“Better late than never” might aptly describe Gordon Hayward’s Boston Celtics career.
The Atheltic’s Frank Isola declared the Celtics forward “kinda back” from injury Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NBA Radio. Isola offered this assessment hours after Hayward delivered a historic performance in Boston’s 119-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hayward matched his career-high with 39 points on 17-of-20 shooting and added eight assists and seven rebounds.
Hayward enjoyed his career night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the same venue at which he suffered a catastrophic leg injury in the opening game of the 2017-18 season. The 29-year-old’s big night prompted Isola to conclude Hayward has returned to being the All-Star caliber player the Celtics were expecting when they signed him two-plus years ago in free agency.
“You know in the age of analytics, which is the age of load management, you can be an effective player by making 2-point shots. I think everyone else is falling in love with these 3-point shots, and there’s Gordon Hayward last night going 16-for-16 (on 2-pointers).
“And I’m not going to put this on Kyrie Irving. Clearly, that partnership didn’t work. The first year, Gordon Hayward didn’t play, and last year they didn’t make it out of the second round.
“I just think this is more about his third year, two years removed from that injury, and he’s kinda back to being the player they thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent when he left the Utah Jazz.”
Hayward averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 72 games last season, in which he never really demonstrated his consistency. He’s averaging 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists through six games this season. Hayward must maintain this current form throughout the season in order to prove he has fully recovered, help the Celtics achieve their goals for the campaign and perhaps position himself for another payday.