By: Max Lewton
October 7, 2019
Max Lewton is a third-year undergraduate student from Cleveland, Ohio. He is currently studying Sport Management with a minor in Journalism at Bowling Green State University. His primary interests are basketball and football at both pro and collegiate levels, as well as baseball.
The 2017 NBA season opener between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics is one that we all remember vividly. Gordon Hayward went up to throw down an alley-oop dunk and came down hard on his left ankle, leaving a roar of gasps from the crowd. The gruesome injury occurred only minutes into the first quarter of Hayward’s Celtic debut and left the whole NBA in shock. Everyone saw how the injury affected Hayward last season. He seemed a step slower than everyone on the floor and just did not seem to have the same leaping ability as before. It was apparent that he was still suffering from the side-effects of the injury the year before. The former all-star is now coming into the 2019 season fully healthy and ready to show that he can still play at a high level.
Of course, Hayward will not be exactly the same kind of player that he used to be. An injury of that magnitude will surely effect his athleticism and speed. However, let’s not forget that prior to his injury he was averaging almost 22 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and almost 40% from behind the arc in 2017 (“Gordon Hayward Stats,” 2019). Gordon Hayward does not have to be a big bodied forward who takes it to the rack as long as he has good shooting percentages. In an article that appeared on Boston.com, Hayward comment on his improved shooting stroke saying, “I feel like I’m shooting the ball really well, I’m still trying to figure out some of the timing and rhythm on pull-up and dribble jumpers. But I do feel a lot better shooting the ball—even better than I did before the injury” (DeCosta-Kilpa, 2018, para. 14). Hayward can transform himself into a threat from behind the arc, which if he can earn the defender’s respect from out there, he can start taking more people to the basket.
With the emergence of Jayson Tatum at small forward, Hayward will either be the sixth man off the bench or start as an undersized power forward. It really comes down to him finding his true role with the Celtics. Head coach Brad Stevens runs a great offensive system in Boston, and he will be able to find a good role for him. Honestly the level of Gordon Hayward’s play next year could be the deciding factor on whether Boston will actually compete. If he can play like he did with the Utah Jazz, then that is adding another all-star caliber player to Boston’s young and talented lineup. That could make them a legitimate threat to win the East and maybe even contend for an NBA title.
Hayward has the skill set and experience to bounce back and become a respectable player in the NBA once again. It has been two years now since the injury and even though he looked very slow on the floor last year, he will have at least some of the athleticism he once had back. With Boston having a few new faces in the starting lineup this year, Hayward will not only have to prove himself to the rest of the NBA, but to his teammates as well. Boston is a young team full of potential, if he can be that veteran leader to backup Kemba Walker then the team will flourish. Many NBA fans and others have already abandoned Hayward’s comeback, but I believe that he has still got a lot left in the tank.
DeCosta-Klipa, N. (2018, October 15). ‘I won’t be the same player’: How Gordon Hayward expects to be different post-injury. Boston.com. Retrieved from https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-celtics/2018/10/15/gordon-hayward-injury-return.
Gordon Hayward Stats. (2019.). Basketball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/h/haywago01.html.