Gordon Hayward

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:

Celtics Notes: Storylines, Hayward, Brown, Assets

In a recent article, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston wrote about four storylines to watch in anticipation of the Celtics next game against the Knicks tomorrow night: offensive improvement while Kyrie Irving is on the bench, reintegrating Jaylen Brown, the long-term starters, and minutes to go around when everybody is healthy.

The Celtics own a team-best offensive rating of 109.6 when Irving is on the court this season, a figure that would place Boston in the NBA’s top ten. But when Irving sits, that number drops to 95, which would rank far below the Hawks’ league worst rating of 100.5.

Brown has missed the last three games after suffering a back bruise against the Mavericks a couple weeks back. He could start tomorrow night, but the team has won three games in a row with Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris starting, and head coach Brad Stevens may elect to keep that group intact.

Stevens’ challenge in selecting who to start is figuring out how to balance the lineup with the most talent, and thus the most potential, with the lineup that is giving the team the most success right now. Eventually, Boston might work its way back to the Irving-Brown-Jayson TatumGordon HaywardAl Horford lineup, but keeping Smart and Morris on the bench is a risk.

In the Celtics’ last four wins, they’ve been shorthanded, which some may argue shows that some players play better with more minutes. Terry Rozier has reportedly conveyed his displeasure with his playing time already this season, and as mentioned above, Stevens will need to balance playing time between Smart, Morris, Hayward, and Brown as the season plays out.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that Hayward’s struggle to reintegrate himself after last season’s horrific injury is also a result of how much the Celtics have changed since he arrived in the summer of 2017.
  • In another piece for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg relays that Brown is open to coming of the bench in his return from injury. Brown downplayed the significance of becoming a reserve, and said he will embrace any role Stevens has in mind for him.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the value of some of the Celtics trade assets have depreciated a little this season, with the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies outperforming expectations and Brown not as impressive as many anticipated.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Hayward, Brown

Kyrie Irving is enjoying another stellar offensive season as the Celtics find their footing. However, one distinct difference has been Irving’s improvement on defense, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.

While the statistics are not eye-popping, there is a visual and discernible difference in Irving’s hustle and performance. As Forsberg notes, Irving entered Friday’s game ranked fifth in loose balls recovered (2.1), seventh in deflections per game (3.1), and eighth in steals (1.9). Irving is also ranked 18th in the NBA in charges drawn.

After Irving made comments earlier this year about him “coasting” on defense in his career, he has made it a point to not have that mentality anymore.

“I think it’s just a true challenge that I came into the season with of wanting to put an emphasis on that end of the floor,” Irving said. “That’s really what it comes down to. I think in my career I’ve really gotten away with just being an offensive talent, being a guy that has just been solid but never being a guy that I would say just consistently brings that effort every single time down the floor. “

Check out more Celtics notes below:

  • At a recent practice, Irving urged teammate Gordon Hayward to be more aggressive on the floor and he responded with a solid shooting performance in Friday’s win. As Harry West of Sporting News writes, Irving — who shares a birthday with Hayward — wants him to release the ‘a**’ in him. “I remember [Irving’s former Duke] coach [Mike Krzyzewski] telling me, you know, Gordon has a little bit of a** in him. And he needs that,” Irving said. “That toughness where he starts turning red and he starts getting into the basketball, getting out in transition and dunking the basketball and start doing those things.”
  • Jaylen Brown was asked how he felt about a possible change in the rotation upon his return from injury and he put the team winning ahead of his role, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. “Possibly, especially if we are winning,” Brown said of the idea that his role could change. “Whatever it is that needs to be done to figure it out. Everybody has talent, everybody has ability, but, obviously, we have to make something work here. We don’t want to be looking down the line and trying to figure out, ‘What if?’ or ‘Woulda, coulda,’ whatever. 
  • As we relayed recently, the Celtics waived Walt Lemon Jr.,. He was on a two-way pact with Boston but did not see NBA action this season.

Celtics Notes: Stevens, Horford, Lineup Change, Morris

After watching his team fall to .500 with its third straight loss Wednesday, coach Brad Stevens wondered if maybe the Celtics were overrated all along, relays Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

“I just don’t know that we’re that good. Maybe it’s not a wakeup call if you keep getting beat,” Stevens said after a home loss to the Knicks. “We have to play better. It’s not because we’re not capable of being good. It’s not because we weren’t good at one time in our lives. It’s you’re good if you play good and the results are speaking for themselves.”

