Hayward signs max deal with NBA s Celtics
Hayward signs max deal with NBA's Celtics

Brad Stevens was just a week or so into his new job as Butler head coach when Gordon Hayward was his first recruit to visit.

A decade later, they've been reunited in Boston.

There was an "immediate familiarity" when the Celtics pitched Hayward on the team, he said in a conference call with reporters Friday after signing his four-year $US128 million ($A163.5 million) deal.

"It brought back memories of when I was being recruited in high school by coach Brad. This time it's at the next level," Hayward said

Ten days after announcing that he had accepted the Celtics' offer and agreed to leave Utah, Hayward officially joined a team that earned the No.1 seed in the east last season and reached the conference finals.

One of the most coveted free agents of the offseason, the Celtics lured Hayward from the Jazz with a max contract and the chance to rejoin his college coach.

The Celtics needed to clear salary cap space to make room for Hayward, which they accomplished by trading guard Avery Bradley to Detroit and then waiving forward Jordan Mickey early Friday.

"It's been a long 10 days, hasn't it?" Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge said.

Stevens said his pitch to Hayward, an All Star last season for the Jazz who averaged 21.9 points, was more about the future than the past.

"I tried to keep it much more focused on the now than our relationship 10 years ago."

It's the second straight summer the Celtics have landed a big free agent.

Last year, they brought in Al Horford (and made a pitch to Kevin Durant, as well). That helped them reach the Eastern Conference finals, where they were eliminated by Cleveland in five games.

The Celtics also had the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which they traded for the third pick -- Duke forward Jayson Tatum -- and another first-rounder, likely next year.

"I feel like our team is in a better position than last year," Ainge said.

AAP

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