By Adam Himmelsbach Globe Staff,Updated December 1, 2020, 11:56 a.m.
Danny Ainge (right) acknowledged that Gordon Hayward left, in part, because he wanted a larger role in an offense.JohnTlumacki
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Tuesday he had known for several months that there was a real possibility Gordon Hayward would leave during free agency. He said that the Celtics talked to “maybe three or four teams” about sign-and-trades involving Hayward, including the Pacers.
“We knew what the risks were.” Ainge said. “And we knew what all the options were. We talked sign-and-trades with Indiana, a couple other teams, and with Charlotte, and there were cap possibilities including Charlotte, teams with cap space that were willing to offer Gordon some of their cap space money. And we thought any of those options were good. But our No. 1 option was getting Gordon to come back. And, so all the way to the end, we thought we were.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who coached Hayward at Butler, made it clear there are no hard feelings about the forward’s departure.
“At the end of the day, free agency is free agency for a reason,” he said. “You get a chance to decide what you want to do and where you want to spend your next step of your career, and there’s usually a lot of factors that go into that … I’m certainly happy for anyone that gets a chance to make a decision that they think is right for themselves.”
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum last week signed a five-year extension that’s worth about $195 million if he meets incentives. He was named an All-Star last season and also received third-team All-NBA recognition.
Even though he is just 22 years old, there is little question now about whether he is the leader of this team. But Tatum is eager to simply continue his ascension.
“I mean, I’m not here walking around saying that this is my team,” he said. “I don’t take that approach. Like everybody else, I show up to work and do my job to the best of my ability and just go out there and play. I don’t feel the need to say it or anybody needs to say it. We all play for the Celtics. We all play a part in the team’s success and obviously I’m going to be here for a while. So I’m happy for that. But no, I don’t say or think I play that way. We got a bunch of talented guys and I’m happy to be a part of this team.”
Ainge and Stevens said the additions of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague will provide some veteran depth and leadership to the young roster. Teague is entering his 12th season and Thompson is entering his 10th.
“[Thompson] plays both ends of the court,” Ainge said. “He’s a really good roller to the rim and offensive rebounder. He can pass out of the rolls, he can finish out of the rolls, he can finish above the rim. On defense, he’s good. He’s mobile, he can switch, he can keep the ball in front of him and he can run the floor.”
Ainge said that Teague will bring a steady presence to the locker room, too.
“I think that Jeff’s at a stage in his career where where he wants to share what he’s learned in this 12-year career,” Ainge said. “He still has some juice, had a couple of 30-point games last year. And we still think that he can step in, especially early on, to bridge the gap until Kemba [Walker] comes back ready to go.”