Boston — 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 with the Celtics.
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 deal worth about $128 million. “It brought back memories of when I was being recruited in high school by Coach Brad. This time it’s at the next level.”
Ten days after announcing 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. At Butler, Stevens and Hayward went to back-to-back NCAA championship games.
“It’s really unbelievable to be sitting with a guy in your office when he’s 16 or 17 years old, and to again be sitting with him when he’s 27,” Stevens said.
Hayward will wear the same No. 20 he wore at Butler and Utah. It was last worn in Boston by Ray Allen during the New Big Three era that helped the franchise win its 17th NBA title.
“The last seven years playing for the Jazz was something that I’ll never forget. I want to thank them for everything they gave me,” Hayward said. “There was just something different about Boston, different about being a Celtic, a different feeling about being a Boston Celtics, that won me over.”
Paul hits Houston
Chris Paul didn’t talk about his legacy, and never uttered the word “championship” when he was officially introduced as the newest member of the Rockets.
Still, Paul’s motivation for opting into the last year of his contract so the Los Angeles Clippers could orchestrate his trade to Houston was clear. He and the Rockets believe that adding him to a team headlined by James Harden gives both parties a much better shot to chase a title.
“It’s not just about me coming here to help him,” Paul said. “He’s going to help me.
“We’re going to help each other, and we’re going to help this team hopefully get to where we want to be at.”
The Rockets haven’t won a championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Pacers get Joseph
The Pacers acquired guard Cory Joseph from the Raptors for the draft rights of forward Emir Preldzic.
Joseph, who is 6-foot-3, averaged 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season.
Preldzic has spent the last two seasons in the Turkish League.