It seemed like the logical conclusion: After declining his $34.2 million player option with the Celtics, Gordon Hayward headed to Indiana via a sign-and-trade with the Pacers, returning to his hometown team while Boston recouped some value from his departure.
Then the Charlotte Hornets came out of left field Saturday to land Hayward on a four-year, $120 million contract, leaving the Celtics and Pacers empty-handed (for now).
So, why isn't Hayward a Pacer right now?
For starters, it sounds like Boston and Indiana couldn't agree on trade terms. The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reported the Celtics wanted Myles Turner and either Victor Oladipo or T.J. Warren from the Pacers, while Indy was only offering Turner and Doug McDermott.
According to NBC Sports Bay Area's James Ham, the clubs never closed that gap, which caused trade talks to fizzle.
"The Indiana Pacers struck out on a Gordon Hayward trade with the Boston Celtics when a source confirmed that Boston’s trade demands became too excessive," Ham wrote Saturday. "Indy was willing to part with center Myles Turner in the transaction, but when the Celtics asked for more, the Pacers passed."
The Pacers needed to complete a sign-and-trade to land Hayward, as they didn't have the cap space to sign him outright. You could argue that gave the Celtics leverage over Indy, but it appears Danny Ainge pushed that leverage a bit too far.
There was also another factor at play: Money.
As the Indianapolis Star's Nat Newell explained Saturday, a straight-up swap of Hayward and Turner would have allowed the Pacers to pay Hayward a maximum of $20 million per year. If Doug McDermott was involved, that number would bump up to $25 million per year.
Reports suggested Indy was wary (with good reason) of offering a four-year deal to a 30-year-old veteran with an injury history. So, the Pacers likely wouldn't have come close to Charlotte's massive offer of $30 million per year over four years.
Still, there were also reports that Hayward was willing to take a hometown discount to return to Indy, so it's possible the Hayward-for-Turner-McDermott deal could have worked if Boston chose to accept it.
The possibility of a sign-and-trade with Charlotte reportedly is still alive, so we'll reserve judgment until the dust settles.