Celtics’ Hayward opts out of final year of deal

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him $34.1 million, making him a free agent, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not been publicly announced.

Hayward could still re-sign with the team, either to remain at Boston Celtics or be part of a sign-and-trade deal that would open up more potential destinations. The Celtics did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brad Stevens, who also coached Hayward in college at Butler, recruited Hayward to Boston in 2017 and the team signed him to a four-year, $128 million deal that made him the biggest free agent signing in franchise history. But Hayward snapped his leg in the first quarter of his first game, missing all of the 2017-18 season.

He averaged 26 minutes and 11.5 points the next year — far below his numbers in Utah — and began to return to his previous form in the bubble this season with 17.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

The two sides decided to push back the deadline for Hayward to decide on the option until Thursday afternoon. Speaking to reporters during the NBA draft on Wednesday night, Stevens said he wouldn’t push Hayward one way or the other.

“It’s their option. It’s their choice. They get to do what they want,” the coach said. “I’ve talked to those guys all year long. … As they get closer to those deadlines, I say ‘If you need me, let me know.’ He knows us, he knows me and this entire situation.”

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