Gordon Hayward hasn’t regained the All-Star form he had in Utah, but he’s urging Celtics fans to be patient as he works his way back from an injury that cost him all of last season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
Hayward is averaging 10.6 PPG through 31 games, roughly half of where his scoring average was in his final year with the Jazz. The Celtics were expecting the All-Star numbers he put up in Utah, but a horrific ankle injury on the first night of the 2017/18 season put him out for the entire year.
“With each game, I get more comfortable playing with the guys,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, you gotta be able to have that experience with them on the court, to kind of know who you’re with, know who you’re playing with, just to know what everybody likes to do, try to maximize their strengths. Sometimes that’s running the break, sometimes we have a lot of ball handlers, so that’s just getting out on the wing and getting something easy at the rim.”
The Celtics have undergone major changes since Hayward signed with them in July of 2017. They traded for Kyrie Irving a few weeks later, then Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerged as important contributors while Hayward was injured.
Boston’s depth has resulted in Hayward accepting a bench role after starting the season’s first 15 games. Instead of being an integral part of the offense, he has become a complementary player who puts up occasional scoring bursts, as he did Saturday in a comeback win at Memphis.
Hayward has improved from month to month, averaging 11.4 PPG in December while shooting 38.1% from 3-point range. He may become even more important to the team by playoff time, but much will depend on how his body responds to the rigors of his first season since the injury.
“It definitely required a lot of patience, even still,” he said. “I’m still finding my rhythm. Like I was saying, with knowing who I’m out there on the court with, what I’m going to be asked to do, and what the team needs me to do. Patience is a good word for that.”