Celtics bench Brady, utilize Fenway as they pitch HaywardBy Ira Winderman
July 02. 2017 9:00PM
The Boston Celtics again moved out of their league in a recruiting battle with the Miami Heat, this time entertaining Utah Jazz free-agent forward Gordon Hayward on Sunday at Fenway Park.
A year after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was part of the Celtics’ free-agency presentation to Kevin Durant that was followed by the Heat’s own failed effort for Durant, the Celtics hosted Hayward at the home of the Boston Red Sox, with a video presentation that included David Ortiz.
Following a Saturday meeting with the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena, Hayward moved onto Boston for his Sunday session, before he wraps up his free-agency triple play with a Monday session with the Jazz.
Hayward’s meeting with the Jazz, however, will not be in Salt Lake City, but rather in San Diego, where he has a home. Interestingly, Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra are already in California, dealing with free agency.
After years of tormenting South Florida, Brady was removed from this year’s Celtics’ equation, although likely for reasons beyond Boston’s failed bid for Durant.
Hayward, it seems, is not a fan.
Last season, when asked to choose between Brady and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers by a Jazz reporter, Hayward replied, “Aaron Rodgers. I can’t stand Tom Brady.”
But he is a big fan of Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who coached him into a first-round talent at Butler and picked him up at the airport Saturday following his flight from Miami.
Just as this year’s courtship is toned down from last summer’s circus in the Hamptons with Durant, so have been the pitches with Hayward. The Heat’s included Riley, much of the front office, the coaching staff and players Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and James Johnson, who is a free agent himself.
The Celtics were expected to offer a similar, basketball-driven approach.
There have, however, been personalized touches along the way. After the Heat posted a Hayward player banner along the drive to AmericanAirlines Arena, the Celtics utilized the scoreboard at Fenway Park with a message of, “Welcome to Boston, Gordon and Robyn.”
The Jazz, by contrast, will not be able to offer any home-team touches, with Hayward avoiding travel through the Salt Lake City airport.
Asked by the Boston Globe about the Heat-Celtics competition, Boston forward Jaylen Brown said, “I think we’re a better fit. I think Gordon wants to win right away. I think Miami’s a nice city, but I think Boston has a rich history and basketball culture, and I think if he wants to add to his legacy, I think he’ll come to the Celtics.”
For their part, the Jazz already are in the midst of their own pitch, with free-agency moves that have included trading for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio and then, on Saturday, re-signing forward Joe Ingles, Hayward’s closest teammate, to a four-year, $52 million contract.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have lost out on forward Paul George since the start of free agency, with the Indiana Pacers forward dealt to the Houston Rockets, with Boston also losing free-agent forward Amir Johnson on Saturday to the Philadelphia 76ers.
All three suitors find themselves amid a delicate balancing act as other free agents sign elsewhere. Denver Nuggets free-agent forward Danilo Gallinari, who has a similar lengthy outside-shooting game to Hayward’s, is a potential fallback position for the three teams. The Celtics quickly moved on to sign Atlanta Hawks free-agent center Al Horford last July after losing out on Durant.