SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Jazz fans worst fears have been realized. Gordon Hayward has announced his independence from Utah.
After an uncertain day on social media, in which reports surfaced that he was leaving the Jazz, then he was undecided, Hayward posted an article on the website Players Tribune, titled “Thank You, Utah,” in which he thanks Utah for all their support over the last 7 years.
But Hayward has decided his time in Utah is over, and he will sign with the Boston Celtics.
“This has been the toughest decision that I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Hayward wrote. “This weekend has probably been the longest weekend of my life. And today … well, today has definitely been one of the craziest days of my life. But I wanted to make sure that I got this right.
“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously. And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me. After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”
Hayward will sign a 4-year, $128 million deal with Boston, which is less money than he could have made with the Jazz. But he will join an already talented Celtics roster in the weaker Eastern Conference. Even though he reached all-star status last season, playing in the East, Hayward will have a greater chance to become a perennial all-star.
Hayward will also be reunited with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, now the head coach of the Celtics. Hayward and Stevens led Butler to the national championship game in 2010.
The Jazz did everything they could be keep Hayward in a Jazz uniform, meeting with him for 3 1/2 hours Monday at his home in San Diego. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“We are proud of the player that Gordon developed into with the Jazz, and wish him and his family the best of luck,” said general manager Dennis Lindsey. “Despite his departure, we still have a tremendous coaching staff and very good young core of players in place as we move forward.”
“Gordon has been an important part of our Jazz family for the past seven years,” added Jazz owner Gail Miller. “While disappointed that he is moving on, we thank him for his contributions to the organization and wish Gordon, Robyn and their family well. We thank him for his play, his leadership and how well he represented the Jazz and the state of Utah.”
The 27-year-old forward was the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and has developed into one of the best all-around players in the NBA. Hayward has improved his scoring average each year, topping out at 21.9 points per game last season, when Hayward made his first All-Star appearance and led 51-31 Utah to its first playoff appearance since 2012 and its first playoff series victory since 2010.
Hayward also averaged a career high 5.4 rebounds, dished out 3.5 assists per game and shot 47.1 percent from the field.
Hayward’s 8,077 career points rank eighth in Jazz history. He has career averages of 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.
“I would really like to just take a moment and express how much these last seven years in Utah have meant to me,” Hayward wrote. “Because there’s only one fair way to say it: They’ve meant everything.”
The Jazz brought in playmaking point guard Ricky Rubio to try to appease Hayward, but will now have to find a way to fill a massive void at small forward. That will be especially tough with most of the big free agents off the market.
Restricted free agent Otto Porter signed a max-deal with the Brooklyn Nets, which the Washington Wizards intend to match anyway. The Jazz could turn to veteran swingman Rudy Gay, who underwent Achilles tendon surgery in January, but has proven to be a solid scorer during his 11-year career averaging over 18 points per game.
James Johnson could also be a Jazz target. Johnson, a 9-year veteran, averaged a career high 12.8 points last year for Miami.
The Jazz will need Rodney Hood to become a primary scorer on the perimeter, and may have to count on rookie Donovan Mitchell to play a significant role.
As for Hayward, he said his primary goal is to win a championship, and he felt his best chance was with the Celtics.
“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. There was the special history of the Celtics, as a franchise — from Russell, to Bird, to Pierce, and it goes on. There was the amazing potential of this current Celtics roster, as a team. And of course, there was Coach Stevens: Not just for the relationship that we’ve built off the court — but also for the one that we started building on the court, all of those years ago, in Indiana.
“And that unfinished business we had together, back in 2010, when I left Butler for the NBA … as far as I’m concerned, all of these years later, we still have it: And that’s to win a championship.”
Hayward said he appreciated his time in Utah and will always be thankful to the people of Salt Lake City.
“They say that Salt Lake is a great place to raise a family — and I know that sounds like something people just say.,” Hayward wrote. “But you spend enough time here … and you realize that it’s true. And for me, as far as that goes — I feel like I’m indebted to Salt Lake, twice over. Because not only has this been the city where I’ve started my family, and not only has this been the city that’s helped raise my daughters for the last couple of years … but long before that, during my first few years in the league — I also feel like this city helped raise me. And I feel like this city took me in, as part of its own family.
“And I just wanted to say thank you for that.
“And thank you for everything.”