Gordon Hayward Is Turning Things Up
Gordon Hayward is coming alive. What does that mean for the Celtics?
The Celtics’ terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad season is turning around. Boston dominated the Warriors in Golden State, Kyrie Irving continues to strive to be a better leader, and one by one Boston’s role players are coming into their own.
Gordon Hayward in particular is coming into his own. He struggled early this season, clearly still physically and mentally recuperating from his devastating injury last season. However tenacious, Hayward couldn’t seem to get into gear.
Little by little, however, Hayward has shown improvements this season. Though he’s not the star player he was in Utah, he’s rapidly becoming an essential cog for the Celtics.
In the month of March, Hayward is averaging 13.2 points per game off the bench on 62.8 percent shooting from the field. If Hair Gordon can maintain, look out.
The early parts of the season were dysmall for Hayward. He was slow-footed, almost tepid on the floor. His offense sagged, his defense nonexistent.
To make matters worse, this ineptitude was an emotional, unforeseen set-back. Here’s what he told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan:
"I was thinking, 'Wow, am I really that slow out there?'" Hayward said. "I think it's hard in general to watch yourself on film, but obviously, this was on another level."
As Hayward adjusted to his new reality, so too did the Celtics. This wasn’t supposed to be a trying season, things weren’t supposed to be this hard. For the 28-year old Butler product and his teammates, this season was a shock.
Undeterred, Hayward has worked hard to get back to being the player he was. Though his rebounding numbers have wanned, he is attacking the basket more frequently and with more vigor. Across the board, Hayward has shown tremendous progress since the season began.
Boston is still navigating speed bumps, and is far from out of the woods. The same is true of Hayward, who despite everything can still look like a shell of himself, reverting back to the sort of player he appeared to be a few months ago.
But the overall trend is immensely positive. His recent game-winner against the Kings reminded us all what Hayward can do with the basketball.
Should Hayward’s recent production can be maintained - or even improved - Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will have yet another weapon to employ this spring. For the rest of the Eastern Conference, that’s a problem.
Things may finally be settling down for the Celtics. Players like Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier are becoming better and more consistent, while Aron Baynes’ return will help Boston’s already spectacular defense.
Hayward’s return could be the most consequential. He’s one of the team’s most polished and established players. The C’s can, at times, struggle to score the ball outside of Kyrie Irving. A Hayward in rhythm is a new and exciting weapon.
The Celtics seem to rise and fall with Hayward this season, too. Look at these splits.
As we saw last season, it’s possible for this group of Celtics to succeed without their star players. Afterall, with Hayward and Irving watching from the sideline, Boston marched its way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With the postseason rapidly approaching, having Hayward playing better and better bodes extremely well for the Celtics. And indeed, it’s fine if he’s still a bench player, logging around 25-30 minutes even in the postseason.
Stevens doesn’t need Hayward to be at full-strength to make a sizeable impact. Whether as a celebrated role player, a Manu-Ginobliesque sixth man, or something in between, It’s Boston’s depth that is its greatest strength, and Hayward is the crown jewel in this equation.