The Celtics entered the season as the favorites in the East and were considered a legitimate threat to win the NBA title after reaching Game 7 of the conference finals last year without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Instead, they have experienced struggles on both offense and defense as Stevens has tried to work out effective combinations of his veterans and younger players.

“It’s not one guy. It’s not two guys. It’s all of us,” Stevens said. “We’re not playing with the same personality we played with last year. That’s the easiest way to describe it. And then the 50,000 issues that are below that, we have to tackle one at a time.”

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Al Horford said the team’s “effort” isn’t where it needs to be, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. However, he suggested that the early-season struggles could benefit the team down the road. “These are the times I feel like make teams stronger,” Horford said. “I feel last year, what made us stronger was that adversity that we faced with different injuries and things like that. Different situations make teams tougher. Right now, as much as I don’t like losing and going through this, I feel like this is what’s making us stronger as a unit.”
  • Hayward came off the bench for the second straight game Wednesday as center Aron Baynes remained in the starting lineup, Blakely notes in a separate story. In addition to improving the first-team defense, Stevens explained that the move puts players in their more natural positions. “There’s a comfort level to that,” he said. “As we continue to try and grow and get to the best version of ourselves, we’re going to have to be able to play both ways. We’re gonna have to be able to play small; we’re gonna have to be able to play big.”
  • With the Wizards contemplating a sell-off, Tom Keegan of The Boston Herald suggests that the Celtics might benefit from acquiring Markieff Morris to play alongside his brother, Marcus.

Celtics Notes: Stevens, Irving, Morris, Rozier

Coach Brad Stevens altered the starting lineup for Monday’s game at Charlotte, and he told A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston that it will probably happen again. Stevens opted for more size in the matchup with the Hornets, inserting center Aron Baynes into the starting five in place of Gordon Hayward.

“We’re not done probably tweaking the lineups,” Stevens said. “And so, I do think you’ll see more.”

Stevens is trying to spark a team that has stumbled to a 9-8 start after being the preseason favorite to win the East. Few of the combinations he has used this season have provided any consistency, so he continues to mix and match in hopes of shaking things up. Even so, Blakely adds that the Celtics are remaining patient and a major move is unlikely, at least for a while.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Kyrie Irving made a verbal commitment last month to stay with the Celtics when he becomes a free agent next summer, but Blakely wonders in another story if he might be rethinking his decision. Blakely notes that when Irving made his announcement he believed there was enough talent in place that he wouldn’t have to carry the team every night. However, that may not turn out to be true.
  • There are concerns about the locker room atmosphere in Boston in the wake of the disappointing start, relays Jay King of The Athletic. Veteran forward Marcus Morris suggests that the anxiety may be a result of having so many young players on the roster. “The mood swings are really high,” he said, “and I think that’s the difference between having a veteran team and having a young team. Veterans, game over, you get rid of it, you throw it in the trash, you get ready for the next game. I think our mood goes game by game. And I think to be a successful team down the road you can’t be that way.”
  • Stevens is dismissing a social media message from Terry Rozier that some interpreted as a sign that he wants traded, writes Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. “Let’s do us ALL a favor,” Rozier tweeted Tuesday, before saying later that it had nothing to do with basketball. “I’m not going to pretend to read into tweets,” Stevens said. “I guess I don’t pay attention to that that much.” 

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Anthony, Jokic

Donovan Mitchell‘s emergence as a potential superstar allowed the Jazz to quickly move on from the loss of Gordon Hayward in free agency, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN examines in a post on Hayward’s return to Utah on Friday. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder felt they could retool the roster and become a playoff contender again but had no idea Mitchell would emerge as a franchise player in his rookie year, Wojnarowski continues. Mitchell provides the Jazz with a selling point to recruit another star in free agency and he’s well on his way to a max contract extension in 2020, Wojnarowski adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony‘s season with the Thunder was a humbling experience, a high-ranking Rockets official told Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Anthony bristled at the thought of coming off the bench with OKC but is now at least tolerating a second-unit role with Houston. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect coming into the situation,” Anthony told MacMahon. “It’s different when you’re clear on what is needed to be done or what you have to do or what’s needed of you. It’s a big difference.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was fined $25K for using “derogatory and offensive language” when discussing Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter, Sean Highkin of Dime Magazine tweets. Jokic made the comment after Denver’s 108-107 overtime victory on Wednesday.
  • Floor spacing, 3-point shooting and defensive intensity have been areas of concern for the Jazz. The Thunder continue to deal with outside shooting woes. David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders takes a closer look at issues involving each Northwest club.

