The Celtics could’ve given Gordon Hayward a whole bunch of money, but they couldn’t offer something the Hornets might have brought to the table.
One can assume Charlotte was the highest bidder for Hayward, who signed a four-year, $120 million deal with the Hornets after opting out of the final year of his contract in Boston. That’s obviously a steep price for an aging forward with an injury history, but the C’s reportedly were willing to pony up somewhere between $105 million and $110 million for Hayward.
But in addition to the pay bump, the Hornets might have presented a more appealing role to Hayward than the one he likely was bound for had he stuck around in Boston. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes that could have played a factor in Hayward taking his talents to Charlotte.
“We set out to try and get Gordon to come back,” Ainge said Tuesday on “Toucher & Rich,” as transcribed by 98.5 The Sports Hub. “That was our No. 1 goal in the offseason was to get Gordon back with the Celtics, he’s a terrific player. I just think that he preferred to go somewhere else, and made his choice to go to Charlotte. I don’t know what else to say about it.
“There was a lot of discussion, I think there was hope we had all the way to the end that he would return. But I think he preferred to be a more featured player, and Charlotte was paying him a lot of money, and he chose to go there.”
The Celtics ultimately didn’t lose Hayward for nothing, however. Boston and Charlotte on Sunday completed a sign-and-trade for the 30-year-old, which resulted in the C’s receiving a record-breaking trade exception. It remains to be seen how Ainge and Co. will use this newfound cash.
Boston opened up training camp Tuesday, two weeks ahead of its first of two preseason games. The 2020-21 NBA regular season is scheduled to commence Dec. 22.