Gordon Hayward hasn’t had the comeback season he, the Boston Celtics or the team’s fans envisioned.

But it’s not for lack of effort. In fact, the Celtics forward continues to battle through a trying, often frustrating recovery from the major ankle injury he suffered in October 2017. Hayward recently opened up about his comeback to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who published a lengthy piece Tuesday morning about the 28-year-old’s difficult season.

There’s a lot to unpack in MacMullan’s story, but we’ll focus on just a few parts.

Celtics assistant coach Scott Morrison, who’s worked closely with Hayward over the past two years, held off on showing Hayward his early-season game film until January. Upon finally viewing the tape, Hayward was shocked.

“I was thinking, ‘Wow, am I really that slow out there?'” Hayward admitted to MacMullan. “I think it’s hard in general to watch yourself on film, but obviously, this was on another level.”

Hayward has a mental health counselor assisting him with returning to “normal.” And Hayward, unsurprisingly, has had a tough time being receptive to the service.

“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s embarrassing. You want to be the guy that says, ‘I’m strong. I don’t need any help.'”

Hayward has faced a ton of criticism this season, some of it warranted, most of it not. He admitted to MacMullan that he hears the “noise,” and that it comes up in his counseling sessions.

But Hayward isn’t just adjusting to life post-injury. He’s also trying to find a role on a team loaded with talent.

“Even if I was fully healthy, there would be nights, production-wise, where the numbers just aren’t going to be there,” he 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.'”

Ultimately, Celtics fans shouldn’t expect to see the “Hayward of old” until next season. Hell, they might never see that version of Hayward again.

For now, all fans can do is hope Hayward and the Celtics turn their disappointing season around in time for the playoffs.

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Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images