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The time for speculation is coming to an end. The question of will he or won't he will soon be answered.
It's time for Gordon Hayward to make a decision about his future.
Will it be with the Miami Heat? Will it be with the Boston Celtics? Or will the star forward stay with the Jazz? That's what the entire NBA wants to know.
Free agency officially begins Friday night, and Hayward's weekend schedule is set. He will meet with the Heat on Saturday and Celtics on Sunday, then have one last meeting with the Jazz on Monday. Hayward will then make a decision on his future; league sources say he hopes to make public his decision by Wednesday at the latest.
Hayward officially opted out of his contract on Friday, and is an unrestricted free agent. The Jazz can offer Hayward a maximum contract at five years and almost $180 million. The most he can get elsewhere is four years at slightly more than $130 million. An All-Star for the first time in his career this past season, Hayward went through restricted free agency in 2014, signing an offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets, which the Jazz matched.
The Celtics, who are led by Hayward's college coach Brad Stevens, are a major threat to Utah. And the Jazz will have the weekend to put themselves in position to convince Hayward that Utah is the best place for him to continue his career.
"The Jazz have a lot going for them," Hayward's agent Mark Bartelstein told The Tribune this week. "They have turned themselves into an elite organization. They handle everything in a first class manner. My job is to guide Gordon through the process. Guys are only free agents a few times in their careers. So our job is to give Gordon his options, and let him see what's out there."
Friday's trade of Ricky Rubio assuredly means one free agent will leave the Jazz George Hill, who was Utah's starting point guard this past season. Sources say teams such as the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets hold genuine interest in acquiring Hill, who is on the open market.
Joe Ingles, who spent most of Utah's playoff run as the starting shooting guard, is a restricted free agent. The Jazz tendered Ingles a qualifying offer earlier in the week, meaning they reserve the right to match any offer Ingles receives from another team. Ingles has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay in Utah.
"Joe loves Utah and knows the Jazz gave him his start in the NBA," said Bartelstein, who also represents Ingles. "This is a lot like Gordon. We just want to go through the process and see what's available."
For the Jazz, the initial part of free agency will be all about Hayward, who is arguably the most desired player on the NBA's free agent market. Much of the Utah roster has been built around Hayward's talents. He had a career season, averaging almost 22 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 2016-17.
In other words, the Jazz cannot afford to lose him. Yes, the Jazz have Rudy Gobert, who may be the best center in the NBA. But if Hayward leaves, Utah will take a step back.
Multiple sources tell The Tribune that Hayward is genuinely torn on a decision. Hayward's overriding goal is to win a championship, sources say, and Boston has a roster ready to win right away, following a run this past playoffs to the Eastern Conference finals. More importantly, the Celtics have future assets to improve as well; reports indicate Boston will attempt to trade for Indiana Pacers star Paul George, should it secure a commitment from Hayward.
Hayward's meeting schedule, according to sources, is strategic. He wants to give the Jazz a window to improve the roster. The Jazz started that process on Friday afternoon by trading for point guard Ricky Rubio from the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving up one of its two first-round picks in the 2018 draft.
Rubio is five years younger than Hill and perhaps better defensively and passing the ball. Seeing him and Gobert in the pick-and-roll with players such as Hayward, Ingles, Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson flashing to the perimeter for open 3-pointers should excite Jazz fans. But Rubio also is not as good a shooter as Hill, and that may bog the offense down in some sets.
The Jazz won 51 games this past season and advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs before being swept by the Golden State Warriors. But after 82 regular-season games, seven grueling first-round games against the Clippers and a series against the Warriors, the next week will possibly be the biggest challenge of all.
Jazz free agents
His status • Hayward is an unrestricted free agent
His market • He will choose between the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Miami Heat
The skinny • Hayward is maybe the most desired player on the market this summer
Odds of staying • 50-50. This one will likely be close, and decided next week
His status • Ingles is a restricted free agent
His market • He has significant interest including from the Los Angeles Clippers, the team that cut him before the Jazz gave him his first NBA contract
The skinny • Ingles is a 3-and-D veteran that winning teams love
Odds of staying • 80-20. The Jazz will match almost any offer Ingles gets
Other free agents
George Hill • Hill will be in another uniform next season after Friday's Jazz acquisition of Ricky Rubio
Shelvin Mack • Mack will almost certainly be in another uniform next season
Jeff Withey • He may stick around for another year, but if the Jazz find another big man in free agency, Withey will likely leave