BOSTON — Gordon Hayward got his moment, it just came much later than expected.
Hayward was the Celtics’ marquee free-agent signing last summer, but his debut season in Boston was derailed by a gruesome lower-leg injury sustained five minutes into the first contest of the 2017-18 campaign.
But after a lengthy rehab process, Hayward took the TD Garden floor for a regular-season game Tuesday night, and his 10 points and four steals helped the C’s secure a 105-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Prior to the game, the TD Garden Jumbotron aired a montage of some of the franchise’s biggest moments dating back to 2013, spanning from the hiring of head coach Brad Stevens to this past summer. Included was Hayward’s timetable, which featured clips of that gut-wrenching night in Cleveland last October as well as his road to recovery.
After the game, Hayward shed light on what was going through his mind as he relived those moments.
“It brought back a lot of memories, a lot of dark memories and a lot of dark times,” Hayward said. “But to be honest, it was cool to see some of the progression. They showed just a little bit of everything of me and then finally being back. So I thought that was really well done and it was cool watching it.”
Hayward also didn’t hide from the fact that aside from being fueled by the montage, memories of his career-changing injury reemerged leading up to tip-off.
“Yeah it definitely crossed my mind, especially warming up and running out of the tunnel,” Hayward said. “Just thought about maybe not doing any back-door plays this game. It for sure went through my mind. It was a major part of my life at this point in time so I tried to just get that out of my head as soon as I started playing and once you’re out there on the court some of that disappears.”
Hayward didn’t appear to be playing with any reservations, but he was limited to 24 minutes, as expected. Now, he’ll look to continue to build off his return to the court.
“It was amazing to be out there on the court again for a regular-season game,” Hayward said. “My adrenaline was definitely bumping those first three or four minutes. I think everyone’s adrenaline was bumping. It was sloppy at first, but it was great just to be out there. This was a big step for me.”