Gordon Hayward is determined not to let injury dominate the narrative about his 2019-20 season.
The Boston Celtics forward aims to prove he has recovered fully from his catastrophic leg injury and perform this season at levels he reached earlier in his career, assistant coach Scott Morrisson revealed to The Athletic’s Jay King on Tuesday. Hayward broke his left leg and ankle in the opening game of the 2017-18 season. He returned to action last season and averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 72 games.
No one expected him to be the player he once was in the first season after such an injury, and his underwhelming numbers largely met those predictions. However, he has worked diligently and without restrictions this offseason in Boston with Celtics players and coaches in an effort to recover his All-Star form and help the team bounce back from last season’s disappointing campaign.
“Regardless of what the media, fans or even himself put on him for expectations, there were lots of times where he lived up to and performed above those expectations,” Morrison said of Hayward’s 2017-18 campaign. “He had a lot of great games, a lot of great moments in the season. Especially the last half of the season, he was very consistently one of our best players. But perhaps because his numbers weren’t the exact same as Utah, people still looked at it like he ‘wasn’t quite himself,’ quote-unquote, whatever that means.
“I think this season, more than anything, he probably just wants to get back out there and not have to hear about whether he’s back to 100 percent health or what impact the injury had on him last season or anything like that. That’s kind of behind him, and he just wants to have a good season. I’m sure everyone will see how talented he is because I think he still has a chance to be one of the best players in the league.”
The Celtics reportedly will begin training camp on Oct. 1, and the date represents the moment Hayward will begin showing the world he truly has moved on.