From the possibility of a Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade to the return of Tacko Fall, here are some thoughts on the Celtics and the NBA’s looming resumption.
▪ A week has passed since the Hornets agreed to sign Hayward to a four-year, $120 million deal, but as of Thursday afternoon, the transaction had not been made official. No, Hayward is not getting cold feet. There is still some behind-the-scenes maneuvering as the Celtics and Hornets explore sign-and-trade possibilities.
The Celtics are in danger of losing Hayward for nothing, just as they lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. So a sign-and-trade would at least allow them to recoup something.
The Hornets, meanwhile, would have to waive and stretch veteran forward Nic Batum in order to sign Hayward outright, putting a $9 million dead-cap hit to their salary cap over each of the next three seasons as they stretch Batum’s $27 million deal.
If the sides figure out a sign-and-trade, Charlotte hypothetically could absorb Hayward’s salary without needing to immediately waive Batum. Or, if the Hornets wish to part ways with Batum anyway, the sign-and-trade would still make sense because they would likely receive draft capital from the Celtics for their troubles.
The Celtics probably would dip into their collection of second-round picks (they own eight over the next five years) to coax Charlotte. In return, they’d be in position to receive a massive trade exception of nearly $30 million.
The Celtics would have one year to use the trade exception, which would allow them to take in that amount of salary in a deal without sending out matching salary in return. That would be especially useful on this roster, which has no aging veterans with expiring contracts to dangle.
It’s also possible that a third team could emerge that is willing to absorb Batum’s deal in exchange for extra draft capital. Expect a resolution within a few days.
▪ Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters are both returning to the Celtics on two-way contracts. Fall remains a work in progress, but Waters, the reigning G League Rookie of the Year, has shown that he is capable of joining an NBA roster now.
But spots were gobbled up quickly, and two-way deals are a considerably more attractive option this season. Instead of being limited to 45 days with their NBA team, two-way players can be active for up to 50 of 72 regular-season games.
Also, instead of being paid pro-rated salaries based on how often they are called up, they will receive flat $449,155 deals. Last season, players could earn a maximum of $380,000 if they were called up for all 45 days.
Regardless, this is a win for the Celtics, as Waters could serve as a valuable plug-and-play option if there are injuries or COVID-19-related absences. Of course, he will enter training camp focused on winning a roster spot regardless.
There is no clarity yet about what the G League season will look like, or if there will even be one. Red Claws coach Darren Erman this week decided to join Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks staff as an assistant. One league source said that the uncertainty surrounding the G League’s resumption played a large role in Erman’s decision.
▪ One longtime league executive said the past week was the most hectic of his career. In addition to the draft and free agency crammed together in an abbreviated offseason, there are so many other less-publicized tasks that teams are trying to sort through, from COVID-19 protocols to fans possibly attending games to scheduling. It’s wild to think that regular-season games are scheduled to tip off in less than a month.
▪ Last week I spoke to Jayson Tatum’s mother, Brandy Cole, about his massive five-year, $195 million contract extension. Cole mentioned how Tatum has thought about spending his entire career with the Celtics and seeing his number in the rafters someday.
I know it’s never smart to pay attention to social media reaction, but it was still odd to see a good number of frustrated comparisons to Kyrie Irving, who infamously made similar proclamations before ultimately departing a year later.
There’s one massive difference, though: Tatum actually signed his extension, which does not even begin until next year. He’s now under contract until the 2025-26 season. The commitment has been made.
▪ There was no announcement or press conference related to it, but a Celtics community relations staffer confirmed that Jaylen Brown purchased and delivered Thanksgiving dinners to families in need in the Boston area this week. He continues to lead in different ways.