Hayward heads to Hornets; VanVleet staying with Raptors

AP – Gordon Hayward (pic below) is heading to a new home.

Fred VanVleet, meanwhile, bet on himself. It paid off.

The Charlotte Hornets have wanted Hayward for years. On Saturday, they finally landed him, according to Priority Sports, the agency that represents the veteran forward. A person with knowledge of the terms, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been signed, told The Associated Press (AP) that Hayward will sign a four-year contract worth USD120 million. ESPN first reported the agreement between Hayward and the Hornets.

VanVleet agreed on Saturday to a four-year, USD85-million contract to remain with the Toronto Raptors, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions told AP on condition of anonymity because the contract remains unsigned. The fourth year of the contract is at VanVleet’s option.

VanVleet, the undrafted guard from Wichita State, has played a huge role in the Raptors’ recent successes, most importantly their run to the 2019 NBA championship. He has set career bests in scoring by wide margins in each of the last three seasons, that number rising to 17.6 points per game this past season.

Keeping VanVleet was of major importance to the Raptors, who have won at least 50 games in each of the last five seasons — by far the longest current streak in the NBA. Milwaukee has a two-year such streak, and the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers reached the 50-win mark last season.

It also fulfilled a VanVleet prophecy: He famously went undrafted four years ago, then passed on some low-money deals that he figured wouldn’t pan into much.

“I turned those down. I bet on myself,” VanVleet told friends and family on what would have been his draft night, a festive occasion that turned disappointing when the call from the NBA never came.

On Saturday, he tweeted his reaction: a retweet of himself saying “Bet on yourself” in 2016, with three moneybag emojis now attached.

The Raptors brought him in on a summer-league deal, then a minimum deal, then gave him a two-year contract for USD18 million two years later — and now gave him the full reward.

Kyle Lowry, the veteran point guard and longtime leader of the Raptors, has predicted that VanVleet will take over that role one day. The deal agreed to on Saturday only cements that sort of thinking.

“He’s going to be rewarded,” Lowry said after the Raptors were eliminated with a Game 7 loss to Boston in this past season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. “To me, that means the world that he can take care of his family and take care of his family at a high level.”

That’s no longer in doubt.

Free agency opened in the NBA on Friday evening and VanVleet was one of the top available names. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis remains unsigned though is expected to remain with the defending champions, and Hayward’s future was another of the top questions remaining in the league as Day two of free agency began on Saturday.

It was not a question for long.

Hayward turned down a USD34 million option for this season with Boston, and the Celtics were in talks with other teams — including Indiana, which was believed to be a preference of Hayward’s — on potential sign-and-trade deals.

Instead, it appears the Celtics are seeing Hayward walk away as a free agent.

Hayward agreed to a four-year offer sheet worth about USD63 million with the Hornets in 2014, a deal that was matched by the Utah Jazz — Hayward’s original team. Hayward left the Jazz for Boston in 2017, saw his first season with the Celtics end on opening night of the 2017-18 season when he suffered a horrible lower leg injury, then averaged 14.0 points per game over the following  two seasons.

VanVleet’s deal was the second major development for the Raptors in two days. On Friday, the team announced that it would begin this season by calling Tampa, Florida, home because of travel issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.