Early reports 'always just rumors,' Hayward says during lengthy free-agent discussion with ESPN

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward used another July holiday (in Utah) to explain his lengthy free-agent decision via a lengthy interview with one of the NBA's top reporters.

The Former Utah Jazz star who announced July 4 that he would sign with the Boston Celtics discussed at length his decision with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski in a lengthy interview on the reporter's podcast, "The Woj Pod."

Hayward chose the Celtics over the Jazz, his NBA team of the past seven seasons, and Miami, which he said was one of the best fits style-wise according to a rubric he and his agent laid out over the summer.

“I think if I had stayed in Utah, we would’ve been really good and it would’ve been a great situation for me. My family would’ve been comfortable; we loved it there," Hayward told Wojnarowski. “But it was a different feeling in Boston that I had, and it was like a gut feeling. We felt like with everything that we broke down — the city, the coaching staff, the players — the feeling of putting on a Boston Celtics uniform and competing for a title outweighed anything else for me.

“In the end, it was that gut feeling that I had — that this is the place that I should be.”

Listen to the complete hour-long podcast in the embedded player below.

In the end, it came down to a familiarity with Boston and former Butler coach Brad Stevens — now his head coach with the Celtics.

"It really came down to the visits," Hayward said. "We found there were three really good options, but I needed to see each organization and get more of a clear visit of where we want to go.

"(The Celtics) are special, because of how special the fans are and how invested the organization is to winning. It's a special feeling, and for me, I wanted to try to continue that greatness to win now."

Hayward maintained that even as reports were circulating about his impending decision, he didn't pay them mind until he posted his official announcement on the Derek Jeter-founded website The Players Tribune.

“There were always rumors about going to Boston. To me, those were always just rumors," said Hayward, who added Stevens' presence in Boston was different than many people assume, as well.

“We had a great relationship, but we weren’t constantly texting or talking to each other. He’s the head coach of the Boston Celtics; he’s got other things to worry about. … Everyone made it seem like we were besties.”

The Jazz's meeting with Hayward in his offseason home in San Diego was also different. Hayward detailed each visit as three teams rolled out the red carpet for the impending free agent. But in the end, he chose his spot from "three really good options," with significant help from his wife and two daughters.


But turning away the Jazz — the only NBA team he's ever known — was difficult, he said.

"It was a different feeling," Hayward said of meeting with the Jazz. "You feel like you know them; I had just competed with them in a playoff run that was something I had never been a part of. It was a lot of fun.

"We sat down in the living room, and they had an amazing presentation that they showed me. At the end of the presentation, Rudy (Gobert), Ricky (Rubio), Joe (Ingles) and Rodney Hood came in. To have them here was amazing … it was like a surprise.

"It was emotional when Greg (Miller) talked about bringing a title to Utah, bringing it for his father (Larry H. Miller), to the community."

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