Gordon Hayward’s hot start to the 2019-20 NBA season hasn’t caught Danny Ainge off guard.

The Boston Celtics president of basketball operations explained the Celtics forward’s apparent resurgence Thursday during his appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich.” Hayward has averaged 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists over the Celtics’ first six games, prompting some NBA observers to conclude he has regained the confidence he lost following the catastrophic injury he suffered two-plus years ago and his subsequent recovery, which stretched well into last season.

Ainge insists Hayward has been playing winning basketball since February’s All-Star break, refuting negative reviews of the player’s overall performance in 2018-19.

“Are they making the right decision?” Ainge said in describing how he determines whether a player is playing well, per The Boston Globe’s Nicole Yang. “Are they making the right pass and the right read at the right time? Are they aggressive? Are they confident? I saw that in Gordon a lot last year. I’m not surprised by a breakout performance that he had because I saw him have those the second half of last year. The minutes and the touches and the shots just weren’t available to him last year.”

Here’s Ainge’s simple explanation for Hayward’s great statistical leap in 2019-20:

“He (Hayward) wanted to make (Celtics head coach) Brad (Stevens) play him, and play him more and trust him and believe in him again to be one of the primary ball handlers and decision makers on the team,” Ainge continued.

So does Ainge believe the Hayward Boston signed in free agency is “back” from injury? Ainge’s comments suggest he reckons the old Hayward has been here for the last eight-plus months.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images