The NBA is the big winner as we spend the Fourth of July worried about Gordon Hayward – USA TODAY
Gordon Hayward is a very good basketball player. He’s taken a steady path up the ranks and made his first NBA All-Star Game this year, at age 26. He probably ranks between 15th and 25th on a list of the best players in the NBA, and at his age, that makes him the type of player any team would be lucky to add in free agency.
But … he’s not 2016 Kevin Durant. He’s definitely not 2014 LeBron James. He’s not even as decorated and proven as LaMarcus Aldridge was in 2015.
By virtue of Blake Griffin’s quick decision, Chris Paul’s trade and no drama with the Golden State Warriors, we the people of the NBA world have ended up with Gordon Hayward as The One True Free Agent. The bizarre twists of NBA free agency always seem to coil around a single player’s decision, specifically an All-Star with options who seems legitimately likely to leave his last team. Hayward is that guy this year, whether he likes it or not.
This saga — the premature celebrations in Boston, the on-the-record statements from agent Mark Bartelstein and Utah Jazz president Steve Starks, the confounded breaking news reporters everywhere — has provided the NBA with some great theater. (USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick has reported Hayward plans to sign with the Celtics.) Major League Baseball is a week from its All-Star Game and the only of the big four sports leagues currently playing games, yet check the trending topics on Twitter:
Basketball, hot dogs and America.
No, that’s not a perfect snapshot, but it’s telling. The NBA’s social media reach has always exceeded MLB’s — even as MLB Advanced Media has done a great job staying ahead of the technology curve — and that comes out brightest during times like free agency. There’s nothing of note going on, but we can’t stop talking about it.
The beauty of Hayward’s role in all this is that you can bet half of those Boston Celtics and Miami Heat fans didn’t even realize the guy had become this good a year ago. Hayward’s ascension came with little fanfare until it became clear that he would be a big-time mover on the free agency market, one previously expected to be dominated by the Clippers’ Griffin and Paul.
This is the way the NBA wants things to go. The compressed schedule of having the NBA Finals, NBA Draft, NBA summer leagues and NBA free agency all occurring within a month’s span keeps the buzz high for the sport before a couple months of relative chill. NBA TV and ESPN have built programming and even timed hires for this exact purpose.
So here we are, refreshing for updates about the future of the sixth-best small forward in the NBA. Debating the merits of a small forward logjam while grabbing that second slice of pie. Wiping mustard off our fingertips as we await push alerts from our most trusted NBA reporters.
Waiting for fireworks.