Report: Gordon Hayward opts out of Celtics deal, will become free agent

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Gordon Hayward has opted out of his $34.2 million player option for next season and will enter free agency, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports.

The 30-year-old forward played three seasons in Boston after joining the Celtics in free agency from the Utah Jazz in 2017. He’ll be one of the top players on the free agent market, which opens Friday evening.

Gordon Hayward’s turbulent Celtics tenure

Hayward joined the Celtics as a budding All-Star in 2017 before breaking his ankle five minutes into his Boston debut.

He didn’t play again that season and struggled to regain his form in 2018-19 on a crowded wing that featured Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. His scoring average dropped from 21.5 points per game in Utah to 11.5 in his first full season with the Celtics as Boston experimented with bringing him off the bench.

He returned to the starting lineup last season, showing flashes of his old form, averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Gordon Hayward will test free agency after declining his player option with the Celtics. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Gordon Hayward will test free agency after declining his player option with the Celtics. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Can Hayward return to form in a featured role?

Hayward never was a great fit in Boston and could potentially thrive in a featured role on another team. His relative return to form last season apparently gave him the confidence to forgo a guaranteed $34.2 million to pursue a long-term deal elsewhere.

The initial deadline for his decision to opt-in was on Tuesday, but the Celtics reportedly extended it as Hayward’s name repeatedly surfaced in trade rumors as a potential sign-and-trade candidate ahead of Wednesday’s draft.

The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks are among the teams reported to have interest in Hayward.

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