NBA: Gordon Hayward declines option, opts for free agency

Gordon Hayward is officially a free agent.

The Utah Jazz forward declined the player-option final year on his contract as expected and will test the market as an unrestricted free agent, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

Hayward, a seven-year veteran, is one of the marquee names available this offseason and will likely command a max deal. The person spoke to the Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been formally announced.

The Jazz have made it clear that re-signing Hayward is the No. 1 priority for the offseason. The Boston Celtics are widely considered his top pursuer with Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens at the helm.


The Miami Heat are also in the mix.

“Every fiber of our collective being and soul of the Utah Jazz want him back,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.

Hayward just concluded the most productive season of his career. It included his first All-Star selection, career highs in points and rebounds per game and leading the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game.

Durant opts out, but plans to stay put

Kevin Durant declined to opt in for the second year of his contract with Golden State and will become an unrestricted free agent, an expected move for the NBA Finals MVP, who said he plans to do his part to keep the core of the champion Warriors intact.

A person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed Durant’s intentions, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

When the season ended, Durant made it clear he plans to stay with the Warriors. The 28-year-old Durant was due to earn more than $27.7 million for 2017-18 yet said he would go this route to provide the franchise with financial flexibility so Golden State general manager Bob Myers might be able to keep other key members of the group — such as key reserve and 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala — for what the team hopes is another run at a title next year.