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Rumor: Gordon Hayward wants out of Boston

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Per The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo, Gordon Hayward could be looking for a long term deal this fall outside of Boston.

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Six Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Here’s what Ryen Russillo said on The Ringer’s The Bill Simmons Podcast:

I’ve heard that Gordon Hayward does want out, but I don’t know if he’s going to get the money. he’s not opting out of that huge number unless he knows he’s getting the deal.

That tidbit was part of a larger conversation about what the Atlanta Hawks might do at #6 in the November 18th NBA Draft. They’re rumored to want to win now and have cap space to sign a significant free agent to do so. Simmons suggests that Hayward opting out of his $34 million and signing a long-term new contract would actually make sense because 1) with the start of next season still being negotiated, that $34 million could be much less with the league considering 50- and 72-game seasons and player salaries being held up in escrow and 2) free agency in 2021 could be crowded with less money. This rumor is in line with what ESPN’s Zach Lowe said last week.

Obviously, Hayward opting out would be disastrous for the Celtics. In addition to losing a very valuable asset, that doesn’t free up cap space for Boston. Here’s CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith on a potential Hayward opt out:

It’s probably not happening. Hayward would have to decide that he no longer wants to play in Boston for this to happen. No team is going to give him a contract that approaches the $34.2 million he’d give up from the Celtics for 2021. Only the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks are in position to do that. It’s unlikely any would (insert your Knicks jokes here!), or that Hayward would want to play for any of those teams.

Beyond that, a sign-and-trade deal is pretty unlikely as well. Boston would have to find the right partner and that partner would have to want Hayward long-term. With so many teams angling towards cap space for the 2021 offseason, it’s unlikely anyone is positioned to take on a long-term deal for Hayward.

The bottom line is that for Hayward, coming out of this offseason with a long term deal is ideal. Even though his injury history is rather fluky, injury history is injury history and it’s a gamble to sign him for three-plus years. For the Celtics, the cold hard reality is asset management. A doomsday scenario of Hayward walking--made worse considering the historical bond between him and Brad Stevens--could set Danny Ainge’s plan back multiple seasons if he doesn’t salvage something for his value.