Atlantic Notes: Russell, Hayward, Sixers

As the Nets continue developing their young players, Brian Lewis of The New York Post has identified a key development of the season so far in D’Angelo Russell‘s lack of crunch-time minutes.

As Lewis points out, Russell sat out the last 5:42 of regulation and the entire overtime in the Nets’ win over the Pistons, logged just 1:31 in the fourth quarter on Oct. 24 against the Cavaliers, and never got off the bench in the fourth quarter of the season opener. That is all in addition to Russell not seeing a single minute in the fourth quarter of the Nets’ loss to the Rockets on Friday.

It’s no secret that Russell struggles on defense, but it’s more of a result of the depth on the roster and coach Kenny Atkinson’s focus on riding the hot hands and playing lineups based on match-ups. In fact, every Nets starter other than Caris LeVert has sat an entire or essentially all of a fourth quarter this season.

The key might be for Atkinson to figure out a way to get Russell on the floor alongside Spencer Dinwiddie and LeVert, a trio that has not had success up until this point.

There are still plenty of opportunities left for Russell to make plays when it matters most, but this trend is one to keep an eye on as Russell approaches restricted free agency and the Nets look to make a marquee signing this summer.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Celtics, Embiid, Redick

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has admitted that he’s still feeling the ill effects of the horrific ankle injury he suffered on opening night that season, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. As a result, he recently sat out the second night of a back-to-back.

“There’s soreness in my ankle every time I play right now. I think there will be soreness for a little while,” said Hayward. “That’s why I’m on a minutes restriction… they don’t want any overloading issues, so there is some load management stuff basically.”

That being said, Hayward still hopes that he won’t be forced to miss any future back-to-backs. “That was just the plan for that game. I want to play in every single game and every single minute but my game is not there yet. I trust our staff.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division this evening:

  • In another piece for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg writes how head coach Brad Stevens gave a blunt assessment of the Celtics after the team’s recent loss to the Magic. “I’ve said it, that we’re not as good as everybody thinks we are. (This is) just another reminder how much we have to work.”
  • Sixers All-Star big man Joel Embiid has been issued a warning from the league office for flopping against Andre Drummond and the Pistons last night, reports Ian Begley of ESPN. There is no fine involved, but there will be if violates the NBA’s anti-flopping rules again.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that J.J. Redick is an even more integral piece of this year’s Sixers team than last year’s because of the lack of quality shooting around him with the losses of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli in free agency.

Injury Updates: Knox, Hayward, Barton, Valentine

Knicks rookie Kevin Knox could miss up to a month of action after spraining his left ankle Saturday night, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The injury took place late in the first quarter in a collision with Celtics guard Terry Rozier. Knox had to be helped to the locker room for x-rays, and the initial timetable for recovery has been set at two to four weeks.

It’s a tough way to start a career for the 19-year-old, who was originally pegged to be a starter before an uneven performance in the preseason. The Knicks are still counting on Knox to be an important contributor and want to give him as much court time as possible to help him adjust to the NBA.

“I had a real bad feeling in my gut when he went down,” coach David Fizdale told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “From my angle, I could basically see the [ankle] hit the floor, roll to the floor. I knew right away when he stayed down it was a good one. I feel for the kid. He’s had his fair share of adversity already. That’s what I joked to him about. ‘Welcome to the NBA. You play like crap. You play great [in Brooklyn], then you get hurt.’ It’s the roller coaster of our league. This is good for him. He’s going to learn from this.”

The new season is still in its first week, but there’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Gordon Hayward sat out Saturday’s game with “general soreness” in the area of his surgically repaired left ankle, notes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. The Celtics forward, who is playing limited minutes, felt pain in the ankle after Friday’s game in Toronto. “We didn’t plan on that,” coach Brad Stevens said about playing without Hayward. “This is something we’ll take game by game, night by night. Obviously with the minutes restriction we’re monitoring it very closely. It’s general soreness, so not overly concerned about it.”
  • An MRI is scheduled today for Nuggets guard Will Barton, who had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair after hurting his hip Saturday, according to an ESPN report. Barton fell to the floor after making a layup in the third quarter and said he heard a pop when he started to jump. Barton signed a four-year, $54MM deal over the summer and entered this season as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.
  • Bulls swingman Denzel Valentine is trying to stay positive despite the latest setback in his recovery from a sprained left ankle, relays Sam Smith of NBA.com. Coach Fred Hoiberg said Valentine’s condition will be re-evaluated in another 10 days to two weeks. “I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand deal,” Valentine said. “I can’t sit here and be negative. I’ve just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”