Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
With the notable exception of Thomas, every key Boston player can defend multiple positions, giving Celtics coach Brad Stevens rare lineup flexibility. Expect the Celtics to start conventionally with Horford at power forward alongside rookie Ante Zizic, Hayward at small forward and Thomas and Bradley in the backcourt.
From there, Stevens could go bigger by shifting Hayward to shooting guard or smaller with Horford moving to the middle and Crowder and Brown both options to serve as athletic stretch 4s. Such combinations should be ideal for matching up with the small lineups the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors like to use.
Adding Hayward also gives Stevens more options on offense. He has developed into one of the league’s better secondary ball handlers. According to Synergy Sports tracking, Hayward ranked eighth among non-point guards in pick-and-rolls that resulted in a shot, turnover or trip to the free throw line by himself or a player to whom he passed.
But Hayward’s role might not be dramatically different with the Celtics, particularly if Stevens commits to staggering the minutes of his two perimeter stars so at least one of them is always on the court. That gives Hayward an opportunity to serve as a primary shot creator while Thomas is resting.
It’s hard to predict the rotation when we know Danny Ainge has to move someone to make the numbers work. ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton tags Marcus Smart the most obvious target because of his impending restricted free agency. I always assumed Avery Bradley would be gone because of the $20+ million he’s going to make after next season.
The Celtics do have a lot of versatility but we’d desperately miss Avery’s ability to guard top-tier point guards like Kyrie Irving. Hayward can play the 2, but asking him to defend guys like Avery is a huge stretch.
I’m not at all worried about the offense. Brad will figure it out.
The most surprising nugget in Pelton’s story is the possibility that Zizic will start at center. I realize it’s not fair to judge a player based on one Summer League game, but Zizic does not look anywhere close to ready.
On Page 2, Brad Stevens closed the deal
So that relationship closed the deal. Credit one of the Celtics’ biggest saves in recent years to Stevens. And it’s another major step for an organization seeking respectability. The Celtics gained a semblance of that this past season by being the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and winning 53 regular-season games. But their loss to Cleveland in the conference finals showed that this team needed more help, needed more star power.
The Celtics had been eyeing Hayward for three years. He was a restricted free agent in 2014, and the Celtics, with Stevens leading, hosted him for a meeting. And Hayward even signed an offer sheet with the Hornets before the Jazz matched.
Utah could have signed Hayward to a more lucrative deal and avoided restricted free agency three years ago, but it didn’t. Perhaps that wasn’t a sign of disloyalty, but it definitely encouraged Hayward to consider other locales when free agency began.
He opted out of his four-year contract after the third year, and this time Stevens met Hayward at Logan Airport, sort of like a big brother picking up his little brother from college and saving him the Uber fare.
There is something very natural and organic about the relationship between Stevens and Hayward, as it is with Stevens and several of his former players. There is something magnetic about Stevens’s honesty and sincerity, and as much as Hayward has tried to downplay those characteristics, especially when he was playing for another organization and another coach, it was critical in the end.
Gordon Hayward’s interest in Boston was always about Brad Stevens.
We knew this before free agency and we know it now.
The Jazz media and fans were in denial. Remember these talking points?
- Brad and Gordon aren’t really that close
- Hayward’s been with Quin Synder longer
1. Wrong. 2. Doesn’t matter.
Finally, let’s enjoy some sour grapes by a Utah columnist.
Goodbye, Gordon Hayward, we hardly knew you.
Not the real you.
Not the you who was ducking out down a back alley, looking for the easier route.
Fenway, Schmenway. Boston fans might cheer him now. Wait until he doesn’t win a championship.
Hayward could have owned this state had he shown a warmer side, had he reciprocated the positive emotion that did come his way. He made basketball advances that were profound. His connection to Utah, to the people here, though, seemed emptier than it should have.
Now as the spin of the basketball goes round, Hayward will get his scoring chances from a ball-dominant point guard, Isaiah Thomas. He’ll be second and maybe third in line for points, depending on how the Celtics roster shapes up. Instead of being the man, he’ll be just a guy, just a dude.
PS – the stuff about Hayward’s role on the Celtics is flat out wrong.
The rest of the links