Gordon Hayward isn’t coming back to Butler

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Gordon Hayward has left Hinkle Fieldhouse.

And if he’s as smart as that Butler University education is supposed to make him, he isn’t coming back.

The Baby-Faced Assassin has departed for the National Basketball Association, and Butler faithful, if they really have Hayward’s best (financial) interests at heart, will support the move.

This is why.

Hayward’s earning power right now is as much about the CBA as it is about the NBA. And no, I’m not talking about the Continental Basketball Association.

I’m talking about the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA players union and 30 team owners. It expires at the end of next season.

The NBA is in a world of hurt right now that extends far beyond the Indiana Pacers. NBA Commissioner David Stern said during All-Star Weekend in Dallas that the league stands to lose $400 million this season, and has lost at least $200 million each of the last four seasons. He said as many as nine teams are in serious financial trouble.

So Stern is ready to drop the hammer on players’ salaries. He is calling for reducing the players’ take from 57 percent to 43 percent of the league’s total revenue.

Naturally, I expect NBA Players Union boss Billy Hunter to fight this. But even Hunter knows salaries must come down for teams to survive.

A smart kid like Hayward, and more importantly his NBA-savvy advisers, understand what this means for the sophomore from Brownsburg. And yes, Hayward has had advisers scouting his prospects in the NBA for quite some time.

If Stern gets even part of what he wants, it could dramatically affect the rookie pay scale. Even a 20 percent reduction in salaries (depending on where he is drafted) could cost Hayward $1.5 million to $3 million over four years. Though the Haywards are a long way from dirt poor, that’s still a lot of money to leave on the table.

Because first-round selections are locked into two-year deals with team options for two more years, Hayward is looking at a four-year pay day of between $8.3 million and $4.6 million (if we can believe early draft projections).

And because Hunter is likely to go down swinging, I expect all current salaries to be grandfathered in to the deal, with rookies and free agents (after the new CBA is enacted) taking the biggest hit. That’s why it’s important to get a deal done before the CBA expires at the end of the 2010-11 season.

There’s one far worse scenario for Hayward. He stays at Butler, has a wonderful junior season, is ready to come out in the draft next spring, and that draft is cancelled because NBA owners lock out players. Talk about being all dressed up with no place to go.

There’s some likelihood that current NBA players would have some of their salary restored after the lockout, but it’s not likely that NBA rookies would be afforded that same consideration.

One last note. I believe the Pacers would seriously consider taking Hayward in the first round if he’s still available. They need a PR boost in the worst way, especially after Jim Morris’ most recent public comments.

Most think I’m a bit crazy on that point, and maybe I am. But I think Hayward’s advisers have gotten wind of the same thing, and realize that could push his draft status up five to 10 notches. And that’s a few more bucks in his pocket.

Guys like Hayward don’t rely on Web sites and ad-hoc draft boards (and certainly not on hacks like me) to make such an important financial decision of whether or not to go pro.

He’ll have high-level intelligence after his pre-draft workouts.

So far, that intelligence is telling him to walk to the edge and take a look at the professional landscape.

By the May 8 deadline for early entrants to make their final decisions, that intelligence will tell Hayward to jump.

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