What a difference 1,234 days make.
Forty months before Thursday’s Gordon Hayward potential exit rolled around there was the original Twitter-Refresh-A-Thon. Where were you on July 4, 2017? Most Celtics followers can tell you. It was that morning and afternoon your day consisted of updating your social media account, desperately looking for an update involving what was going to be the most impactful free agent signing this team had ever seen.
He was coming. He wasn’t coming. Scratch that, he was coming after all.
Sound familiar? It was an exercise we all got to revisit at 5 p.m. Thursday. He was opting-in. He wasn’t opting-in. He is being traded. He isn’t being traded.
Well, here we are. The Hayward Era is over … we think.
It wasn’t supposed to be this exhausting. It was supposed to be the exact opposite.
If this is the end of Hayward’s time in Boston here is the end result:
This isn’t the blame game when it comes to Hayward. Injuries are injuries. Kyrie Irving was Kyrie Irving. Some of this were obstacles that nobody could have seen coming when that Players’ Tribune article was being framed.
But this is a results business and the results have left the Celtics with the same sort of discomfort they thought was firmly in the rear-view mirror once that Independence Day came and went. This was supposed to be not just a fun team but an elite team, led by two players — Hayward and Irving — who were perceived as elite in their own right.
That narrative of top free agents hesitant to make Boston their home has returned, as The Stadium's Jeff Goodman reminded us on the Greg Hill Show Thursday.
“Their big free agents were what?,” Goodman said. “Gordon Hayward, who’s the fourth option right now because of the injuries. Probably would have been a good second option if he hadn’t gotten hurt. And Al Horford. The problem is, these teams, and the Celtics being one of them, people have kind of a false illusion of what the Celtics can get in free agency.
“They’re not the Lakers. They’re not even Miami, in the sense that guys want to play down in Miami because of the weather, because of the taxes, all those things. The elite players don’t want to play in Boston. They just don’t. They’re going to team up and they’re going to go to LA, like Kawhi did. They’re going to go to the Lakers like LeBron did, or Miami like LeBron did years ago.”
Now you have what-might-have-been with Hayward and what-better-be with Jayson Tatum.
Instead of that feeling of invincibility that that July 4 of three year ago brought us, the Celtics are left with the feeling of just hanging on to an invitation to the Eastern Conference's cool kids' table.
This isn't the first time best laid plans haven't unfolded like a Boston sports team had hoped. Remember the Red Sox' "Best Team Ever" heading into 2011? Nope. Sometimes the starry-eyed images of an introductory press conference represent the best memories, which, unfortunately for the Celtics, was the reality with Hayward.
This wasn't as bad as Carl Crawford. But you get the point. Hayward's stay wasn't the party we were promised.