There’s a lot of hope in Boston this year. Kawhi Leonard is no longer with the Toronto Raptors, and although the Philadelphia 76ers have bolstered themselves with Al Horford, the Celtics added Kemba Walker. Once again, Boston enters the season with high championship expectations.
Part of those hopes remain with Gordon Hayward, a free agent signed three years ago who has only played to middling results. Hayward’s lower leg exploded during his first game with Boston, and last season he didn’t appear to be ready to play at an NBA pace.
An offseason of rest and rehabilitation has yet again raised expectations for Hayward as a potential lynchpin in the Celtics’ scheme. And of course, folks in Boston are talking up Hayward as much as they can heading into 2019-20.
“He’s back to being Gordon,” said Ainge.
“He’s just got it back, man,” said Williams.
As Ainge put it, “We’re looking for team success.” Not individual success. Hayward can help the team win in a variety of ways, and it doesn’t have to be via 30-point performances.
Earlier in his career with the Utah Jazz, Hayward had the ability to put up big numbers. But he was also a solid foundational piece as one of the very best small forwards in the NBA. He rebounded well, he attacked the rim, he slashed, and he was a good defender.
Small forward is an increasingly difficult position to nail down in the NBA, and if Hayward can return he makes Boston’s formidable wing lineup that much more difficult to deal with on a night-to-night basis.