We think he's a fantastic player, a great fit into our system. Very unselfish player that is multifaceted and multipositional and fits in great with what we're trying to do. Very excited to have Gordon on board. —Danny Ainge
Ten days after the news broke that Gordon Hayward had decided to leave the Utah Jazz to play for the Boston Celtics, the All-Star forward signed his four-year, $128 million contract with his new team Friday, and he and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge held separate gatherings with the media.
Hayward met with the media via conference call for just over 15 minutes a few hours after Ainge did. The seven-year pro discussed the saga that ensued surrounding his July 4 decision, the reaction Jazz fans have had, reuniting with his college coach Brad Stevens and the goal of winning a championship with his new team.
"(Utah owner) Gail Miller and the owners and Dennis (Lindsey) and Quin (Snyder) and all the teammates that I played with, they've all been just tremendous to me. The last seven years playing for the Jazz was something that I'll never forget," Hayward said.
"That being said, after talking with (agent) Mark (Bartelstein) and my wife and really thinking it over, there was just something different about Boston and different about being a Celtic. It was just a special feeling when talking about being a Boston Celtic. That ultimately won me over and I decided to join the Boston Celtics."
Calling July 4 a "hectic day" after ESPN's Chris Haynes reported that Hayward would be joining the Celtics only to have Bartelstein deny it and then have Hayward declare the news in a piece on The Players' Tribune six hours after Haynes' report, the new Celtic said the notion he used those hours to write the essay is "completely false."
Addressing the negative and even threatening reaction some Jazz fans have had over the last 10 days, Hayward said, "I definitely understand where a lot of fans are coming from, and like I said, the seven years that I spent in Utah have been some of the best moments of my life. I've done a lot in those seven years. I can definitely see where these fans are coming from.
"It's disappointing to see some of the threats and some of the violent responses, especially toward my family and things of that nature, but I completely can understand the disappointment for sure."
Hayward called being greeted by Stevens at the airport when he arrived for his free agent pitch meeting "immediate familiarity" and said it meant a lot to him that new teammates Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford were there.
"I'm more than ecstatic to play with those guys," he said. "I think it's going to be a great fit. I think we can complement each other extremely well. I'm really, really looking forwrd to playing with those guys."
Following the announcement of his decision, Hayward said Miller texted both him and his wife Robyn and the couple responded, but the sides have not communicated beyond that.
"I thought that was extremely nice of her," Hayward said of Miller's text. "I've always had a great relationship with Gail and with Greg (Miller) and with Steve (Starks, Jazz president) and all the Millers. That's all that we've said and done. Again, couldn't be more thankful for what they've given me the last seven years."
Finally, Hayward was asked whether or not he has discussed championship aspirations with members of his new club.
"That's our goal," he said. "That's something that I'm working right now so I can be a better player to help the Boston Celtics get that accomplished. It's something that I for sure think is attainable for us. I think there's a lot of work for us to do, but it's what we're striving for and I couldn't be more excited about that."
Noting that assistant general manager Mike Zarren flew to San Diego so Hayward could sign his deal, Ainge expressed excitement about bringing on the Butler product.
"We think he's a fantastic player, a great fit into our system," Ainge said. "Very unselfish player that is multifaceted and multipositional and fits in great with what we're trying to do. Very excited to have Gordon on board."
Ainge was asked about Hayward's July 4 decision, to which he responded, "It was nerve-wracking, quite honestly. I think that we were hopeful. We felt like we had a great meeting with him on July 2 and had a good day with him. When he left we felt good about that, but we also know and respected his ties to Utah and his meeting also with Miami.
"We really had no idea. He didn't really give us any hint when he left, and so we were just waiting like everybody else, like the rest of the world."
Following Haynes' report, Bartelstein contacted Ainge, at which point the former BYU star said he thought, "Oh, no. That could be really bad. We were just on pins and needles the whole day until we finally got the word."
Ainge said Bartelstein was the one who called him to inform him of Hayward's decision, around the time the Players' Tribune piece came out.
In discussing how Hayward will help Boston moving forward, Ainge called the seven-year pro "a complete player" who would fit on any team because of his ability to play four positions, handle the ball or play off it and defend multiple positions.
Ainge said he was unsure how Hayward's relationship with Stevens would play into the forward's decision.
"The fact that they had such a strong bond years ago that you might not want to jeopardize that bond by getting into the stress and pressures of a completely different circumstance," Ainge said. "I didn't know how that would go, quite honestly."
Did Ainge think anything in particular about Boston's presentation to Hayward in early July was particularly helpful in swaying him?
"I think Gordon, like most basketball players ... they're interested in basketball and they're interested in how they can be utilized and how they'll fit in with the team and the scheme," he said. "That was the focus of the presentation by Brad and by our organization, is how he'll fit in with us."
Ainge said he feels the Celtics are a better team with the additions of Hayward and Marcus Morris despite having to give up on Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley to make room for Hayward's max contract.
"I feel like our team is in a better position than we were last year, for sure," he said.