Gordon Hayward and his college basketball coach Brad Stevens came close to winning the NCAA championship and have reunited in an attempt to win the NBA title.
The top free agent remaining in this summer’s group of talented players is now no longer available as Hayward announced on July 4 that he would sign a contract to play for the Boston Celtics, who Stevens coaches, and leave after playing at Utah for seven seasons.
Hayward wrote that the decision was life-changing for not only him but his entire family and something they took very seriously.
A person who has knowledge of the negotiations between Hayward and the Celtics said the forward would sign a contract of four years, with the final year being a player option year, and the contract total would be $128 million.
The decision was one Hayward said was agonizing and he spoke of being impressed by the different pitches the teams gave him that included Utah and Miami over the past few days.
However, the ties he has to Stevens and memories of being close to a title appeared to have outweighed other options he had with other teams.
Butler reached the championship game of the NCAA in two straight seasons under Stevens during 2010 and 2011. They lost first to Duke then Connecticut. However, in the championship game in 2010 a desperation shot by Hayward to win the championship from around midcourt just missed as time ran out giving Duke the 61-59 win.
After that Hayward joined the NBA and Stevens then followed. The two have finally reunited.
Hayward leaves the deeply talented Western Conference to join Boston, which was this past postseason’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. He was chosen last season to his first All-Star game and averaged a career best in points at 21.9 per game and rebounds at 5.4 per game.
Hayward is the third high-profile free agent over the last three years to announce where he would play in July 4. In 2015, LaMarcus Aldridge signed for San Antonio on the same date, while last year Kevin Durant announced his decision to play for Golden State on the fourth.
Last month, Hayward decided to opt out of the last year of his deal with Utah to become a free agent. Utah was not in a position to offer the Supermax deal to Hayward which is an extension of five years, worth more than $200 million.