Celtics Remain Encouraged by Hayward

November 30, 2018

Boston Celtics' forward Gordon Hayward walks up court during the second half of last week's game against the New York Knicks in Boston. AP photo

Gordon Hayward’s two-tiered challenge -- finding chemistry after a year away from the NBA on top of his physical recovery from a near-catastrophic injury -- has played out in oft-frustrating fashion over the first 21 games of the season.

But according to Kyrie Irving, one aspect of Hayward’s game -- the shooting that led to his first All-Star selection two years ago in Utah -- is about to become more apparent.

“Honestly, I think that he’s passing a little too much for Gordon’s potential and his talent,” Irving said after Thursday’s practice. “I think, coming up in the next few games, he’ll be able to show some different things that he’s been on for the start of the season. Just being more aggressive offensively and looking for his shot more.

“We had practice yesterday and I told him, ‘Look for your shot more. Get aggressive and get yourself going because you are a great talent in this league and I don’t want you to ever forget that,’” he said. “Of course, he does a great job of coming off the pick-and-roll and making those passes, but I want him to be aggressive and score the basketball for us as well because we are going to need it down the stretch.”

Hayward, though, is also settling in as the primary facilitator on the Celtics’ second unit, at least if Brad Stevens’ most recent tweaks to the rotation are any indication.

“As far as from a chemistry standpoint that’s our whole team building that -- not just one, two or three people,” said Stevens. “That’s 15 people building chemistry. And then the physical side is what it is. He was really good in practice yesterday, made a lot of very aggressive plays at the rim, and that’s a little bit of a next step. We’ll see how that translates. But he’s doing everything we could have asked. He’s been through a lot. At the end of the day he’ll be better in Game 40 than he was in Game 20, and 60 than 40 and so on.”

Said Marcus Morris, “G’s an all-around player. He can create for himself, create for everyone else. I wasn’t at the elbow but I was getting a lot of those skip passes from G. I don’t want to be at the elbow because I know he’s going to pass it and I want to be ready. Obviously he’s a veteran like myself, he understands the game, he makes the right plays, and it’s good to see him get the ball in his hands and get going downhill, and just creating for himself and everybody else.”

After cramming 21 games into the first two months of the season, the Celtics are in the midst of a sparse stretch where Friday night’s game against Cleveland and Saturday’s in Minneapolis are their only action in nine days.

“I was really encouraged by both days,” said Stevens. “I thought our purpose and our focus on a lighter day, when you’re not taped today, we were able to cut it short a little bit. If you’re progressing the right way, your practices should get a little better, your intensity and focus should get better. So we’ll see how it goes.

“That was a tough travel, that little three-game swing there, on the back end of a lot of travel in the first couple of months,” he said of the team’s most recent swing through Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans. “It was an important four days and hopefully we can play well. We have another tough back-to-back (Friday) and Saturday, and hopefully we can keep building. It’s helpful to get back in here from a work standpoint and detail standpoint, and also to get re-centered a little bit.”

Jaylen Brown missed his second straight practice, and is most likely a scratch for the game against Cleveland.

“I would anticipate he’s out. I don’t know beyond that,” said Stevens.

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