Gordon Hayward played the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Utah Jazz before signing with the Boston Celtics on July 4. But the Jazz might have been able to keep the elite swingman if they had believed he would blossom into the star he has become.
The Jazz drafted Hayward in 2010, and after he played out his rookie contract he became a restricted free agent during the summer of 2014. Utah had an opportunity to sign Hayward to a max contract, but instead, the Jazz elected to tell their franchise player to see what he could find on the open market and they would match it.
Hayward, of course, returned to the Jazz after they matched the Charlotte Hornets’ three-year, $63 million offer sheet, and became one of the best forwards in the league while leading a rebuilding effort in Utah.
And Hayward told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” that he was hurt by the way the Jazz handled his 2014 free agency.
“It lingered for maybe a little bit of time at the beginning of when I signed it,” Hayward told Wojnarowski. “None of those feelings were there this time around.
“Restricted free agency, it’s a little weird.”
The 27-year-old star wished the team that drafted him had shown more faith in his ability to become a star.
“As a player, you’re sitting there thinking like, ‘What the hell?’ You look at all these other players where teams are like, ‘He’s our guy.’ Like, ‘We’re going to give him the max.’ Blah, blah, blah. And I’ve got to go out and get one? Like, ‘Do you not believe in me?’ Like, ‘Do you not feel like I’m the guy for you?'”
The newest Celtic admitted he understands the business side of the league, and it’s unclear how much the Jazz’s handling of his restricted free agency affected Hayward’s decision to leave Utah for Boston.
But had the Jazz opened their checkbooks three years ago, Hayward still might be leading their resurgence instead of joining Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens in the Eastern Conference.
Thumbnail photo via Jeff Swinger/USA TODAY Sports Images
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