Gordon Hayward visits Cleveland, could get max offer from Cavs
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The Cleveland Cavaliers might be the first team to make a bid in the Gordon Hayward Sweepstakes.
Or maybe the won't.
Or maybe they will.
But not yet.
Whew. Keeping up with this free-agency drama?
Here's what is certain: Hayward met in Cleveland with Cavaliers' management on Wednesday.
Things get a bit less certain after that, though.
Various national publications had differing accounts of what would or could happen with the restricted free agent. Yahoo! Sports reported that he could receive an offer sheet Wednesday from the Cavs. ESPN reported that the Cavs might try to entice the 6-foot-8 swingman with a max offer, which could be in the $63 million-plus range over four years.
And late Wednesday, USA Today reported that Hayward didn't receive an immediate offer sheet from Cleveland after the visit, but that "the possibility of a later offer remains," according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
That came hours after Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, "Cleveland's belief that Utah will match any Hayward offer sheet is strongly discouraging Cavs from extending one."
Utah, multiple sources told the Deseret News before the free-agency period began, was expecting other teams to make offers to their 24-year-old player, but the Jazz still fully intend on matching whatever deal is put on the table and keeping Hayward for the long term.
That, it was again indicated Wednesday, remains the same.
In reality, this is the path Jazz management and Hayward's camp chose when they ended negotiations before reaching an agreement to extend his contract before the deadline last fall. The Jazz were willing to let Hayward play out his rookie deal, become a free agent and see what the market dictated about his value this offseason.
But Utah has always wanted — and still wants — to bring Hayward back.
That's a big reason why general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder were on the phone with the versatile athlete and his agent when the negotiating period opened Monday night. It's also why Lindsey and Jazz management have stated that Hayward is a key element of the organization's future even if they haven't publicly admitted they'd match offers.
Per sources, Utah could still soon make its own offer to Hayward, who's averaged 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his first four NBA seasons. Last year, Hayward struggled with his shooting but was only one of five players in the league to average 16 points (16.2), five assists (5.2) and five rebounds (5.1).
Boston president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens both talked to Hayward on the phone Tuesday, but the Celtics reportedly are re-signing guard Avery Bradley to a four-year, $32 million deal.
That means Boston would have to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Jazz to get Hayward.
It's important to keep in mind that the Jazz would have a chance to match an offer sheet because they extended a qualifying offer to Hayward last week.
Hayward has been one of the most highly sought free agents early in this free-agency period. One source admitted, "There has been a lot of interest in him."
Phoenix, a team sources believe will seriously consider making a large offer, has also reached out to Hayward, according to the Arizona Republic.
ESPN.com said the Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams to have reached out. USA Today reported the Heat, Bulls, Rockets and Grizzlies could also have interest. Charlotte and Atlanta are other possibilities.
Multiple reports claim the Jazz have also expressed interest in Lakers guard Kent Bazemore, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who's been in the NBA for two seasons.
In a humorous/slightly embarrassing twist regarding Cleveland, Hayward was asked by 1280 the Zone about his least-favorite NBA city. Host Spence Checketts tweeted part of the Indianapolis native's response: "Cleveland. It's like visiting Gotham City."
Cleveland sportscaster John Telich of Fox 8 News was told by a source that "the Cavs making (a) max offer to Hayward is fantasy." Rather, Wednesday's meeting, he reported, was simply for Hayward and the Cavs to become more acquainted with each other.
Telich added that a potential contract is "definitely not (a) max."
"There is interest in Hayward (by the Cavs)," Telich wrote on Twitter, "but they haven't arrived at decision to offer a give him offer sheet."
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