Hayward became a free agent Thursday after declining his $34.2 million player option with the Boston Celtics for next season.
Hayward had a tumultuous three years in Boston after signing a four-year, $127.8 million contract in 2017.
He suffered a gruesome foot and ankle injury six minutes into his regular-season debut with the Celtics, causing him to miss the rest of the season. He struggled at times in 2018-19, his first full season back, before taking a significant step forward this past season, when he averaged 17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 52 games.
Hayward also was plagued by other assorted injuries with the Celtics, breaking a bone in his hand in November and dealing with nerve pain in his foot in December before suffering a Grade 3 sprain of his right ankle in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort.
He returned in the middle of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, but struggled as Boston eventually lost in six games in its third trip to the conference finals in the past four seasons.
All told, he missed 142 games (playoffs included) after missing just 42 in his first seven seasons with the Jazz.
When Hayward, 30, has played, he has produced, averaging 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with the Celtics. Last season, he became the first Celtics player to average at least 15 points on 50% shooting since Kevin Garnett in 2011-12.
Hayward signed an offer sheet with Charlotte in 2014 as a restricted free agent, but the Utah Jazz matched the offer and kept him.
The Celtics have lost two max contract players to free agency in the past two years — Kyrie Irving and Hayward.
To make room for Hayward’s contract, the Hornets will waive Nic Batum‘s $27.1 million expiring contract, according to The Charlotte Observer. The move will spread out Batum’s cap hit over the next three seasons.
Batum averaged 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists over 22 games last season. After he signed a five-year, $120 million contract in July 2016, Batum’s scoring and assist averages have dropped each season since 2016-17.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.