BOSTON — It was always going to take time for Gordon Hayward to find his old form and slowly but surely, the former All-Star is finding his way back.
During a practice this week, Kyrie Irving told Hayward the Celtics need him to be more aggressive and look for his shot more if they plan to achieve the lofty goals they set out for themselves.
In the first game since the pep talk, Hayward scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting in Boston’s 128-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
Irving liked the Hayward he saw against the Cavs.
“Yeah absolutely,” Irving said when asked if he thought Hayward was more aggressive Friday. “And look how much we won by. I think that right there is a happy moment, exciting moment for all of us because it was all in the flow of our offense. It was all Gordon being Gordon, getting to the spots he wanted to and being the player he’s been over the course of his career. He’s improved over time. It’s our job to really just exude confidence in him, but it’s also his responsibility to that confidence within himself.”
Irving wanted to give Hayward time to rediscover his game but the Celtics’ slow start forced Irving to give his teammate a little nudge.
“Well, I think that you try to find the balance of giving a guy space to figure out that mental makeup of coming off a serious injury like that, so a lot of pressure from the outside as well as the inside. We expected him to be great but I think once he maintains his own expectations — how good he is, how great he wants to be — then we’ll all fill in and we all sort of respect that. I tried to give him as much space as possible, but as we got to 10-10 I was like, ‘OK, these next 60 games we got to at least turn it up at least two notches before we get somewhere.’ And I think we’ve done a great job, it’s only been two games but we just got to continue playing this way.”
Hayward looked for his shot more Friday, especially coming off screens, but the forward recognized a play that showed he isn’t quite back to the player he was before the injury.
“There was a play today where I went around and tried to shoot a layup and missed a layup,” Hayward said. “I think Old G would have tried to dunk that. Some of it’s just the mentality. I’ve got to continue to watch the film, look at that and relearn what I used to do and what I can do.”
Friday night was another positive step for Hayward to get back to “Old G,” someone Irving knows has a little mean streak in him.
“I remember Coach (K) telling me that Gordon has a little bit of that asshole in him,” Irving said. “And he needs that … That toughness, where he starts turning red and starts getting into the basketball … that’s the Gordon that we’re used to seeing.”
Here are more notes from Celtics-Cavs:
— Cavs guard Alec Burks, who played with Hayward for six seasons with the Utah Jazz and was traded to the Cavs on Wednesday, saw a different Hayward than the one against in Utah a few weeks back.
“When I was in Utah we played him a couple weeks ago, and he’s a totally different player than he is now,” Burks said. “Those type of injuries, they just take time. He’ll get his whole rhythm back. He’s going to get back to another level, back to the All-Star he was.”
— PJ Dozier was called up from the Maine Red Claws prior to the game. The guard tallied seven points on 3-for-5 shooting in six minutes.
— Jaylen Brown say out with a back injury once again, but the third-year guard doesn’t expect to be out much longer.
— Al Horford sat out Friday night’s game for rest.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images