A look inside the process that sent Gordon Hayward to Boston

8 Comments

Ricky Rubio flew halfway around the world to help Utah make its sales pitch. Miami had the red carpet rolled out, with plenty of staff and players around to do some wooing.

The Jazz and Heat made Gordon Hayward waver.

But Brad Stevens won the Hayward recruiting battle – again.

In 2007, Stevens talked Hayward into signing a letter of intent to play college basketball at Butler. A decade later, Stevens talked Hayward into taking a four-year, $128 million contract to join a Boston Celtics team that went to the Eastern Conference finals last season and thinks it should be better now for years to come.

So Stevens and Hayward reunite, coach and player, after their two seasons at Butler nearly delivered an NCAA title.

“This has been the toughest decision that I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Hayward wrote in his post on The Players’ Tribune announcing his decision on Tuesday night.

The Celtics took Hayward to Fenway Park on Sunday and talked to him about both the past and the future, Boston’s legacy in sports, the magical years led by Bill Russell and Larry Bird and Paul Pierce, and belief that a young core led by Isaiah Thomas is only going to keep getting better. The Red Sox were playing on the road that day, yet whatever Hayward felt visiting that baseball shrine clearly resonated.

And it should be noted that in a city that worships Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Hayward is on record saying he’s not a fan.

Maybe in time, that’ll change.

“There were so many great things pulling me in that direction,” Hayward wrote. “There was the winning culture of Boston, as a city – from the Sox, to the Pats, to the Bruins.”

Hayward’s three-day whirlwind tour started in Miami on Saturday, a day filled with players-only meetings in the lounge off the Heat locker room, examples of how players’ families – especially their kids – have their needs accommodated on game nights, even some discussions about the Miami real estate market.

Some chatted about tennis, a sport Hayward loves and one that gets plenty of attention in South Florida each spring when the Miami Open brings the world’s best players to Key Biscayne. And team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and others showed Hayward what they were thinking of what the 2017-18 Heat would look like with a new All-Star small forward.

Next came the trip to Boston, and then finally a flight back to San Diego for a meeting with a Jazz contingent that included owner Gail Miller, team president Steve Starks, GM Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder. They pitched Hayward on how they made moves via trade and free agency to surround him with the best possible mix of talent that would put the Jazz in position to contend in the powerful Western Conference for years to come.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Jazz surprised Hayward with a visit from teammates Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Joe Ingles and Rubio – the newly acquired guard that Hayward has raved about for some time and who flew in from Spain just for the meeting with hopes that it would be a splash. Much like in Miami, the players met with Hayward privately to talk about what the Jazz could be like going forward.

“My meetings with all three teams during this process – Miami, Boston and Utah – were just unbelievable,” Hayward said. “They couldn’t have been more impressive. Each meeting left me convinced that the team I’d just met with was the right fit. ”

He found Butler to be the right fit in 2007.

He found Boston to be the right fit in 2017.

Those briefed on the Heat and Jazz meetings said both teams left feeling they made extremely strong cases. In the end, Hayward’s history with Stevens seemed to win out.

“Again, Coach Stevens and I found ourselves at a crossroads together,” Hayward wrote. “And again, he was the person I knew I could count on the most.”

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

AP Photo/Bob Leverone
Leave a comment

Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
2 Comments

Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

2 Comments

Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
6 Comments

The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?