Erik Spoelstra reflects on free-agent pitch to Gordon Hayward: ‘We absolutely respected his choice’

The Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward watches a foul shot put up by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

MIAMI — With the Celtics in Miami for Saturday’s game against the Heat, Gordon Hayward was supposed to be at AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since his free-agent meeting with the organization.

But Hayward is likely out for the season after suffering a gruesome leg injury in Boston’s season-opening loss to Cleveland. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took some time Saturday to reflect on the organization’s free-agent summer pitch to Hayward.

“We loved the meeting with Gordon,” Spoelstra said Saturday in advance of the Heat’s game against the Celtics. “There was a reason we recruited him. We thought it went well. You just never know how those things are going to play out.”

The Heat were the first of three teams to meet with Hayward and his wife this summer. But the All-Star forward ended up picking Boston over Miami and Utah.

The July 1 meeting at AmericanAirlines Arena included Spoelstra, president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg, CEO Nick Arison and Heat executive Alonzo Mourning. Players also spoke to Hayward, including Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem and James Johnson.

“We absolutely respected his choice to be a free agent and make what he felt was the best choice for him and his family,” Spoelstra said. “We told him right from the get-go, you can’t go wrong. That’s one of those decisions in your career that very few players have. Any one of those choices were great choices, great organizations, that each organization respects structure and the commitment to winning. And that’s where you want to be as a free agent, where you can’t really make a mistake. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to be tough to make that decision.”

Since the free-agent meeting, Spoelstra said he recently texted Hayward to check up on him after his injury.

“To see him not be able to compete this year, we felt like we got to know him enough that you really feel for him and his family, so early into the season,” Spoelstra said. “We all wished him a quick recovery.”

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