Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Stein reported that there is “a growing belief” that the 30-year-old will decline his player option for the upcoming season, which is worth $34 million.
Hayward, who sprained his right ankle at the start of the NBA playoffs but returned halfway through the team’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat, averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists through 51 games for the Celtics. He made his way to the Celtics on a four-year max deal in 2017 after beginning his career with the Utah Jazz.
Ian Begley of SNY corroborated Stein’s report, but noted that signing Hayward is “seen as less likely” since the Knicks used all of their draft picks on Wednesday night. The Knicks’ selections were highlighted by Dayton’s Obi Toppin, who they took at No. 8 before shipping the 23rd pick, Leandro Bolmaro, to Minnesota and adding Immanuel Quickley (No. 25) in a three-way trade.
Earlier Thursday, the Knicks cleared $40 million in salary-cap space by moving on from six players. The team waived Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington and Kenny Wooten and declined options for Bobby Portis and Theo Pinson, according to ESPN. Their full wallet could make them an attractive landing spot for Hayward in free agency.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that the Atlanta Hawks are also interested in the 6’7″ star, who had an original deadline of Tuesday to make his decision before both sides agreed to extend it to Thursday.