Gordon Hayward opted out of his $34.2 million contract with the Boston Celtics for the 2020-21 season Thursday afternoon, making him an unrestricted free agent beginning at 6 p.m. ET Friday, Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Hayward, who averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 52 games for the Celtics last season, originally had to make a decision on whether to opt in or out of his contract by 5 p.m. Tuesday, but he and the team agreed to move that decision back to Thursday afternoon to leave more time to assess the situation.
Hayward becomes the biggest name to hit the open market this offseason, and his future is the No. 1 topic of discussion around the NBA.
There are now three options available to Hayward: re-sign with the Celtics on a long-term deal, sign with one of the two teams with significant cap space — the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks — as a free agent, or agree to a sign-and-trade deal with a team that doesn’t have enough cap space to sign him, which would allow Boston to get something in return for his departure.
Hayward has had a tumultuous three years in Boston. He joined the Celtics in 2017, signing a four-year max contract after spending his first seven NBA seasons with the Utah Jazz, but suffered a gruesome foot and ankle injury six minutes into his first game with Boston that October. He missed the rest of that season because of the injury and then struggled at times in 2018-19 before taking a significant step forward last season.
Still, he dealt with more injuries, breaking a bone in his hand in November and dealing with nerve pain in his foot in December before suffering a Grade 3 sprain of his right ankle in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The injury kept him out until midway through the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
In addition to the news about Hayward on Thursday, the Celtics saw Enes Kanter pick up his $5 million player option for next season, while the team exercised its $1.75 million option on the final year of forward Semi Ojeleye’s contract.
With those moves — along with the selections of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard in the first round of Wednesday’s NBA draft — Boston has 13 players under contract for next season and, without Hayward’s salary currently on the books, sits far below the projected luxury tax threshold of a little more than $132 million.
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