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Free agency rumors: Celtics’ contingency plans

After failing to complete a deal for Paul George, missing out on Blake Griffin, and now waiting on Gordon Hayward, the Celtics could be facing an offseason with cap space to spend and assets to deal with no one left on the board.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the start of free agency hasn’t gone well for the Celtics so far. After Paul George was traded to the Thunder, Plan A of teaming him and Gordon Hayward up went out the window. When Blake Griffin decided to return to the Clippers, Plan C—signing Griffin as a consolation prize to Hayward—died before it was ever really considered.

However, Plan B is still in motion. Hayward has always been the big fish in free agency that Danny Ainge has targeted, and “HayDay” is upon us.

Per The Herald’s Mark Murphy, the Celtics will keep their meeting tomorrow with Gordon Hayward small and intimate with Ainge, Brad Stevens, and ownership flanked by vets Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. They’ll keep it simple and talk basketball:

The Celtics will lean on technology, including iPads loaded with game film that will show Hayward how he fits into the team's style of play. Stevens often engages in film sessions with potential draftees as they visit, and he will try to show Hayward how he can maximize the All-Star's skill set in Boston.

It’s been reported that Hayward’s meeting in Miami “went well”, and per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Heat are the favorite to land him. After visiting Boston, he’ll head back west hear from the Jazz.

Ainge has preached patience during this whole process and has assured fans that there are contingencies in place in case the offseason doesn’t go exactly as planned. Well, in less than 24 hours, it hasn’t. If tomorrow’s pitch isn’t a home run that lands Hayward in green, we could be looking at another year of coulda woulda shoulda.

With Ainge unwilling to part with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, the Brooklyn ‘18 pick, or the Lakers ‘18/Kings ‘19 pick, marching on with a youth movement seems to be his preferred path, but this is conceivably the final summer that he’ll have significant cap space to add impact players. He needs to take advantage of that, so what else could Danny have up his sleeve?

With Amir Johnson signing in Philadelphia on a one-year, $11M deal, the Celtics could be in search of a traditional center. Ante Zizic signed his rookie contract on Saturday, and many expect him to fill that 5 role, but Ainge could elect to solidify that role with a vet. The Suns are in full-fledged rebuild mold after ending their pursuit of Paul Millsap and are looking to shed vets for assets. Thirty-four-year-old Tyson Chandler still has two years at $26M on the books and could fill the rim-protector role that the Celtics have sorely missed the last few seasons. Could Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey, and (most importantly) Tyler Zeller’s non-guaranteed contract be enough to get Chandler to Boston? What about a similar deal for the BucksJohn Henson?

Of course, there are other free agents besides Hayward and Griffin. Danny Ainge has flirted with adding Danilo Gallinari in the past, so of course he’s already reached out to the 28-year-old Italian:

Gallo will meet will meet with the Clippers today, and Sacramento is also rumored to be interested. Yesterday, J.J. Redick signed a rich, one-year deal to join the Sixers; the Celtics could do the same with big men Dewayne Dedmon, Taj Gibson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Javale McGee. However, these thoughts can’t really be entertained until Hayward’s decision.

As Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe suggests, maybe there is no Plan D or E or F. If the Celtics at this point are really Hayward-or-bust and Hayward chooses to stay in Utah or move to Miami, Ainge should decide to stand pat, continue the youth movement that Danny has been so protective over, and run it back. They’ve already signed Ante Zizic and Jayson Tatum to their rookie contracts and picked up Germany’s Daniel Theis on a two-year deal. Those three alone can soak up the minutes left behind by Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Gerald Green. There’s still an outstanding qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, and the restricted free agent market is focused on Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the moment. KO could come back on a rich 1+1.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Today is Gordon Hayward Day. Tomorrow, the Celtics start summer league in Utah against Markelle Fultz and the Sixers while GH flies out to meet with the Jazz. And then it’s the 4th of July, and you know what happens on the 4th of July, right?

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