Celtics deal Avery Bradley to Detroit to make room for Gordon Hayward contract

July 8, 2017 GMT

As often as Danny Ainge makes deals, there are times when he trades away someone with true regret.

Such was the case yesterday when the Celtics president, in the name of clearing salary-cap space to fit in Gordon Hayward’s max contract, traded Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round pick to Detroit for forward Marcus Morris.

“It’s no secret that Avery had been one of my favorite players, and on behalf of our entire organization, I’d like to thank him and Ashley for all of their contributions on and off the court,” Ainge said of Bradley and his wife.

“Avery did a lot of the dirty work and often didn’t get the recognition that he deserved, but our coaches, staff, his teammates and our fans who watched him play every night appreciated what a special player and person he is.”

Bradley was the longest-tenured Celtic on last year’s roster, one of the most highly regarded defenders in the NBA and the only player who pre-dated Brad Stevens.

Morris, the twin brother of Washington’s Markieff Morris, will make $5 million next season, saving the Celtics roughly $4 million — just enough to fit Hayward and his four-year, $128 million contract under the cap. Morris has two years remaining on his contract.

Lavelt Page, Bradley’s longtime friend and director of his summer camps, had just spent time with the former Celtic in Austin, Texas, before Bradley boarded a flight for Seattle yesterday morning. He was in the air at roughly the same time Ainge and the Pistons agreed to the deal.

“It’s not really surprising,” said Page. “All good things must come to an end. You knew when Danny (Ainge) signed the Big Three that there would be a time when others had to go. Of course Avery knew this could happen. At the end of the day everything has to make sense cap-wise. You got Gordon Hayward, you have to pay him.

“But I’ll say this: Avery has been loyal to Boston since he’s been there. You pray for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Bradley, asked while holding a camp at Brandeis University last month, acknowledged the possibility of being dealt when he said, “That’s another thing that is out of my control. I don’t worry about it. If that was the case and I happened to get traded, the Celtics will do whatever is best for them, and I’ll have to do whatever is best for me if I’m put in a different situation. Our job is to play basketball, not worry about trades.

“It’s part of the business, man,” he said. “Accept it and understand your name will be thrown into trade talk. You could get traded at any time. Focus on being the best player that you can be. If you get traded, if you’re prepared to be in any situation, you should be fine.”

The Celtics hit an impasse with Utah in attempts, at Hayward’s request, to construct a sign-and-trade package with the Jazz. According to a league source, the Celtics became dissatisfied with what Utah was willing to give up for Jae Crowder, and turned their attention to potential deals across the league involving Bradley, Marcus Smart and Crowder.

As constructed now, the Celtics clearly have a logjam at the small forward position with Hayward, Crowder, Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum — though Crowder, if he stays, is a strong option at power forward in the Celtics’ small lineups.

The 6-foot-9 Morris will give them a bigger rebounding type, though he averaged just 4.6 per game playing next to Andre Drummond last season, and may help solve a major Celtics’ weakness that was once again exposed during the playoffs.

Bradley is a two-time All-NBA defender who was named to the first all-defensive team for the first time following the 2016-17 season.

He only played 55 games this year due to injuries — the main reason he didn’t receive all-NBA honors for a second straight year — and players from across the league lamented that Bradley wasn’t voted onto the list.

Ainge added that he’s not necessarily finished dealing.

Though the issue of fitting Hayward’s salary under the cap is now resolved, the team could still be in the market for a big man, with the mid-level exception its chief lure.