| USA TODAY
LeBron, Shaq and Durant highlight NBA free agency’s greatest moments
SportsPulse: NBA free agency is upon us and what better way to celebrate than to call in USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt to highlight some of the most memorable player movement in league history.
It seemed so perfect three years ago when Gordon Hayward, coming off his first All-Star appearance, signed with the Boston Celtics, reuniting with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, who is the Celtics coach.
Just five minutes, 15 seconds into his first game with the Celtics on opening night in 2017-18, Hayward sustained a fractured ankle and missed the rest of the season. He was never really the same player with Boston, averaging 11.5 points in 2018-19 and 17.5 points in 2019-20. And not only was he not an All-Star-caliber player, his role changed with the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the addition of Kemba Walker.
And instead of finishing his four-year contract with the Celtics, he declined his option year worth $34.1 million. In a surprise move, Hayward decided he would sign a four-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets – the team that signed him to an offer sheet in 2014 only to have Utah match the deal. His agent confirmed the news to USA TODAY Sports.
This is a significant coup for general manager Mitch Kupchak and Charlotte owner Michael Jordan.
The small forward joins a team that just drafted LaMelo Ball No. 3 in Wednesday’s draft and has Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington and Devonte’ Graham. There’s no doubt Hayward will have more involvement offensively with the Hornets.