ORLANDO — Banners, Snapchat videos and emojis have all already been used in the recruitment of Jazz free-agent forward Gordon Hayward. And that was just on the first day of free agency.
After meeting with Heat officials, coaches and players in Miami on Saturday, Hayward spent the second day of free agency hearing the Celtics’ free-agent pitch in Boston. Following his session with the Celtics, Hayward will meet with the Jazz on Monday before making his decision between Miami, Boston and Utah.
But Hayward’s meeting with the Jazz won’t happen in Utah. According to the Deseret News, Hayward’s session with Jazz coach Quin Snyder, general manager Dennis Lindsey and president Steve Starks will take place in San Diego on Monday. Meanwhile, Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra are nearby as they flew to Los Angeles on Saturday to meet with free-agent guard Dion Waiters, sources confirmed to the Palm Beach Post.
On Sunday, Hayward’s focus was on Boston, though.
As you would expect, his tour of Boston included some elaborate personalized touches. After the Heat strategically posted a banner outside AmericanAirlines Arena showing Hayward in a Heat uniform on Saturday, the Celtics used the Fenway Park scoreboard to post a message of, “Welcome to Boston, Gordon & Robyn.”
But the Celtics had more than just that planned for their day with Hayward. Boston coach Brad Stevens, who was Hayward’s college coach at Butler, was expected to play a big role in the Celtics’ pitch to the All-Star.
“The Celtics will lean on technology, including iPads loaded with game film that will show Hayward how he fits into the team’s style of play,” ESPN’s Chris Forsberg wrote about Boston’s meeting with Hayward. “Stevens often engages in film sessions with potential draftees as they visit, and he will try to show Hayward how he can maximize the All-Star’s skill set in Boston.”
On Saturday night, players from the Jazz, Celtics and Heat each had pitches of their own for Hayward and they were delivered through social media. After Heat center Hassan Whiteside used Snapchat to make a free-agent pitch highlighting the benefits of living in Miami, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas and Whiteside got into an emoji fight over Twitter.
Gobert began the fun with an emoji that showed the Heat as garbage, the Celtics as poop, and the Jazz as a championship contender.
Thomas then responded with his own emoji-filled tweet, emphasizing the fact that the Celtics have 17 championships compered to three championships for the Heat and none for the Jazz.
Whiteside had the final word, pointing out that since 2000 the Heat have won three championships compared to one for the Celtics and none for the Jazz.
As the fight over Hayward continues, the Heat can’t just wait around. Riley and Spoelstra are now making sure they give one of their own free agents some attention, as they flew to Los Angeles on Saturday to meet with Waiters.
Waiters, who had the best year of his career in his one season in Miami, has spoken to the Bulls, Knicks and Kings since free agency started, according to the Associated Press.
With $35 million in cap space, it would be difficult for the Heat to fit free-agent forward James Johnson and Waiters under the cap if Hayward picks Miami. The Heat would probably have to decide between Johnson and Waiters in this scenario considering that Hayward is expected to command a maximum contract starting with a 2017-18 salary of $29.7 million.
If Hayward does not join the Heat, re-signing both Johnson and Waiters is believed to be Miami’s top priority.
Other top free-agent options the Heat could have turned to if Hayward ends up choosing Boston or Utah are now off the market. Blake Griffin has agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a five-year, $173 million deal and Serge Ibaka is going back to the Raptors on a three-year, $65 million deal.
For now, all the Heat can really do is wait on Hayward’s decision.