BOSTON — Gordon Hayward’s role on the Boston Celtics is becoming increasingly clear.
When the star forward signed with the Celtics, he had most recently served as the Utah Jazz’s key playmaker. And when he went down last season, he hadn’t had time to carve out his role for Boston.
But with each passing game, it’s more and more apparent what the Celtics need from him. Put simply, they need him to do it all — just to varying degrees based on the night.
Hayward played a key role in the Celtics’ thrilling 123-116 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday at TD Garden. He scored 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting, while also grabbing five rebounds and as many assists with four steals.
After the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked if Hayward being a 15-5-5 guy was what people can expect going forward. In answering, Stevens articulated quite directly what Hayward’s responsibility is to the team.
“We don’t need Gordon to score 30 points a game, we need him to be a jack of all trades,” Stevens said. “We need him to be able to guard, we need him to be able to rebound, we need him to be able to pass. And if he shoots eight shots in a game, that’s perfect if that’s what the game calls for. If he shoots 16 in a game cause that’s what the game calls for, fine. We just need him to be a jack of all trades — and again we’re all learning each other.”
So does Hayward agree with the “jack of all trades” assessment? Absolutely.
“I’ve said it before, I can do a little bit of everything and whatever the team wants me to do to help us win that’s what I want to do,” Hayward said after the game. “So if that’s being a playmaker, if that’s scoring, if that’s defending, rebounding, I’m trying to be my best at it. I’m just trying to help us win basketball games.”
Given how highly touted of a signing Hayward was and what he’s capable of, a utility role of sorts to the naked eye may be a bit perplexing. But given the talent he has around him, it’s apparent he’s at his best when he can tailor his game to a specific situation to make things happen.
Hayward also logged a team-high 39:03 minutes Friday, surpassing his previous season-high by just under eight minutes. So in addition to what he was providing on the floor, Stevens was pleased with what he saw in terms of the 28-year-old’s progress.
“He’s a good player. And there’s going to be a curve,” Stevens said. “I think that 15 (points) on eight shots is pretty good when you consider how much we’re asking him to handle the ball and make plays for others, but you know, I think he’s — I think he’s done a lot of things in the last couple weeks where you can see those — those steps are being made. And it’s just a matter of feeling good again. 39 minutes is a good step in the right direction, as far as just his confidence. And, yeah, go from there.”
The Celtics executed well and consistently in the victory, something they haven’t often enough done. But given the performance Hayward turned in, it shouldn’t exactly be a surprise that they were as efficient as they were when he arguably played his best game of the season.