Celtics fans have plenty of questions about why and how Gordon Hayward left Boston this offseason. Danny Ainge set about answering those questions Tuesday morning.
In his first interview since Hayward joined the Charlotte Hornets on a four-year, $120 million contract via a sign-and-trade with Boston, Ainge insisted the Celtics' "No. 1 goal" this offseason was to keep Hayward.
"We set out to try to get Gordon to come back," Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." "I just think that he preferred to go somewhere else and made his choice to go to Charlotte. I don't know what else to say about it.
"There was a lot of discussion, and I think there was hope we had all the way to the end that he would return. But I think he preferred to be a more featured player, and Charlotte was paying him a lot of money, and he chose to go there."
The Celtics discussed a sign-and-trade with the Indiana Pacers involving Hayward that reportedly fell through when the sides couldn't agree on an asking price.
Ainge admitted Boston had talks with a "handful of teams" but balked at the perception that he made a "gamble" by holding out for a higher asking price from Indiana that didn't pay off when Hayward signed with Charlotte.
"That's not even close to fair," Ainge said. "And I'm not defensive about that. I understand that perspective, because if you don't know what I know, then you really don't know at all what happened. I prefer not to talk about what trade proposals teams make."
The Celtics did acquire the NBA's largest traded player exception ever ($28.5 million) from the Hornets in their sign-and-trade. Ainge suggested they're in no rush to use it, however.
"We could use it to get three players or four players to strengthen our bench at different times," Ainge said. "We're not going to go do anything right now, just because it's that time of year where people love their teams. Everybody has gotten better in the offseason.
"We'll see how this season goes and see where we are. We’ll have the ability to improve our team at the trade deadline, and improve our team next offseason if not. It just gives us another vehicle to acquire players that we would not have had."