Just six minutes into his first season with the Boston Celtics, the unthinkable happened to Gordon Hayward.
In the first game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hayward went up to catch a pass near the rim from Kyrie Irving. As he came down, though, his left leg got stuck behind him and snapped on the floor. He was removed from the court on a stretcher and placed in an air cast. It was later determined he suffered a fractured ankle.
The sight of his ankle was gruesome and reminiscent of some of the more graphic injuries in sports history. He had surgery hours after the injury and could miss the remainder of the season if rehabilitation doesn’t go as planned.
“You hurt for him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward, who he also coached at Butler University. “It’s a tough, tough deal, but I guess that’s part of the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
The tragic end to his much-anticipated Celtics debut is a huge blow for both the team and the 27-year-old Hayward, who had seven successful seasons with the Utah Jazz.
As a member of the Jazz, Hayward averaged 15.7 points per game to go along with 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1 steal. He made the announcement that he was leaving Salt Lake City and heading to Boston in a post to The Players’ Tribune on July 4.
“This was a life-changing decision for me and my family, and something we took really seriously,” Hayward wrote. “And from the very start of this process, one thing stood out as important: I knew that I wanted the fans and the organizations to hear my decision directly from me. After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics.”
Hayward’s Contract Details
Hayward’s four-year maximum deal with Boston is worth $127,829,970 guaranteed and works out to an annual average salary of nearly $32 million over those seasons, according to Sportrac. He’s earning a base salary of $29,727,900 this year, with that figure growing slightly every season until 2020-21, when he’s due for $34.18 million.
That final year of his contract involves a player option for Hayward. If decides to opt out of the deal that summer, he’d have the opportunity to seek a 10-year maximum contract worth up to 35 percent of the salary cap, which is projected to be at $112 million by then. That means he’d be due to make nearly $40 million.
Hayward’s the fourth highest-paid player in the NBA this season. In comparison, LeBron James is making $33.28 million this season while Carmelo Anthony will make $26.24 million.
He visited the Celtics, Jazz and Miami Heat at the start of free agency, but it was Boston who emerged as a top contender. They didn’t have enough cap space to sign Hayward to a maximum contract at the time, so they worked to clear cap space while trying to field a competitive team around him.
Boston made almost $4 million in cap space by trading Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris and freed an additional $1.5 million by waiving Jordan Mickey. The team also rescinded its qualifying offer to center Kelly Olynyk, who ended up signing a $50 million deal with the Heat.