Gordon Hayward was the topic of conversation in more ways than one Saturday.
First and foremost started with Hayward’s return. The Celtics forward played his first game since Aug. 17, helping Boston defeat the Miami Heat 117-106 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
And then were the details that Hayward did not plan to leave the NBA’s bubble, despite prior expectations that he would depart Walt Disney World. Hayward said in June he would leave Orlando as his wife, Robyn, is pregnant with their fourth child. Hayward, though, since departing the bubble already to rehab an injured ankle, has changed his mind.
The Celtics wing explained that he will stay with the team instead.
“Yeah, I mean, that obviously wasn’t in the plan, getting injured, going back to Indiana for treatment,” Hayward told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.
Of note, Hayward’s wife was also in Indiana when the 30-year-old was going through rehab for a Grade III ankle sprain.
“… And Robyn could be having the baby at any point in time, and so I think it’s probably something I’ll be here and by the time I get back I might miss the birth. We discussed it, we prayed about it, and I think it’s probably best I stay here and help our team.”
If Saturday’s any indication, Hayward certainly will help. He was a driving factor in the Celtics getting back on the right side of things, despite the fact they trail the Heat 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“Yeah, I mean it was, I definitely felt weird out there. It’s been four or five weeks or whatever since I’ve played basketball. So, I think it was really fun to be back out there with the team, with the guys,” Hayward said. “I just tried to impact our team in winning ways, whatever I could do. First five minutes, I was gassed. I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore. But just proud of the way we fought, proud of us getting the win.”
Hayward admitted that with it being the first time he’s played five-on-five basketball since Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers, it didn’t take long for him to get winded. And he also is well-aware he’s not quite 100%, but is thinking he’ll get there.
“The first five minutes hit differently for sure. That’s the first time I’ve played five on five basketball. Just the way rehab had to be down here, it was so much different,” he said. “I think definitely not at 100%, but it’s kind of just what it is. It’s the Eastern Conference finals, so I’m going to give us whatever I can. As we keep going I’ll find my rhythm and be better and better, that’s the plan at least.”
Head coach Brad Stevens, though, praised Hayward for his ability to “stabilize” the offense. It’s something Boston had missed without him in the lineup, helping facilitate on that side of the floor while making impactful plays.
“I think me personally just trying to help us offensively, being someone who can get in the paint, create, help us rebound, bring the ball up thinking if we can run they cant set up their defense,” Hayward said. “We have so many athletes, so many guys that can score it makes it more difficult for them.”
Boston will continue to try and make it difficult on Miami as the Celtics face the Heat on Wednesday for Game 4.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images