Hayward to sign with Celtics

NBA

Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens were a couple inches from winning an NCAA championship together at Butler.

They are now reuniting, to try for an NBA title.

The top remaining free agent in this summer’s class is now off the board, with Hayward announcing Tuesday night with an essay on The Players’ Tribune site that he will sign with the Boston Celtics — coached by Stevens — and leave the Utah Jazz after seven seasons.

“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously,” Hayward wrote. “And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me.

“After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”

A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Hayward agreed to a four-year contract, the last of those years being a player option, with a total value of around $128 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be completed before the league’s moratorium ends on Thursday.

It was a decision that Hayward said he agonized over, and he said he was impressed by the pitches — albeit unsuccessful ones — that Miami and Utah made for him over the last few days. But his ties to Stevens, and the memories of how close they were to a title, seemed to weigh very heavily on his mind throughout this process.

Butler went to the NCAA championship game in back-to-back seasons under Stevens in 2010 and 2011, losing to Duke and Connecticut. In the 2010 game, Hayward’s desperation shot to win the title from midcourt narrowly missed as time expired and Duke won 61-59.

From there, Hayward went to the NBA. Not long afterward, Stevens followed. And now, they’re together again.

“That unfinished business we had together, back in 2010, when I left Butler for the NBA . as far as I’m concerned, all of these years later, we still have it: And that’s to win a championship,” Hayward wrote.

Hayward leaves a loaded Western Conference to join a Boston team that was the No. 1 seed in last season’s Eastern Conference playoffs. He was finally an All-Star for the first time last season, averaging career bests of 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Hayward also shot 47 percent, a significant jump over what he managed in the previous four seasons.

His post capped a strange day, after it was widely reported in the early afternoon that Hayward picked the Celtics — a decision immediately shot down by his agent Mark Bartelstein, who told AP and many other outlets that Hayward was still going over his options.

Several hours later, it was done, and it was Boston.

“This has been the toughest decision that I’ve ever had to make in my life,” Hayward wrote. “This weekend has probably been the longest weekend of my life. And today … well, today has definitely been one of the craziest days of my life. But I wanted to make sure that I got this right.”

Elsewhere:

n The Sacramento Kings added veteran help to their young roster on Tuesday by agreeing to free-agent contracts with forward Zach Randolph and point guard George Hill.

Randolph left Memphis for a $24 million, two-year deal to reunite with former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger in Sacramento.

Hill announced on Twitter that he was coming to Sacramento. Yahoo Sports first reported the deal, saying Hill would get $57 million over three years.

n Free-agent forward Mike Scott has agreed to a $1.7 million, one-year contract with the Washington Wizards, according to a person familiar with the deal.

n Chris Bosh’s time with the Miami Heat is officially over.

Weeks after the sides came to a final agreement on how to part ways and more than a year since his last NBA appearance because of blood-clot issues, Bosh was waived by the Heat on Tuesday. The move was a formality.

It gives Miami access to $25.3 million in salary-cap space for this coming season, which the Heat will use to sign free agents starting Thursday. Bosh still gets that salary, plus $26.8 million for next season, and in theory could continue his career — if another team declares him fit to play.

COMMENTS