Sport A behind-the-scenes look at Gordon Hayward’s decision

06:30  12 july  2017
06:30  12 july  2017 Source:   bostonglobe.com

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Hayward ’ s father offers insight on how the All-Star forward arrived at his choice to leave the Jazz and join the Celtics.

After meeting with the Heat, Celtics, and Jazz, Gordon Hayward told his father about the visits and then laid out the pros and cons for each franchise and city. Patriots sport new- look defense after Super Bowl loss July 26, 2018 | 3:23 PM.

After meeting with the Heat, Celtics, and Jazz, Gordon Hayward told his father about the visits and then laid out the pros and cons for each franchise and city.© David Zalubowski/AP/File After meeting with the Heat, Celtics, and Jazz, Gordon Hayward told his father about the visits and then laid out the pros and cons for each franchise and city. LAS VEGAS — Just after midnight on July 1, 2014, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sent a text message to Gordon Scott Hayward and his wife, Jody.

Stevens had just finished his first season in Boston after spending the previous 12 years at Butler, where he had coached the couple’s son, Gordon.

Gordon had just finished his fourth season with the Utah Jazz, and he was a restricted free agent. Stevens knew the Celtics were not in position to sign him, but he wanted the family to know he hoped they could reunite someday.

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Just after midnight this past July 1, Stevens texted Hayward’s parents again. This time, the All-Star forward was an unrestricted free agent. And this time, the 53-win Celtics were in line to make a maximum-contract offer.

“His text said, ‘I hope all is well. We’re really looking forward to having Gordon come visit,’ ” Hayward Sr. said.

Hayward, of course, came to Boston and ultimately agreed to four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics. The team’s coaches and executives are not authorized to publicly talk about Hayward until he signs his contract. But in an interview with the Globe, Hayward’s father described how his son ultimately made this difficult, emotional, and impactful decision.

“I told him from the beginning, ‘I just want whatever’s best for you,’ ” Hayward Sr. said. “That’s all any parent wants for their kids.”

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Save the dates

Three days before Hayward was scheduled to begin his visits, he called his father to discuss the options.

For some, free agency is a time to soak up adulation from suitors. But Hayward had no interest in a lengthy or splashy courtship. He had quickly whittled his list to three: the Jazz, Celtics, and Heat.

Even though Miami missed the playoffs last season, its second-half surge and the presence of a strong young core intrigued Hayward, according to his father.

“He thought that one was interesting enough that he wanted to go talk to them,” Hayward Sr. said.

Utah and Boston were more obvious choices. The Jazz drafted Hayward ninth overall in 2010 and he was now a leader on a young, rising team. Also, Utah could offer a five-year, $172.4 million deal while others could give no more than four years and $128 million.

The Celtics, meanwhile, had just finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and they had a powerful foundation as well as a slew of upcoming draft picks. Also, they had Stevens.

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Hayward wanted to go somewhere where an NBA championship was possible, but he had no interest in a ready-made situation, such as the one Kevin Durant entered when he signed with the Warriors last summer.

Hayward Sr. said that if the Celtics had defeated the Cavaliers in the conference finals, his son would have been less interested. But it was clear watching them get pummeled by LeBron James that they needed help, and perhaps he could provide it.

Hayward would go to Miami to see the Heat on Saturday, July 1, then meet with the Celtics in Boston on Sunday before sitting down with the Jazz on Monday in San Diego, where he has a summer home.

Gordon Hayward Sr. decided before the tour began that he would not speak to his son after each visit, because he knew that if any team made a strong case — and they all would — Hayward would want to decide that day. So he told Gordon he would wait until he was finished, and then help him assess them all at once.

‘We’re in tears’

On the night of July 2, a 1-minute, 41-second video that showed Jazz supporters making heartfelt pleas to Hayward to return to Utah was posted on a Twitter page that had been created for this sole purpose.

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When Hayward Sr. saw the video the following morning, his eyes welled up. He sent it to his wife and to his 75-year-old mother.

“They both texted me back: ‘We’re in tears. We’re in tears.’ ”

Hayward Sr. retweeted the video to his own followers, and some Jazz fans took it as a sign. Maybe Gordon had decided to come back to Utah? Or, at the very least, maybe the Jazz were the father’s preferred choice?

But Hayward Sr. did not have a favorite. He would be slightly happier if Gordon played in the East, simply because their family in Indiana would not have to stay up quite as late to watch his games. But they never mentioned that to Gordon, and they’d stayed up late to see him play for seven years and were prepared to keep doing so.

Nevertheless, the hysteria surrounding the father’s decision to share the video escalated so quickly that he addressed it on Twitter that evening. He explained that he wanted family and friends to see the clip because it was heartwarming and nicely done. He said he would support whatever his son decided.

“The fans thought I was leading them on,” he said. “They were just waiting for any kind of sign. But Gordon hadn’t even finished his trip yet. It’s not that I didn’t support the ‘Stayward’ campaign. I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome.”

A late-night call

On Monday night, after Hayward’s visit with the Jazz in San Diego ended, his parents went to bed back in Indiana. Hayward Sr. turned the ringer on his phone up, and his son called at about 1 a.m. The two spoke for nearly two hours.

