SALT LAKE CITY — One thing has become clear in the early stages of the free-agency period: Gordon Hayward is a popular man.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder were on the phone with Hayward and his agent Mark Bartelstein right as the negotiating period opened Monday night at 10 MDT.
Per sources, Utah is expected to soon offer a contract to the 24-year-old restricted free agent.
The Jazz might have some company in their pursuit of Hayward, who's averaged 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his first four NBA seasons with Utah.
Boston president Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens both talked to Hayward on the phone Tuesday, revealing the Celtics' interest in the versatile 6-foot-8 guard/forward, according to the Boston Globe.
Hayward and Stevens, of course, teamed up as player and coach to push Butler to the 2010 NCAA national championship game. While at the Indianapolis-based school, Stevens emerged as a huge mentor to Hayward.
"Naturally, there is mutual interest," tweeted Baxter Holmes, the Globe's Celtics beat writer. "Stevens would of course love to coach Hayward again, and I’m told Hayward wouldn’t mind that either."
Stevens and Hayward went to dinner when the Celtics visited Utah last season, and the two speak glowingly about each other.
"He's a lot better than when I coached him. Man, and he was good when I coached him," Stevens said in November after picking up his first win in the NBA at Hayward's expense. "I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I'm proud of him."
Boston doesn't have the salary cap space to offer a huge contract to Hayward, so the Celtics would likely have to make roster adjustments to make him a viable offer. It might require a sign-and-trade with the Jazz, although that doesn't seem likely, seeing as Lindsey said the likelihood of bringing Hayward back was "very, very strong."
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.
The Cs aren't the only team reaching out.
"There has been a lot of interest in him," one source said.
ESPN.com said the Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams to have reached out. NBA writer Marc Stain of ESPN also tweeted out there were "fresh rumbles (Tuesday night) that Cavs weighing wisdom of big offer sheet to Hayward. Also, USA Today reported the Heat, Bulls, Rockets and Grizzlies could also have interest.
Before the free-agency period opened, multiple sources said the Jazz are prepared to match any offer that Hayward receives. Phoenix, Charlotte and Boston were among the teams that Utah was expecting to make overtures to Hayward.
Also, at least seven teams, including the Jazz, are showing early interest in obtaining the services of veteran power forward Marvin Williams, who played the past two seasons in Utah.
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