Gordon Hayward reportedly declines player option, becomes free agent

It's unclear where Gordon Hayward will play next year.
It's unclear where Gordon Hayward will play next year. –Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward declined his $34.2 million option for the 2020-21 season and will become an unrestricted free agent, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported.

Hayward’s reported decision to opt out came minutes before Thursday’s 5 p.m. deadline. The deadline for Hayward’s decision to opt in or out was extended from Tuesday to Thursday.

Hayward could still potentially return to Boston on a new deal. He may also be sign-and-traded to another team, which the Pacers and Hawks are reportedly interested in doing to get Hayward. He may also sign outright with a new team, with the Knicks and Hawks reportedly interested in signing Hayward.

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The $34.2 million option for next season was the final year of the four-year, $128 million contract Hayward signed with the Celtics in 2017. Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury just minutes into his first game with the Celtics, forcing him to miss the rest of the 2017-18 season.

After recovering from the broken tibia and dislocated ankle injuries, Hayward returned to the Celtics in time for the start of the 2018-19 season. Hayward struggled for most of that season, averaging 11.5 points per game, his lowest point per game total since his rookie season.

Hayward regained some of his All-Star form this past season. He averaged 17.5 points, a team-high 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game in 2019-20. However, Hayward was injured in the Celtics’ first playoff game, suffering a sprained ankle.

The injury kept Hayward out until Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals and he struggled in the series. Hayward averaged 10.5 points, four rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game and shot 40.5 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from 3-point range. The Celtics eventually fell to the Heat in six games.

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