Thunder: 2 Key takeaways from Gordon Hayward's spicy exit interview

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Gordon Hayward experiment was a disaster. At the time when Sam Presti and the OKC Thunder front office made the move to acquire the veteran on trade deadline day, it felt like the right decision.

After all, dealing away three players (Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, and Vasilije Micic) who played sparingly for a former All-Star on paper is widely considered to be a no-brainer. 

Basketball-wise, the Thunder did not miss any member of the trio who was involved in the deal, though Mann was mentioned multiple times during exit interviews so he was at least missed in the locker room.

Overall, it was still the right move, especially financially because it gives the Thunder more flexibility this offseason.

Where did it go wrong between Gordon Hayward and Thunder?

Hayward has been a starter for virtually his entire 13-year NBA career, including all 25 games he played for the Charlotte Hornets this past season. In many players' careers, there comes a point when it is time to transition to the bench.

That is where Hayward is at, especially for a contending team.

It appeared something was wrong with Hayward once he began playing after the All-Star break -- many assumed it was related to his calf strain that had held him out since December. However, during his exit interview on Sunday afternoon, Hayward revealed his calf felt fine.

If it was not an injury causing Hayward's poor play, it must have been something else. Hayward alluded to what that was during his final meeting with the media and hit on two other key talking points as well on the day.

No. 1) Hayward was unhappy with his role in OKC

During his tenure in Oklahoma City, Hayward played 17.2 minutes per game during the regular season. Did his minutes decrease from the amount he was seeing in Charlotte? Yes, but being in the 17-minute-per-game range still should provide a player with ample opportunity to make an impact on the hardwood.

However, it's clear that Hayward feels differently.

This was possibly some of the strongest comments fans will ever hear during a Thunder exit interview. Hayward handled this exchange with the media the opposite of the "Thunder Way" and it was a bad look.

Conversely, Josh Giddey, who is only 21 years of age, handled his exit interview with grace and a level of maturity beyond his years. 

It was unclear whether the Thunder would look to bring Hayward, who is a free agent this summer, back beyond 2023-24 heading into his exit interview. After this exchange, however, it feels clear the two sides will be going their separate ways this summer.

No. 2) Hayward Believes he wasn't given an opportunity in OKC

Surprisingly, rather than moving on, Hayward doubled down on his frustration and offered this intriguing quote:

Reading between the lines, because Hayward stated "it was not what he thought it would be," it sounds like he thought he would eventually move into the starting lineup as he grew more familiar with the Thunder's scheme. 

This was never going to happen in the regular season because Oklahoma City's first five unit was one of the most effective lineups in the entire league.

Perhaps if Hayward had played better during the minutes he was given, coach Mark Daigneault would have inserted him into the starting lineup in the postseason, especially since he eventually changed the starting lineup in the second round versus the Dallas Mavericks.

All in all, it is time to close the door on the Gordon Hayward chapter and look to the future because it seems to be very bright for this young Thunder core.