Celtics

Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

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Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

Gordon Hayward wanted to go to Boston to play with Isaiah Thomas.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The Celtics traded Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving. Hayward explained what it was like for him to learn he and Thomas would not get the chance to hit the court together in Celtics' green.

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"My first reaction was to text I.T., and wish him the best," Hayward wrote in a blog post which he published Thursday. "That was a really strange moment because I’d really been looking forward to playing with him. He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.

"All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.

"But that is just how the business works. I have spent enough years in the NBA to realize that things can change like that, in an instant. Still, even though we didn’t necessarily get to be teammates, I’m definitely going to be watching him as a fan. In this league, I think we are all rooting for each other in some way or another—just to try to stay healthy, to try to be the best we can be."

Hayward may be genuine about rooting for Thomas -- except perhaps when he faces off against the Cavaliers in the season-opener on Oct. 17 at Quicken Loans Arena. Thomas is uncertain to play due to a hip injury. But the two teams are expected to see each other in the Eastern Conference Finals again after the 2017-18 season. This preview will be an opportunity for Thomas and Irving to get their first shot at revenge against their previous team.

The trade wasn't all bad for Hayward, he explained. He was pleased at the prospect of playing with Irving. Hayward cited Irving's abilities in 1-on-1 situations and clutch moments. He appreciated Irving's scoring ability, because Hayward knows the point guard will open up space for Hayward to knock down open shots. Above all, Hayward seemed to value Irving's unique experience.

"And then getting a chance to play with LeBron James, and going to the Finals three straight years—those are experiences that are invaluable and that you really can’t teach," Hayward wrote. "Having that experience of playing in those big moments, dealing with the circus of the media, dealing with expectations, those are all things that I think he can help us with. Because most of us, myself especially, have never been through that."

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Breaking down the NBA offseason

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Breaking down the NBA offseason

1:26 - Kyle Draper, Mike Giardi and Steve Buckley react to Tom Brady’s comment on a Patriots Instagram post that said he’ll be showing up to camp early. Is Brady making up for lost time?

6:56 - Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Mike Giardi break down the NBA offseason moves that have happened so far and rank the best and the worst.

10:56 - The Red Sox picked up right where they left off, winning their first game back from the All-Star Break, 1-0, vs. the Tigers. Tom Giles, Michael Holley and Danielle Trotta break down the game and David Price’s performance.

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New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

Marcus Smart is right where he wants to be, a member of the Celtics.

But Smart, 24, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal on Thursday, readily admits that there was a time not that long ago when he wasn’t sure about his future in Boston when negotiations didn't go nearly as smooth as he would have liked.

“At one moment, I didn’t really know what to think,” Smart said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “My main focus has been on my mom and my family.”

His mother Camellia Smart was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

“When you go through adversity with something like this in your family, it puts things in perspective and everything else becomes kind of a blur to you,” Smart said.

One thing that is clear has been his Smart's impact on the Celtics.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been among the league’s top on-the-ball defenders for years, showcasing a level of defensive versatility that stands out.

Boston allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions when Smart was on the floor, which ranked among the league's leaders among guards who played 41 or more games.

And while he is often criticized for his shooting struggles (a career 36-percent shooter from the field, 29.3 percent from 3-point range), Smart still averaged a respectable 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season primarily as Boston’s first guard off the bench.

Despite a solid season, the free agent marketplace was not kind one to him.

One of the main reasons for that? Smart was a restricted free agent, which meant the Celtics would have the right to match any offer sheet he signed.

Smart was also hurt by the fact that there were fewer teams with the kind of financial flexibility to put forth an offer sheet that would make the Celtics strongly consider letting him walk.

But even before Smart hit free agency, Danny Ainge and the entire Celtics organization made it absolutely crystal clear that they wanted him back.

And as the free agency period dragged on, the Celtics - at least in their words - never hedged from that position.

In the end, those words were put into action. 

"Keeping Marcus in a Celtics uniform was a top priority, said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "His intensity is unmatched, and the level of toughness that he brings to the team throughout the course of the entire season is second to none."

Smart acknowledged that the process became a bit frustrating at times.

“I didn’t know where I was going to end up at,” Smart said.

And while that uncertainty was difficult to deal with, Smart actually looks back upon the experience and describes it as “a fun thing.”

“As frustrating as it is,” Smart added, “not many people in the world can say that they’re in talks to play for an NBA team, to make a dream become a reality. Being able to do things they never imagined they would be able to do. This whole time, even with everything going on, me not knowing where I could end up, it was still fun, exciting for me.”

And those fun, exciting times will continue for the longest-tenured member of the Celtics.

“Boston loves me, I love Boston. Boston wants me to be here, I want to be here,” Smart said. “I am here so, we made it work.”

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