CANTON, Mass. (AP) — Gordon Hayward was looking forward to playing with Isaiah Thomas, one of the Celtics players who recruited him to Boston during his whirlwind free agency.
By the time Hayward steps on the parquet floor, though, there will be another All-Star point guard dishing out the ball.
Thomas is out, shipped to Cleveland in a package that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston and completed — for now, at least — a near-total makeover of the team that had the best record in the Eastern Conference last year.
But that doesn’t mean Hayward is disappointed that the team he is going to play with looks much different from the one he thought he had joined.
“You’re talking about two superstar players, two incredible offensively talented players,” Hayward said Monday at the Celtics media day.
“It would have been amazing to have the opportunity to play with I.T. I was looking forward to that; that was something that was enticing and exciting about the Boston Celtics. On the other hand, I get to play with another superstar.”
The Celtics already had had quite the summer after they signed Hayward to a four-year deal worth about $128 million and traded Avery Bradley to clear cap space for him. When Irving asked for a trade, general manager Danny Ainge pounced, shipping out Thomas — a fan favorite and the team’s biggest star — along with Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick.
Irving would not say whether he plans to talk to Cavaliers superstar LeBron James about his trade demand, telling reporters: “It’s not anybody else’s business.”
“It’s just really between two men,” he said. “If it happens or not, I’m pretty sure you guys won’t know about it.”
For now, he is worried about his new team.
“There’s just a lot of newness I have to get used to, which I’m excited about,” he said Monday. “It’s going to come in waves, man, these ups and downs we’re about to face as a team. … It will really echo in terms of our identity and how we’re going to respond.”
In all, just four players return from last year’s conference finalists: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Al Horford.
They’re all new to Irving, a four-time All-Star who averaged 21.6 points and 5.5 assists in his six-year career, all of it for the Cavaliers.
Ainge said it wasn’t his goal to shake up the conference finalists.
“Those guys were terrific players for us, and some of my favorite players that I’ve watched and been around during my time here. But we had a chance to get some players, too,” Ainge said. “It wasn’t because we were unhappy with our roster.”
Ainge would like to see how it all works out.
“We don’t plan on doing the same thing next summer,” he said. “I plan on getting down to about a 1 handicap next summer.”