SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward announced Tuesday evening that he would join the Celtics.
He had spent the previous three days visiting with his suitors — the Heat, Celtics, and Jazz — and all indications were that July 4 would bring some clarity. Instead, it turned into a frenzied day filled with conflicting reports, frustrated representatives, and team executives left waiting by their cellphones.
Just after 2 p.m., ESPN reported that Hayward had agreed to a deal with the Celtics, reuniting with his former college coach, Brad Stevens.
One league source said by phone moments later that Boston had been extremely confident that it would sign Hayward, but that it was unclear whether a deal had been finalized. Then another league source said that Hayward had indeed pledged to become a Celtic. This also was confirmed by numerous media outlets around the league.
Soon afterward, however, there was a sudden shift. Multiple reports and sources suggested that Hayward had yet to notify the teams involved in his courtship.
Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said in a telephone interview that he was in the process of meeting with Hayward and helping him finalize his choice when the news broke that an agreement had been reached. Bartelstein was agitated by the leak, and he said it was inaccurate.
“He hasn’t made a final decision yet,” Bartelstein said.
When asked if the final word would, in fact, be announced on Tuesday, Bartelstein said: “That was the goal, but now we’ve got to kind of regroup here a bit.”
At 3:02 p.m., Jazz president Steve Starks posted on Twitter: “We trust Gordon and his agent that no decision has been made. Good communication all day and a great relationship.”
League sources said that the Celtics remained in contact with Hayward’s representatives on Tuesday, too, adding that there was little clarity about the situation on Boston’s end as of Tuesday night.
When afternoon turned to evening, all sides mostly went silent, stirring rampant speculation about what the holdup might be.
Had Hayward chosen the Celtics and then had a change of heart? Was this just a formality because Hayward had yet to inform all parties involved, or even crafted his public announcement? He has been a contributor for The Players Tribune, a website that allows pro athletes to distribute their own messages. Kevin Durant announced on the site last season that he would be joining the Warriors. So many believed Hayward would use the same platform.
Whatever the reason, a day that looked like it had started with news that could transform the Celtics certainly became more cloudy. Around the league, it was widely believed that when the dust finally settled — whether late Tuesday night or on Wednesday — Hayward would still be committed to Boston. But the confusing manner in which the day unfolded bred some uncertainty.
Hayward is the prize free agent of this year’s class, and he is the last star player still available. So his decision is expected to ignite an avalanche of activity around the NBA.
If the Celtics are to acquire Hayward, for example, they likely will need to renounce their remaining free agents, rescind their qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, waive Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey — who have nonguaranteed contracts — and then make one more deal, such as trading Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier.
But none of this will happen until Hayward’s choice becomes more clear.
The belief was that his decision Tuesday would put an end to a four-day stretch that included visits with the Jazz, Celtics, and Heat that had left fans of all three teams on edge. The forward visited Miami on Saturday before arriving in Boston later that night. He was met at Logan Airport by Stevens, his former coach at Butler.
On Sunday, a Celtics delegation that included Al Horford, Isaiah Thomas, Stevens, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, among others, took Hayward to Fenway Park, where he viewed a video that touted what it is like to be a star athlete in Boston. Away from that pomp and circumstance, Stevens also showed Hayward clips of how Boston might utilize him. Stevens has done this with draft prospects and free agents before, but never with one who was so familiar with him.
Hayward flew to his summer home in San Diego on Saturday night and on Sunday he was met there by representatives from the only NBA team he has ever played for, the Jazz. Utah point guard Ricky Rubio, who was recently acquired from the Timberwolves, even flew in from Spain for the meeting.
The Celtics’ brass is here in Salt Lake City to evaluate Boston’s summer league team that is playing in a four-team league with the Jazz, 76ers, and Spurs. All four teams were off on Tuesday, but play will resume on Wednesday, when Boston faces San Antonio.
The Celtics will then play their final game on Thursday, when they face the Jazz. It seems safe to assume Hayward will have decided by then, and if he does indeed choose Boston, that could turn into an awkward night all around.