Gordon Hayward

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Baynes, Scott, Ibaka

Making a radio appearance today on Toucher & Rich in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered a pair of encouraging injury updates, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston details (via Twitter).

According to Ainge, Gordon Hayward is expected to suit up for the Celtics this weekend, either against Charlotte on Saturday or vs. San Antonio on Sunday. Hayward has missed the club’s last two games – both losses – due to a concussion.

Meanwhile, Aron Baynesankle injury may not be as serious as initially feared. According to the Celtics’ president, that ankle sprain is likely more of a day-to-day issue than an injury that will guarantee a multi-week absence. Still, the team will tread carefully, since it wants to have Baynes available for the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers‘ ability to make a deep playoff run this spring figures to hinge on their starting five, given their lack of reliable depth. However, Mike Scott – acquired along with Tobias Harris from the Clippers last month – has been the club’s “most consistent and most versatile” reserve since arriving in Philadelphia, contends Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Scott, a free agent at season’s end, has averaged a career-high 23.2 minutes per contest, posting a .386 3PT% and handling a variety of defensive assignments for the 76ers.
  • Before making his return from a three-game suspension on Wednesday night for the Raptors, Serge Ibaka expressed regret over last week’s altercation with Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca relays (via Twitter), Ibaka especially lamented the fine, which cost him about $448K. “I was thinking, man, you know how many people need that money?” Ibaka said. “Instead [of going after Chriss], I could have just said, you know, I’m not going to fight, and take that money and go do something for people that need it.”
  • With March Madness right around the corner, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today makes the case for why the Knicks are the lottery team most in need of Zion Williamson this summer.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday evening, we passed along a few more notes on the Knicks and the Celtics.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Hayward, Rozier

No matter how it affects the Celtics‘ playoff seeding, Kyrie Irving plans to take at least a game or two off before the regular season ends, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Irving said at today’s shootaround that he is focused on being fully healthy for the postseason, which begins three weeks from Saturday.

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” he told reporters. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Coach Brad Stevens has talked about resting Al Horford, who has pain in his left knee, and agrees that health heading into the postseason should be the team’s priority.

“I think this is the bottom line: If we choose to rest Al in a game, or Kyrie in a game, then we have other guys who should be able to step up and play well, and they’re approaching that as a great opportunity for those other guys, too,” Stevens said.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Gordon Hayward is making progress in the concussion protocol and could be ready to play by this weekend, Murphy adds in the same piece. Hayward, who was injured Saturday, worked on the treadmill yesterday and will be evaluated tomorrow. “Every indication is that he felt OK today,” Stevens said. “But he will go to the doctor in Boston (Thursday). If he’s cleared to go, he’ll go through the next steps and keep on going.”
  • During a recent radio interview, Terry Rozier discussed the problem of having too many players who feel like they can take over games, relays John Karalis of MassLive. Rozier admits that getting players to accept their roles has been an ongoing problem. “When you’re playing on a team you’re dealing with different types of personalities,” he said, “but now you’re dealing with so many different guys that feel like they the man, and now it’s like, how do you handle that?”
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is looking on the bright side of a season that most observers consider disappointing, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Heavy favorites to win the East before the season began, the Celtics entered tonight in fifth place at 43-28. “There’s been a few games here and there when we’ve played really well,” Ainge said. “It’s like you take one step forward and take a step backward, and then you take two steps forward and take another step back. But I feel like there’s a lot of good things I see on our team.”

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.

Gordon Hayward Enters Concussion Protocol

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, the team announced Sunday in its injury report. He’s currently being listed as doubtful to play in Monday’s home game against the Nuggets.

Hayward suffered the injury while colliding into a screen against the Hawks on Saturday, leaving early and missing the rest of the contest. The team sent him home at halftime and labeled the injury as a strained neck shortly afterward.

Hayward, 28, has held per-game averages of 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 25.4 minutes this season, playing mostly off the bench in his new role with the team. He’s shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, participating in his first full season since fracturing his ankle in 2017.

