Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward hasn’t been his usual self since returning from the grave injury that ended his 2017-18 NBA season. From being a superstar in Utah, Hayward turned into an inconsistent contributor for the Celtics this season. In 58 games played, Hayward is only averaging 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 32.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
With his struggle on both ends of the floor, Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens was forced to demote Hayward to the bench. In a recent interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the 28-year-old small forward said that he’s aware that most people, specifically Celtics’ fans, are disappointed with his performance in the 2018-19 NBA season. Hayward revealed that the “most frustrating part” of his second season with the Celtics is he’s consistently being asked if he’s “back.”
“The most frustrating part is that I’m constantly being asked if I’m ‘back.’ Back to what? Because the situation is completely different now.”
Hayward admitted that he’s yet to regain his All-Star form since returning from an injury. However, he wants people to know that his poor performance shouldn’t all be blamed on his previous injury. Hayward said that even if he’s 100 percent healthy, there are games where he won’t be given the opportunity to showcase his full potential.
“Even if I was fully healthy, there would be nights, production-wise, where the numbers just aren’t going to be there,” Hayward said. “Somebody gets hot or I’m not shooting well, and we go in a different direction, and that’s how it’s going to be. And that’s never happened to me before. When it does happen, it’s like, ‘Oh, physically he’s not there yet.’ In my mind, I’m saying, ‘No, no, I’m fine. The opportunities just weren’t there.'”
Hayward definitely has a point. Unlike in Utah where the ball was mostly in his hands, Hayward needs to battle for possessions against other ball-dominant players in Boston. Aside from Kyrie Irving, the Celtics also have Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris vying for shots. Despite his struggle, Hayward said that he never felt that his teammates are frustrated with him. However, he knows that most of them are not happy with their current situations.
The great Jackie MacMullan on Gordon Hayward, whose slow comeback from last year’s gruesome leg injury is more excruciating for him than anyone else. "I was thinking, 'Wow, am I really that slow out there?'"https://t.co/l6h5W1p9Pp
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) March 5, 2019
Celtics Head Coach Stevens said that he and his coaching staff should take some of the blame for Hayward’s poor performance. Stevens admitted that they handled his situation incorrectly, adding that they should also focus on what he can’t do and not just where he’s best at.
In order to have a strong chance of fully dominating the Eastern Conference and winning the NBA championship title, the Celtics really need the All-Star Hayward back. However, it remains unknown if Hayward can make it happen this season.