Hayward told his father about the visits and then laid out the pros and cons for each franchise and city. In Boston, there had been something comfortable about reconnecting with Stevens.

The Celtics took Hayward to Fenway Park and played a video on the center-field scoreboard in which Boston athletes said what it is like to play in the city. Hayward enjoyed it, but he has never been a huge baseball fan, and the history of Fenway probably did not resonate with him, his father said.

Back at the team’s Waltham training facility, Stevens and Hayward analyzed clips of the Celtics and of Hayward. Stevens described how he would deploy him.

Even though Hayward is intimately familiar with Stevens’s style, seven years have passed since he last coached him. Hayward is a much better basketball player now, and as he sat with Stevens, it became more obvious that Stevens was a much better coach.

“Gordon said to me, ‘Dad, it was impressive. It was amazing,’ ” the father said.

Hayward, who has two young girls with his wife, Robyn, told his father that the Celtics’ family focus had stuck with him, too. For example, Stevens allows players to bring their spouses and children on the team plane during road trips.

When the phone call ended at about 3 a.m., Hayward Sr. thought the Celtics had become the favorites, but even Gordon did not know for sure.

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“He had not decided, but he was definitely leaning,” Hayward Sr. said. “That’s kind of all I knew. And then you had the whole mess on the Fourth of July.”

Pain in Utah

At 2:17 p.m. on July 4, ESPN reported that Hayward had agreed to sign with Boston. Soon afterward, Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein publicly and strongly denied that Hayward had decided.

Jazz fans who had been crushed had a new sign of hope, and Celtics fans feared a last-minute shift. Curious friends and family members flooded Hayward Sr. with calls and texts, but he did not contact his son. He knew that if he needed help, he would ask.

“Clearly, this wasn’t the way he wanted it to go down,” Hayward Sr. said. “That’s the unfortunate thing, is that it wasn’t his intention. He just wanted to be the one to tell everybody.”

At 7:48 p.m., Hayward posted the Players’ Tribune story in which he announced that he would, indeed, be a Celtic. Hayward Sr. did not know he was going to reveal his choice that way. He later asked Gordon why he hadn’t just used his own website, and he explained that it could never have handled that much traffic. Sure enough, the site crashed that day even though no announcement was posted there.

When the process finally ended, Hayward Sr. and Jody mostly felt relief. They were happy for their son, but they also empathized with Jazz fans.

“I mean, I grew up in Indiana, and I’m not saying Gordon is Reggie Miller, but if Reggie Miller had left in the middle of his career, that would have been really sad to me,” the father said. “So, it’s really tough. It’s a tough situation. But is he supposed to stay in Utah just so he just doesn’t disappoint others?”

Hayward was just two years removed from high school when he was drafted by the Jazz. His father said he “grew into a man” in Utah, and he praised the organization for how it helped him develop. The parents made close friends in the area, too.

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According to a second person with knowledge of the Monday meeting, the Jazz made a very strong impression and Hayward remained torn about his decision . 2007: Brownsburg High School basketball player Gordon Hayward looks to pass during practice.

Hayward Sr. said his son was stung by the vitriol from some Jazz fans after his decision, even if it was just a small pocket of them.

“It is tough on him,” the father said. “I know it’s hard on him. I know his decision hurt some people, but, you know, the burning of his jerseys, that’s hurtful, too.”

A twist of fate

Gordon Scott Hayward grew up as a Pacers fan. But in the 1980s, the team went eight years in a row without a winning record. So during the playoffs, many in the Hoosier State gravitated toward the Celtics, whose star forward, Larry Bird, was one of Indiana’s favorite sons.

In 1988, a friend of Hayward Sr.’s in Chicago found a newspaper clipping that showed a picture of Bird and the Celtics facing Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The man edited the picture a bit, darkening Bird’s hair and changing the name on the back of his jersey to “Hayward.”

He sent it to the father, who framed it and hung it in his home. The younger Gordon was still two years from being born, but for years the father has looked at his wall and seen what a Hayward Celtics jersey might look like.

Last week, after the decision was made, he took a picture of the illustration and texted it to his son.

“It felt like it was a foreshadowing of things to come,” the father said. “Obviously, he’s not going to be wearing No. 33, though. That one’s taken.”

In the Indianapolis area, there’s excitement about the Hayward and Stevens reunion. For Hayward Sr., it is comforting to know his son will be in good hands in a new and unknown city.

In 2013, Stevens’s first year in the NBA, Hayward’s parents traveled to Boston to see Gordon play his first game against his former coach. They never imagined then that they could be all back there four years later, together once more.

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A former teammate of Gordon Hayward wasn’t surprised that he decided against remaining the face of the Utah Jazz franchise. Trevor Booker, who played with Hayward in Utah from 2014 to 2016, said Hayward’s decision to join the Boston Celtics did not come as a surprise to him because Hayward didn’t want to be the guy at a franchise.“Gordon’s a guy who doesn’t really want to be the man,” Booker told Tony Jones and Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune. “… I’m not sure he wanted a franchise on his shoulders. Gordon’s a great player, and one of the best players in the league. But I wasn’t really surprised at his choice.

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