Al Horford (left knee soreness) is probable to return against Denver, while rookie forward Robert Williams (illness) is being listed as questionable. Maintaining good health is imperative for the Celtics, who continue to fight for playoff positioning with a 43-27 record and 12 games left on the season. They currently trail the No. 4 Pacers by just one game.

Hayward must pass a series of in-depth tests to exit the concussion protocol, which could cause him to miss an extended period of time. The Celtics originally signed him to a four-year, $128MM contract in the summer of 2017.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics Must Fix “Toxic” Environment

While Jaylen Brown has been fairly productive off the bench for the Celtics in recent weeks, logging some of his better performances of the season, he said this week that he’s “not feeling good at all” about the team’s overall play, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. According to Brown, the environment around the team needs to change.

“Right now it’s not good. It’s toxic,” Brown said. “I can’t really point out one thing. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just going to try to be part of the change. I’m going to try to do my best. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Brown is just the latest in a string of Celtics players to express frustration with the situation in Boston. Kyrie Irving has done so multiple times this season, Marcus Morris spoke last month about the club not having any “fun,” and Marcus Smart said last week that the team is “just not together.” Like those other players, Brown doesn’t know exactly what the solution is, but still believes the C’s are capable of turning things around.

“I still believe,” he said, per Washburn. “I think we’ve got time to get it together. I’m very optimistic and very positive and think that we will . . . We keep talking about it. I’m just going to try to do it with my play, come out and play hard and try to change the atmosphere and this environment.”

Let’s round up a few more Celtics-related items…

  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston revisits several of the defining moments of the Celtics’ 2018/19 season, tracing the evolution of the club from Eastern Conference frontrunner to vulnerable, middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
  • In an illuminating story for ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan talks to Gordon Hayward and some people around him about the veteran forward’s long, challenging quest to regain his All-Star form. Hayward has been assisted by a mental health counselor during the process, as MacMullan details.
  • According to data compiled by Eric Pincus at Basketball Insiders, the Celtics sent $2,055,910 to the Hawks in last month’s Jabari Bird salary dump. That amount was more than enough to cover the remaining portion of Bird’s $1,349,383 salary for 2019/20, so Atlanta easily came out ahead. So did Boston though — Bird’s cap hit would have cost the team about $2.27MM in projected tax penalties.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Hayward, Harris, Leonard

The Celtics have been slumping but Kevin Durant believes they’ll be dangerous when the playoffs arrive, as the Warriors star told a group of reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell. Durant, whose team faces Boston on Tuesday, believes the Celtics are “still getting used to each other” but they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. “They’re right up there at the top,” Durant said. “They’ve been losing a couple games, but they’ve got the top talent, some of the top talent on that team, so they’ll be fine once the playoffs start.”

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Gordon Hayward‘s agent promises that his client will return to All-Star form next season. Mark Bartelstein made the comments in a WEEI interview that were relayed by NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss. “My guess is he doesn’t get his game all the way back where we’re accustomed to seeing it until next year,” Bartelstein said of the Celtics forward. “He’s going to need a summer to get back in the gym and get back in the laboratory and the weight room and build on everything he did last year. But there’s not a doubt in my mind. He’ll be an All-Star in this league many, many times over.”
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is a big Tobias Harris fan and hopes the team re-signs him, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Brown praises Harris not only for his play on the court but his off-court persona. “I hope he’s a Philadelphia 76er for a long time,” Brown said. Harris, who will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, has enjoyed the ride with his new team since being dealt by the Clippers. “I like it here,” he said. “It’s been a good start that we’ve been able to have, a good group of guys, and the team has a lot of potential.”
  • The Raptors’ load management strategy with star Kawhi Leonard shows disrespect to the team’s fans, Damien Cox of the Toronto Star argues. Leonard has sat out 18 games this season, including an overtime loss in Detroit on Sunday in which many Raptors fans crossed the border to see the game. While the ultimate goal is to have a healthy Leonard for the playoffs, he’s making a huge salary and fans buy full-price tickets to watch him play. To simply shrug off his participation in regular-season basketball is a snub to fans, Cox contends.

