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Pat Riley, Miami Heat host priority free agent target Gordon Hayward

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The Heat are throwing out all of the stops to land the coveted free agent.

@mfr234

The 2017 NBA free agency period began at midnight, and the Miami Heat are not wasting time.

Pat Riley, along with five Miami Heat players, hosted priority free agent target Gordon Hayward at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Saturday. Hayward arrived in Miami Friday evening with his family. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem, and even James Johnson were among those in attendance.

Hayward was greeted by five Heat players - Hassan Whiteside, Udonis Haslem, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and free agent James Johnson. He also met with president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning and several other coaches and executives.

Besides telling Hayward all of the obvious positives of playing here - weather, lack of state income tax, the Heat culture and championship pedigree - coaches also explained to Hayward how the offense would play to his strengths. The meeting lasted several hours.

The Heat are pulling out all of the stops to land Hayward. Hayward made his first All-Star appearance this past February and Miami believes he will see many more while playing in South Beach. Pictures of a banner featuring Hayward in a Miami Heat uniform quickly blew up on social media:

That can’t hurt.

Riley isn’t the only one recruiting the All-Star forward, though...

It was none other than Whiteside who made sure to put his thoughts on his Snapchat. Referencing Hayward, who will visit Boston on Sunday, Whiteside says:

“you can walk in the cold, or you can ride with the heat”.

In another clip, Whiteside — referring to Hayward’s wife preferring warm weather — said:

“I don’t know about y’all, but if I’m a free agent there ain’t nothing like bringing the kids to the beach after practice.

Hassan Whiteside is all in on adding an All-Star caliber player to the team’s core. A “big-three” of Goran Dragic, Hayward, and Whiteside would be among the best trios in the Eastern Conference.

Sure, the weather in Miami is beautiful, but Riley and the Heat organization sell the Heat culture when recruiting free agents more than anything else. The Heat believe they have built one of — if not the — best team and organizational cultures in all of the NBA. Everyone from the players to the coaching staff to the executives buy in to the Miami Heat way.

James Johnson has experienced that first hand. Johnson, who is coming off of his best season in his career, has entered unrestricted free agency. However, Johnson was in attendance for Hayward’s meeting on Saturday. It’s worth noting that the two forwards share the same agent. As Barry Jackson reported, Johnson has made it clear that he is fully willing to take less to re-sign with Miami if it means Hayward will join him in South Beach.

“I'm a patient guy,” Johnson told me at DJ Irie’s annual golf tournament to benefit the Irie Foundation. “They can take as long as they want. My mindset is winning. I think Hayward can help us win and I'm all for it. They brought me here for a reason and I know they're going after Hayward for a reason and I think his statistics and his numbers that he [produces], he fits in the best here.

“The [Heat] haven't said too much, but all I know is that if he comes here, he'll be great for us.”

That speaks volumes to what Johnson thinks of the Heat culture.

Hayward will meet with the Boston Celtics on Sunday and will return to Salt Lake City and meet with the Jazz on Monday. A decision is expected shortly after the following two meetings are concluded.

Trust the Godfather.

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Will Gordon Hayward be playing home games in South Beach next season?

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  • 81%
    Yes
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  • 10%
    No, Boston
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  • 7%
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