Boston, MA - In the summer of 2017, fans of the Boston Celtics were elated to learn that their beloved team had signed one of the most highly sought after free agents of that year’s NBA off-season in Gordon Hayward. Later, the team traded for Kyrie Irving and a dominant Boston team was expected to finally dethrone LeBron James in the East.
This, obviously, did not come together as the Celtics might have hoped. But when LeBron left for the Los Angeles Lakers, Celtics fans returned to harp onto the idea that Boston was going to rip through the Eastern Conference. With Irving and Hayward returning to the fold, a lineup of them, coupled with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford, it seemed like Boston would be the team to beat in the East.
And yet, even this idea still has not taken hold. Coach Brad Stevens has been very aware of the Celtics’ offensive woes, which seem to have crippled them early on in the season as the NBA continues to move towards high octane offenses built around superstar players. But Stevens has focused on a lot of players with the potential to be superstars and built them around defensive mindsets. His general idea was that the Golden State Warriors could not be beaten by other teams trying to do what they do because no one does it better. But so far, the Celtics have not been able to do anything better than most teams in the league. And this is largely because of Hayward.
Irving is continuing to find his groove and his playing abilities look like they are improving with every game. But Hayward, on the other hand, looks like a completely different player. The ankle injury Hayward suffered last year was projected to take twelve to eighteen months for a full recovery and while Hayward has been cleared to play again, he still is not himself.
It remains to be seen if Hayward will return to his All-Star form when he was a part of the Utah Jazz, but right now it does not look as promising as once thought. He is averaging fewer than ten points per game and his shots look borderline inept. Yet, Stevens continues to employ Hayward in crunch time, despite the argument Marcus Morris makes for himself as a better player than Hayward currently. Fortunately, I believe that if anyone can help Hayward regain his form, it is Stevens, the forward’s old coach at Butler.