BOSTON – Gordon Hayward isn’t nostalgic. What for? It’s been 14 months since he left Boston. A full season has handed. One other half of 1, too. He nonetheless speaks to individuals inside the Celtics group. His Celtics ex-teammate, Terry Rozier, is now a present one. Accidents and final season’s downsized schedule are the one cause he hasn’t been to Boston, a metropolis Hayward referred to as dwelling for 3 years and the place Hayward insists he has optimistic reminiscences.
“I feel that I constructed quite a lot of nice relationships in Boston,” Hayward mentioned in a cellphone interview. “With the workers, with the coaches, coaching workers, the gamers. These are the issues that you just keep in mind greater than something. I do know quite a lot of retired gamers at all times speak about it, however that is simply the reality.”
It’s straightforward to neglect what Hayward as soon as meant to Boston. In 2017, Hayward, then a sought-after free agent, signed a four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics. He did it partially to play for Brad Stevens, his former faculty coach. He did it partially for an opportunity to play for a championship, which the Celtics, who traded for Kyrie Irving weeks later, appeared poised to do. “While you resolve you need to play for the Boston Celtics, there’s a lot custom and historical past, that is at all times your objective, to attempt to win a championship,” Hayward says. “So I actually thought that.”
The Celtics had veterans in Hayward, Irving and Al Horford. That they had dynamic younger gamers in Rozier, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. “The expertise stage was insane,” says Hayward. 5 minutes into Boston’s season opener, Hayward suffered a grotesque ankle damage. He missed the remainder of the 2017-18 season. He spent ’18-19 looking for his approach again. He felt good in ’19-20, however a twisted ankle early within the playoffs that season saved him out till the convention finals, which the Celtics dropped to the Warmth in six video games.
Hayward left Boston in 2020, although he swears he wasn’t wanting to. He signed a four-year, $120 million deal with Charlotte, a choice he says had as a lot to do with basketball causes as monetary ones.
“The cash was comparatively related in any respect the locations that I used to be ,” says Hayward. “It was extra simply the place the place I felt like I may maximize who I used to be as a basketball participant. Charlotte sort of blew me away with their presentation and having the prospect to take a group to that subsequent stage.”
“Simply speaking with [Hornets coach] James Borrego, simply me taking part in in opposition to these guys,” says Hayward. “I sort of had seen their expertise stage and seen what they had been about and the way in which they needed to play basketball, and that match how I needed to play. I felt assured in myself too, that I may carry one thing to the group. It simply felt proper.”
By all accounts, the match has been glorious. Charlotte is 24-20 and within the thick of the convention playoff race. Bodily, says Hayward, he feels just like the participant he was in Utah. “Perhaps rather less verticality than I used to have,” Hayward says. He averaged 19.6 factors in his first season. He’s posting 17.3 this season, capturing near 40% from three. He’s an integral piece of a top-five offense and a beneficial veteran in a locker room loaded with younger expertise led by LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges.
“Miles is on one other stage [athletically],” Hayward mentioned. “The stuff that he is in a position to do, it’s enjoyable to take a seat again and watch typically. LaMelo with his means to fly up and down the courtroom and use his ability with his athleticism, with a few of his finishes with each palms, it’s unimaginable. He does issues that different gamers do not do and may’t do. These guys are actually gifted.”
Hayward went to Boston to win a championship. Charlotte isn’t on that path but, however Hayward says he’s glad taking part in a job in serving to the Hornets get there.
“I am extraordinarily glad,” says Hayward. “I like town of Charlotte. I feel our household loves town of Charlotte. We actually have room to enhance and quite a lot of work earlier than we are able to say that we will contend for a championship, however we’re making an attempt to do this day-after-day and we’re making an attempt to get higher and I am doing no matter I can to assist us do this. And that is various things on totally different nights. However actually simply making an attempt to assist us win basketball video games. And it has been quite a lot of enjoyable up to now.”
Hayward will return to the TD Backyard for the primary time on Wednesday. He’ll doubtless see Stevens, although it gained’t be within the reverse teaching field. He admits he was stunned when Stevens left teaching to turn out to be Boston’s president of basketball operations final summer season however says Stevens has “at all times been anyone that it doesn’t matter what he is carried out, he is been profitable at it. And so I do know he’ll most likely determine it out.”
Hayward and Stevens had been by no means in a position to win a championship collectively, arising simply brief at Butler, when Hayward’s potential game-winning half-court heave within the 2010 nationwide championship recreation rimmed out, and with the Celtics, the place horrific luck doomed them early on. However Hayward says his affection for Stevens—and Boston—stays.
“I feel I am going to select to recollect all the nice moments that we had collectively,” says Hayward. “Getting an opportunity to play for anyone whenever you’re 18 after which play for anyone whenever you’re 30, I feel that’s fairly cool and fairly particular. He actually helped me turn out to be the participant that I’m right now. I owe him rather a lot. It’s fairly superb that I obtained an opportunity and the chance to do this. It is undoubtedly going to really feel some kind of approach strolling in [to TD Garden]. I am trying ahead to it.”
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