Injury Updates: Howard, Capela, Dinwiddie, Hayward

The Wizards‘ big free agent signing of the 2018 offseason hasn’t worked out as planned so far, as health issues have limited Dwight Howard to just nine games this season. However, Howard – who underwent surgery on his spine in November, appears to be making progress toward a return.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Howard is scheduled to return to Washington today to begin on-court work. With the Wizards’ playoff hopes on life support, the team could use the veteran center back in its lineup to provide rebounding and low-post scoring down the stretch. As Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington notes though, it’s still not clear whether Howard is ready to participate in full practices or when he might be able to play in a game.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Rockets center Clint Capela returned to practice on Tuesday after missing 15 games with a thumb injury, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. According to MacMahon, Capela is on track to get back in Houston’s lineup on Thursday, assuming he doesn’t have any setbacks this week.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, who continues to recover from a thumb injury of his own, still doesn’t have a set timeline for his return, according to Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Atkinson wouldn’t confirm that he expects Dinwiddie back on the court for Brooklyn’s upcoming 17-day road trip, which begins on March 13.
  • Gordon Hayward twisted his ankle in a Tuesday workout, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said today to reporters, including Adam Kaufman of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). While that sounds like concerning news on the surface, particularly given Hayward’s strong recent play, Kaufman notes that the injury is to the forward’s right ankle, not his surgically repaired left ankle. He’s considered day-to-day.

Celtics Notes: Hayward, Williams, Davis, Bird

Gordon Hayward has become a target for hecklers in Boston as he struggles to rebuild his game following last season’s devastating ankle injury, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Hayward continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just 41.6% from the field and averaging 10.6 PPG. He has been limited to two points in each of the last two games, and teams are daring him to shoot from outside.

Despite the difficulties, the Celtics will need Hayward to be at his best for the playoffs, so coach Brad Stevens plans to keep giving him opportunities.

“I think you’ve just got to keep playing him and ultimately he’s going to have some ups and downs and he’s had a couple of games where the ball didn’t go in as much,” Stevens said. “I thought he was active, I thought he did some good things, and when that ball goes in he’ll feel a lot better and it will look a lot better on paper. Ultimately, we’ve got a lot of wings, a lot of other wings played more [Monday] and against Golden State, but there are going to be nights where we are counting on him to close the game because he really got it rolling.”

There’s more today out of Boston:
  • Rookie center Robert Williams is free from knee pain for the first time since his freshman season in college, relays Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. The Celtics’ training staff has helped Williams control a condition called popliteal artery entrapment syndrome that kept him from playing through most of summer league. “I can honestly say with the treatment schedule that the tendinitis level has really gone down,” Williams said. “It’s not bothering me near as much as it used to. Definitely a good thing, but have to stay on top of treatment.”
  • Along with a wealth of young players and draft picks to offer, the Celtics might have an advantage in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes because of Davis’ friendship with Kyrie Irving. “Kyrie and Anthony Davis are boys,” Brian Scalabrine of NBC Sports Boston said in a an appearance on Chris Mannix’s The Crossover NBA podcast. “I think they text like every day.” 
  • Jabari Bird, who has remained on the roster all season despite legal troubles, faces two new charges in his domestic violence case, according to John R. Ellement and Travis Andersen of The Boston Globe. Court documents were released today revealing new counts of witness intimidation and threatening to commit a crime.

Gordon Hayward Talks About Comeback

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.”

Atlantic Notes: Nets, VanVleet, Sixers, Hayward

As a result of the Nets owning their own first-round pick for the first time in four years and the struggles the team has dealt with after losing Caris LeVert, many fans have brought up the idea of tanking this season to land another top prospect. However, as Greg Logan writes for Newsday, the Nets and head coach Kenny Atkinson won’t be actively trying to lose games any time soon.

The Nets have suffered several tough losses in recent weeks, having built up leads against the 76ers, Grizzlies and Thunder, only to fall short of victories on all three occasions. However, the team had a strong weekend, securing back-to-back victories over the Raptors and Knicks.

As it stands, the Nets sit at 10-18 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The conference has a plethora of struggling teams, which would make it more difficult for the Nets to fall down the standings. It looks like this Nets team will continue fighting and scraping for every victory it can get.

There’s more from the Atlantic division: