a prime example of how.
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