Michael Jordan helped with Hornets move – Hayward

By Sacha Pisani 2 December 2020 3
Michael Jordan helped with Hornets move – Hayward

Gordon Hayward said Michael Jordan's recruitment helped in swapping the Boston Celtics for the Charlotte Hornets.

The Hornets acquired unrestricted free agent Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics last month, the deal reportedly a four-year, $120million contract in Charlotte.

Hayward was close to joining the Hornets previously, having signed a four-year, $63m deal in 2014 but it was eventually matched by the Utah Jazz.

Fronting the media on Tuesday, 2017 All-Star Hayward highlighted the impact of Hornets owner and NBA great Jordan.

"I think I did a videoconference with him on that visit [in 2014] and any time you talk to Michael Jordan, there's a little bit of that star-struck [feeling]," Hayward told reporters on Tuesday.

"I remember watching him growing up. I think I asked him back then if Reggie [Miller] fouled him when he pushed off and hit the shot against them [in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals] when Reggie was on the Pacers in the playoffs there.

"[Jordan's] one of the greatest players to ever play if not the greatest to ever play, so I think everyone feels that a little bit. I never forgot that and so this second go-around he actually mentioned it as well when I talked and then when he had texted me a little bit that he's wanted me for years now.

"I think it was something where the more conversations that we had, that I had with the coaching staff, with some of the front office guys ... although there were conversations with lots of teams for sign-and-trade opportunities, it was one of those things where my agent was kind of working on those and I kind of just told him let's do this thing in Charlotte, let's get this thing done."

"I never forgot the commitment and the potential I think that Michael and the organisation saw in me years ago," Hayward said. "When they gave me an offer sheet and I had signed that to come here back then and then ultimately that got matched. And so for sure that was always one thing that was in the back of my mind."

Hayward left the Jazz for the Celtics on a four-year max contract via free agency in 2017, but he endured a difficult time in Boston.

The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hayward suffered a gruesome fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his first game for the Celtics three years ago.

Hayward struggled to recapture his best form the following season, and the 30-year-old sustained a broken bone in his hand in November before suffering a sprained right ankle during Boston's sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of last season's playoffs in Orlando.

Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Celtics last season, having averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 2018-19.

Since entering the league, Hayward is averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

"Tough decisions were certainly made," Hayward said. "There's no ill will on my end from anybody within the Boston organisation, the players. I had an unbelievable time in Boston and I think that it's unfortunate what happened; I obviously had a freak injury right when I got there. And there's a lot of things that were kind of out of my control of when I was in Boston.

"But I had a great time there and still have great relationships with the people there and some of the players there. And my team-mates and coaches and my wife and I had built relationships with members of the community that we live in and to this day we talk to them ... there's no ill will on my end and I really loved my time in Boston.

"Certainly couldn't be more excited about where I'm at now. And looking forward to this next chapter."

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Sacha Pisani